Tuesday, November 25, 2003

Potpourri for $500, Alex

LOOKING FORWARD to the Macy's Day Parade? Well, what the heck is Macy's Day? It's the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, of course, but that odd common error has been published by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Cox News Service, the Jupiter (Fla.) Courier, the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Florida Today, the Palm Beach Post, the Tampa Tribune, the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel and the Asheville (N.C.) Citizen-Times, among others, and that's just this year.

SPEAKING OF ODD COMMON ERRORS, "Indira Ghandi" appears in the current issue of Washingtonian magazine. Indira, Mohandas and Rajiv, of course, shared the name Gandhi.

VICIOUS CIRCLE is the preferred form of the expression, not "vicious cycle."

IT'S THE NATIONAL ORGANIZATION FOR WOMEN. For, not of. My newspaper recently committed that error.

MY NEWSPAPER also recently mentioned a "hot dog-eating contest." Now, how hot could a dog-eating contest be? What the Post meant was a hot-dog-eating contest.

"FREE" means "for nothing." So "for free" means "for for nothing."

SPEAKING OF "FREE," in an odd and uncommon error, I recently read about somebody being home-free. The expression, assuming you don't mean homeless, is "home free."

Thursday, August 21, 2003

The Usual 'Suspects'

"The suspect was described as . . ."

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: No. There is no suspect; that's why police are giving out a description!

When a local television newscast or a poorly edited newspaper contains such a sentence, the person being described is almost always the robber or the killer or the rapist -- the perpetrator.

Exceptions: Suspect is appropriate if an unidentified person being sought was seen leaving the scene of a crime but not actually committing the crime. It's appropriate if there is actually a suspect, a named person, and he's being described because he's on the run and not being labeled a perpetrator because of libel laws (but such a description would probably include the suspect's name).

Usually, however, it's an example of journalists mindlessly parroting cop-speak. Suspect means "person suspected of committing a crime" in English, even if it means "criminal" to the police (if you're into that whole innocent-until-proven-guilty thing, it's best not to think too much about that).

I wonder: Do the dictationist-reporters also call their dogs "K-9 units"?

Wednesday, June 25, 2003

Tennis Corner

During Wimbledon, we hear a lot about "break-point opportunities" and "break-point chances."

In this land of opportunity, we love opportunities to add extraneous words. What the tennis commentators mean by "break-point opportunity" is "break point." What the hockey announcers mean by "power-play opportunity" is "power play." The "opportunity" or "chance" or "shot" is redundant at best.

To be more accurate, the extra words are just plain wrong. A break point is an opportunity to break serve, so a break-point opportunity would technically be an opportunity to get an opportunity to break serve. That's not that farfetched a reading: If 15-40 is a break point (a double break point, to be more precise), isn't 15-30 a break-point opportunity? If a penalty in hockey means a power play, isn't a referee's whistle during a scuffle a power-play opportunity?

Hi Bill!

Speaking of Wimbledon, ignorance of the "comma of direct address" apparently isn't confined to the States.

Just as countless American teens write "hi mandy" and "hi jason," as though Mandy and Jason were "hi," one of the British tabloids lent support to adopted Brit Greg Rusedski by printing a full-page sign for spectators reading "COME ON GREG." Comma. Please. Otherwise it's the title of a gay porn movie.

Thursday, April 03, 2003


I trust that journalists will be unanimous in condemning the idea of faking pictures. Perhaps we can channel our outrage over such an incident into something better than 50 percent opposition to faking quotes.

Tuesday, March 18, 2003

Protestors and Demonstraters?

Attention, online news sites: It's protester, with an e. Demonstrator has an o. I don't make the rules; I just enforce them.