Thursday, December 30, 2004

Look for Two Horns

You'll find dictionary entries supporting the use of dilemma as a synonym for problem, but a dilemma is a specific kind of problem: a choice between two equally unattractive alternatives. If you simply mean problem, use problem or one of its several legitimate synonyms.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004


In case Santa forgot, "The Elephants of Style" now joins "Lapsing Into a Comma" in the autographed-copies section of the Slot gift shop. (Hurry if you want "Lapsing"; I'm almost out.)

Thursday, December 09, 2004

The Dreaded 'Coed'

When coeducational colleges were still a novelty, female students at such colleges were often referred to as "coeds." As the '60s became the '70s, and the '70s became the '80s, the word did not age well. The term became virtually meaningless as same-sex schools became increasingly rare. Its use was ironic at best, sexist at worst, and the seemingly obvious original meaning got lost as people referred to women at non-coeducational schools as "Wellesley coeds" and "Barnard coeds."

I've used the word as a throwaway inclusion in copy-editing tests, including my contribution to this year's test for Washington Post copy-editing internships. This time it wasn't such a throwaway, as almost all the applicants let it stand. Only one flagged it with the red-pencil equivalent of the gasp it deserved. When I saw these results, a day after hearing a television reference to "coeds" that further eroded the original meaning by referring to students of both sexes, I started to think the word might be making a comeback.

The legitimate meaning of the word makes it difficult to use databases to gauge whether such a comeback is under way, but I implore you help me to nip this, if there is a "this," in the bud.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Two Fewer Things to Worry About

If you're still changing "raised" to "reared" when it involves people rather than animals, cut it out. People can be raised. I know I was. (If I was reared, it was done discreetly while I was sleeping.)

And documents can indeed "say" things. If you're tempted to change "said" to "stated," put the red pencil down and take a deep breath. Even if you were reared to say "stated."

Monday, November 22, 2004

'Who's on First?' With Orange Vests

Headlines are hard enough to write without the morbidly comical complications of trying to convey the idea of a hunter (allegedly) going on a deadly shooting spree. (The alleged gunman? Well, no, of course he was a gunman. Six killed? Six what? Etc., etc.)

Saturday, November 06, 2004

Tell Me Something I Don't Know

The context is clear, and, for that matter, readers aren't blank slates. Does anybody see the need for "former presidents" once, let alone twice, in this passage?

A president's approval rating is considered a key indicator of re-election chances. Former presidents Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton were re-elected with approval ratings in the mid-50s, and former presidents George H.W. Bush and Jimmy Carter lost when their ratings fell to 40 percent or below.

Friday, November 05, 2004

Some Things, You Just Have to Memorize

Here's one such pair: Longtime (adj.) is solid, but long-standing (adj.) is hyphenated.

Friday, October 29, 2004

When Kansas City Isn't a Kansas City

In "Kansas City" you'll find a small style point and a larger exercise in balancing common sense with copy-editor geekiness. (Also, I understand, some crazy little women.)

Most stylebooks leave "Kansas City" off their "dateline cities" lists, meaning that you must specify in datelines and on first reference "Kansas City, Mo." or "Kansas City, Kan." Your common-sense instincts might say, "Aw, c'mon, of course 'Kansas City' alone means the big city in Missouri and not the not-so-big city in Kansas!"

But listen to your geek side on this one. For every 10 people who know that Kansas City means Kansas City, Mo., there are probably three who "know" that you're leaving off the Kansas part because it's part of the city's name. If you mean the Missouri city alone, you need to spell that out.

On the other hand, don't let the stylebook bully you into insisting on a state in references to the Kansas City area or Kansas City television and radio stations or even Kansas City-style barbecue.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

There Oughtta Be a Word

Some common errors hint at gaps in the language. Host as a verb and gender meaning "sex" are two examples that filled those gaps so well they can no longer be considered errors. Other examples that may never grow into acceptance but sound stubbornly right while being wrong:

  • Bemused. You know, bemused -- looking at a person or a situation with slightly amused detachment, perhaps with a wry smile or even a shake of the head.

    The word doesn't mean that, of course, even though that's what most writers think it means; it means something closer to "confused."

    Webster's New World:


    1. to muddle or stupefy
    2. to plunge in thought; preoccupy: usually in the passive voice
    The standard copy-editor trick is to change bemused to amused, and indeed that's about the best we can do, but I find it not quite satisfactory. We need a word that means "quietly and slightly amused."

  • Officious. As I wrote in "Lapsing Into a Comma," the mistaken meaning sounds so right. The Transportation Security Administration stooge who makes a big Barney Fife show of inspecting your sneaker -- officious! The Six Flags ride monitor who points out that you're encroaching on the do-not-pass yellow line by an eighth of an inch -- officious!

    The hint of "official" makes this an understandable mistake, but the word actually means almost the opposite.

    Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary:

    volunteering one's services where they are neither asked nor needed
    The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language:

    Marked by excessive eagerness in offering unwanted services or advice to others.
    Webster's New World does hint at some overlap with the mistaken meaning (my italics):

    offering unnecessary and unwanted advice or services; meddlesome, esp. in a highhanded or overbearing way
    Bizarrely, in the world of diplomacy, officious flies in the face of the "official" thing even more, meaning "informal or unofficial."

  • Monger. My third offering in the "they should mean this, but they don't" category might be a little more controversial, because I'm not sure how many people share my former misapprehension.

    If you're a whoremonger, doesn't that mean you really, really enjoy using the services of whores? Fishmonger? You crave seafood.

    A -monger, of course, is a seller, so a whoremonger is actually a pimp, but aren't many or most uses of powermonger intended to mean "power hound" rather than "power broker"?

    The brilliant singer-songwriter Joe Pernice sings of an ex-girlfriend as a "life-sucking powermonger," which obviously means desiring power rather than doling it out. The error isn't limited to pop music. From

    Ncube's presentation suggested that the Zimbabwean president is a "powermonger . . . who is prepared to kill for power."
    From Slate:

    Essentially, [Dr.] Strangelove is the story of a few deluded powermongers who destroy the world because they can't admit they're wrong.
    From a letter to the editor in Florida Today:

    One has to wonder how different our country would be today if George W. Bush had listened to his wife, his father and mother instead of Don Rumsfeld, Condoleeza Rice, Karen Hughes, Karl Rove and Andrew Card. It's obvious that none of those powermongers were looking after the best interests of Bush or our country.
    A headline in Crain's Chicago Business:

    Rant control: Control freaks, opinionated nonconformists and powermongers make condo association meetings the scene of fireworks-and the occasional fistfight
    I've known the true meaning of fishmonger and the like for decades now, but I still think mong just screams craving and desire, as in "I'm really monging some fish right now -- let's go to McCormick and Schmick's!"

  • Friday, October 15, 2004

    See How the Comma Bends?

    With the hyphen, I'm generally a fan of consistency. Decide on vice-presidential debate or vice presidential debate; don't say you'll use the hyphen only if the story also mentions a presidential debate about vice.

    But when it comes to punctuation's other most confusing critter, I like flexibility. Do I use a comma to introduce a quotation? It depends. Do I use a comma after an introductory phrase? It depends -- and not only on the length of that phrase. Observe:

    "On issue after issue, they’ve blurred the choice," Keyes said.
    Note the comma.

    "In the end, I think they’ve sacrificed the moral culture of Republicanism," he said.
    Again, comma. But these quotes are actually two sentences from the same quote. Here's the way I sent it through:

    "On issue after issue they’ve blurred the choice, and in the end I think they’ve sacrificed the moral culture of Republicanism," Keyes said.
    In this context the very same introductory phrases work much better without the commas. The comma that is there is important not just because it is technically appropriate when two complete sentences are fused with and, but also because its presence, in conjunction with the lack of the introductory-phrase commas, emphasizes the relationship between those phrases and the thoughts they introduce.

    Similarly, a routine quote-introducing comma . . .
    They shouted, "Down with Bush!"
    . . . might get in the way once the sentence becomes more complex:
    They shouted "Down with Bush!" as they marched toward the auditorium.

    Thursday, October 14, 2004

    Did Your Message Get Lost?

    Some copy editor I am. I'm just now noticing that I never replaced the Yahoo address I used during some recent e-mail difficulties with my address in the "E-Mail" link on the right side of this page. If you sent me a question that I didn't answer, or anything else to wfwalsh (at) yahoo (dot) com (a valid address, but one that goes directly to a spam folder that I don't regularly monitor), please resend it using the corrected link.

    Saturday, October 09, 2004


    The third and final Bush-Kerry debate is scheduled for next Wednesday at Arizona State University in Tempe.

    Tem-pee? No.

    Temp? No.

    Tem-pay? No.

    It's Tem-pee. Yes, it's odd. (I went to school in Tucson -- Too-sonn. Only the old-timers call it Too-sonn.)

    Bonus point: Go ahead and call it a presidential debate if you're mentioning such a debate out of nowhere, or to distinguish it from the vice-presidential debate, but don't say President Bush and Sen. John F. Kerry did so-and-so in their presidential debate. Say campaign debate if debate alone makes you nervous -- it's a little redundant, but I suppose they could debate in a context other than the campaign. But to use presidential to elaborate on exactly what kind of debate Bush and Kerry might be having is to commit an impressively moronic combination of stating the obvious and saying nothing at all.

    Friday, October 08, 2004

    The Corrections

    One of the great things about being a copy editor is that you can be correcting an expert about his own specialty one minute ("No, Mr. Political Writer, it was a joint meeting, not a joint session") and committing an error that any sixth-grader could catch ("Old and Gas Hold the Reins in the Wild West") the next.

    Even under the best of circumstances, there's a pretty good chance that a daily-newspaper copy desk of any significant size is going to screw something up in every edition. "Make sure everything is right, and clear, and not misleading" is a pretty challenging mandate, and daily deadlines are a bitch. Book publishers have months to get things right, and when is the last time you read an error-free book? A newspaper copy desk seldom has the luxury of spending even a full hour with a story, and sometimes we have less than no time. That wasn't hyperbole: I've received stories several minutes after I was supposed to have been finished with them.

    That absurd example is a rare case, but it's quite common for a copy editor to have only five or 10 minutes to edit a lengthy article and write its headlines and photo captions. And even when we're not facing that kind of deadline pressure, the threat of facing it in the future is a stifling force. If my final deadline is 9:45 and I have only one story in front of me at 8, I can't settle in for a leisurely read, because I know that a dozen more stories are due, and any or all of them could arrive at any time.

    Speed kills, no matter how easy the task. Ever try to sort your laundry a little faster than usual? A black sock will go in the white pile, guaranteed. And then there's the pressure. In a classic "Odd Couple" episode, Bobby Riggs bet Oscar Madison that he couldn't type his own name.

    "Oscar Madisoy."

    "Oscar Madisox."

    Usually we outshine any Jack Klugman character -- grace under pressure is part of our job description -- but I've seen truth as strange as that fiction.

    Friday, October 01, 2004

    A Massive Cliche

    Massive intervention. Massive expenditures. A massive anti-gun campaign. The massive bill. Everything is "massive" these days (those examples were all from one recent edition of the Washington Post). I'm not going to hit you with a geeky copy-editor rule that says "massive" means only "having great mass." Common sense and Webster's New World tell us it can also mean "larger or greater than normal," "large and imposing or impressive" or "of considerable magnitude."

    My problem is that the word has become a cliche. Writers seldom opt for "huge" or "extensive" or any other word when "massive" is an option, and, as when any quirky fashion choice becomes the standard (see mid-1970s ties and lapels), it looks silly. When there's an unfortunate double meaning (a massive campaign against obesity), it looks even sillier.

    Thursday, September 23, 2004

    American Lawyers?

    References to U.S. attorneys, meaning federal prosecutors who hold that title, are fine when the context is clear, but use federal prosecutors when U.S. attorneys could be read to mean American lawyers. Your readers don't necessarily know that you scrupulously observe the distinction between lawyer and attorney.

    Yes, capping U.S. Attorney would solve that problem, but it would be too drastic a break with the style principle that titles are not capped in isolation. Just as President Bush and Pope John Paul II are the president and the pope, U.S. Attorney Mary Jo White is the U.S. attorney.

    Thursday, September 16, 2004

    From Abu Ghraib to the Eye of the Hurricane

    Abuse means abuse. Ten people get abused? It's still just abuse. "Abuses" are instances of people taking improper advantage of a rule or a law or a situation.

    Damage means damage. Ten things get damaged? It's still just damage. "Damages" means money sought in a lawsuit.

    The s is not a toy.

    Thursday, September 09, 2004

    Hey, You Guys!

    Forgive the foray into spoken English, but I must address yet another example (scroll to the end) of someone going out of her way to be offended by the use of "you guys" to refer to mixed company. This is a staple of amateur restaurant criticism.

    Point No. 1: There's plenty of better stuff to complain about when it comes to restaurant service.

    Point No. 2: I've said it before, and I'll say it again -- "you guys" is to the more vanilla regions of these United States what "y'all" and "you all" are to the South, what "youze" is to New York and New Jersey, what "yuz" is to Appalachia. English uses the same word for second person plural and second person singular, and sometimes it just doesn't satisfy.

    (And, yes, that was me. For the record, I've never met Mr. Sietsema.)

    Monday, September 06, 2004

    Look It Up

    Our friend Barbara Wallraff fills in for William Safire this week with a useful and surprising (at least if you haven't read her latest book or heard her speak on the topic) discussion of how some of the things we take for granted about "the dictionary" aren't sure things at all.

    Thursday, September 02, 2004

    Space Mountain Isn't Rocket Science

    Disney was a man. Disney is a company. Disney is not a place. You can't "go to Disney." You can go to Disneyland, or you can go to Walt Disney World.

    Tuesday, August 24, 2004

    'Whether,' or Not

    A cousin of the "everything from [blank] to [blank]" school of giving examples is the non-whether-related use of "whether."

    MAKES SENSE: He plays hard, whether it's the U.S. Open or a silly pro-am.

    NOT SO MUCH: The resort offers a variety of activities, whether it's lying on the beach or taking trapeze lessons.

    The error might be hard to spot because the usage is so common, but what is "whether" doing in that last sentence?

    Saturday, August 14, 2004

    cUDDLE wITH tHIS, pAL ...

    From my rant on "k.d. lang" and other decorative capitalization in "Lapsing Into a Comma":

    If I could be guaranteed that a gender-bending Canadian torch-twang-pop singer would be the only person ever to be associated with the all-lowercase conceit, I'd be inclined to cap and let cap. But people are weird, and they're not getting any less so. It won't be long before reporters start submitting man-on-the-street quotes from "john smith."

    From a Columbia News Service article on "cuddle parties":

    REiD (the mix of capital and small letters is by choice) Mihalko, 36, and Marcia Baczynski, 26, self-described healers and sex educators in Manhattan, originally conceived of cuddle parties as a way for their friends, deprived of human touch, to get a regular dose of nonsexual human contact.

    UPDATE, Sept. 2: GQ tells us about "REiD (yes, that's how he writes it)." Apparently the G stands for "dumb-" and the Q stands for "-shit."

    Thursday, August 05, 2004

    If You're Not Possessive About Your Children . . .

    Childrens Hospital Los Angeles. No apostrophe. Unreal. Would you trust these peopleses with your singular child?

    (Update: I wrote to the hospital through its Web site, and a PR person was nice enough to answer. Apparently this question comes up a lot. It seems the error is an old one, and attempts to insert the apostrophe have been rebuffed by staff lawyers in the name of consistency with the articles of incorporation. Still reprehensible, but to my mind not as bad as the newfangled-branding-strategy explanation I had expected.)

    Thursday, July 29, 2004

    Wasted Words

    John Edwards is John Kerry's vice-presidential running mate, right? Well . . . does Kerry have a non-vice-presidential running mate?

    Monday, July 19, 2004

    More on 'A' and 'An'

    While I was on vacation, I had a couple of slightly testy e-mail exchanges with readers who took issue with my disapproval of "an historic" and the like.

    I bolster my case in a new Sharp Point.

    Saturday, July 10, 2004

    Thank You, Mr. Safire

    A nice mention in the New York Times Magazine.

    (Now that the above link gives you only an abstract unless you pay, try this and scroll down a little.)

    Tuesday, June 29, 2004

    A Usage Apologist? Me?

    As I argued on my site and the ACES site last year that "10 items or less" is not an error, it crossed my mind that I might be rationalizing a usage error. I don't think I'm guilty of that, but I find the topic of such rationalization interesting. I can think of three biggies in this category:

  • The idea that "I could care less" is not necessarily an erroneous formation of "I couldn't care less," but rather a bit of sly sarcasm ("I could care less, but I don't").

  • The idea that "try and" is not an unsuccessful attempt to say "try to," but rather a stronger version of it ("Don't just try to do it. Do it!").

  • The idea that "let me alone" is the correct way of saying "leave me alone" when the meaning is "stop bothering me" rather than literally "leave me alone." (I realize that this idea has more backing among the recognized authorities than the other two.)

    Thoughts? Other examples?
  • Wednesday, June 23, 2004

    'Homicide Bombers' Revisited

    A reader wrote to me today with compliments but added a note in defense of the term "homicide bombers":
    While "bombers" should generally be enough given that there is usually context, there are organizations that go to great pains to cause damage to buildings and infrastructure without killing or injuring anyone, making "homicide bombers" a valid albeit not-often-necessary distinction.
    I answered:
    My view is that if "homicide bombers" were necessary,
    the term would have been invented long ago -- not just
    recently and just in reaction to one political wing's
    objection to "[something else]-icide bombers."
    And then I wondered:

    Was I historically accurate? Why hadn't I looked this up before?

    So I did. LexisNexis makes it a little harder than it should be, returning hits when a story says something like "homicides and bombings," but I could find no references to homicide bombers or homicide bombings before Sept. 11, 2001.

    Friday, June 18, 2004

    Typo of the Day

    Caught in the slot, in an article about gay marriage:

    "Same-ex unions."

    Wednesday, June 16, 2004

    Dubya Does Vegas?

    Heard in a Golden Nugget elevator, in a piped-in description of the hotel's restaurants: "Exemplerary service."

    Heard on the radio back in Washington, from a law-enforcement spokesman: "The officers made entry to the apartment and made apprehension of the suspect."

    I made switching to another station. And then there's the "suspect." The report was about a guy who held a bunch of kids hostage in his apartment. He may have been "suspected" of other things, but in a report on the man who was holed up for hours, he is simply "the man." We know he's the one.

    The best you're likely to get from a cop or a radio or TV reporter, of course, is "the individual," which is appropriate only when there was some question of whether conjoined twins were involved.

    Tuesday, June 08, 2004

    Free the Peeves

    Can you separate legitimate language gripes from mere pet peeves? Visit Barbara Wallraff's new Web site and find out. There are usage forums, too.

    I passed all the quizzes but one. See if you can guess which one I would have answered "none of the above" to.

    Monday, June 07, 2004

    Brought to You by . . .

    Few issues bring out indignation of the "I'm a journalist, not a flack" variety as much as sponsors' use of the names of sports events and venues as advertising billboards. When I think about trying to draw the line on free advertising, though, the most decisive thing I can say is that I'm glad I'm not in the sports department.

    I have a certain admiration for those who insist on, for instance, Mile High Stadium, but after a few days of civil disobedience I think you have to acknowledge that that isn't really the name of the place anymore. "Invesco Field at Mile High" seems like an idiotic compromise (Mile High isn't a place, is it?), but if you're going to ban Invesco Field, what about the double-fresh flavor of Wrigley Field? As for sporting events, a logical place to draw the line would seem to be the existence of a non-billboard name -- the GMAC Bowl has no other name, while the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl would be simply the Fiesta Bowl. But is that penalizing those sponsors that chose to align themselves with the big pre-existing games?

    I have no good answers, but I will say this: Do the sports impresarios of Florida know what words mean?

    First we had the National Car Rental Center. Yes, Car Rental Center. The place where people go to rent cars. No, it couldn't be the National Car Rental Arena or the National Car Rental Forum or the National Car Rental Coliseum or National Car Rental Gardens.

    That place is now under different sponsorship (and Office Depot was smart enough not to call it the Office Depot Fax Machine Department), but we still have the St. Pete Times Forum. Great name for a feature on the commentary pages, horrible name for an arena. "Center" would have worked just fine there.

    I'm waiting for Carnation Gardens and the Trojan Coliseum.

    Saturday, June 05, 2004

    Much-Mangled Agency Names

    The DEA is the Drug Enforcement Administration (not Agency). The FDA is the Food and (not Federal) Drug Administration.

    The GAO used to be the General Accounting Office, but it was often erroneously called the Government Accounting Office. It recently became the Government Accountability Office.

    Not a government agency, but one that got past me recently: It's the Natural (not National) Resources Defense Council.

    Sunday, May 30, 2004

    Said Who? (Who Said?)

    Should it be "said Smith" or "Smith said"? This is one of those things that copy editors get way too excited about, in my opinion, but here's how I see it:

    • If there's nothing attached to the name, the unpretentious frontward approach is best.

      "There's no question I played like crap," Agassi said.

    • When something is attached to the name with a comma, it's better to keep "said" with the name even if that means the backward approach.

      "I should be paroled. There's only one of them in the Senate now anyway," said Sirhan, who gunned down Sen. Robert F. Kennedy in 1968.

    • I like the backward route even when the appositional matter is very brief.

      "I'm this many years old," said Ashlee, 4.

    • In fact, I like the backward route even when what comes after the name is not in apposition at all.

      "I don't think Sirhan should be paroled," said Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.).

      (That's Washington Post style for party affiliation and state.)

    • In fact, sometimes I like the backward route even when descriptive material comes before a name, especially when that material is on the long side.

      "Based on assessment of current intelligence, we have no plans to raise the threat level," said Department of Homeland Security spokesman Brian Roehrkasse.

    • When such material is relatively brief, it's a coin flip.

      "We are looking at this and many other options very seriously because we won’t fight with one hand behind our back," said Kerry spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter.

      "We are looking at this and many other options very seriously because we won’t fight with one hand behind our back," Kerry spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter said.

    • If the "said" is part of a larger thought, try to keep the thought together. For me, this principle trumps the long-descriptive-material principle stated above.

      "Based on assessment of current intelligence, we have no plans to raise the threat level," Department of Homeland Security spokesman Brian Roehrkasse said in a conference call with reporters.

      By the way, I have no problem with "according to" for attribution of something other than a quote.

    Saturday, May 29, 2004

    A New Off-Topic Address and a New Editing Blog

    Off-Topic is now at Please update your bookmarks and help me notify those with links.

    This space will become part of The Slot, featuring a more dynamic, spur-of-the-moment collection of style observations and allowing interaction through comments. It will essentially take the place of Carets & Sticks.

    Wednesday, May 26, 2004

    The War on Terror

    "You stop being scared or I'll give you something to be scared about!" That's a war on terror. What people are generally talking about is a war on terrorism.

    Tuesday, April 13, 2004

    Green-Eyed Monster

    If you must buy that book (you know what I'm talking about), at least use this link, which will get me a few pennies of kickback.

    It's not much of an instruction book, especially if you deal in American English, but it is entertaining as a rant. But there have been better rants over the past half a decade or so.

    Wednesday, April 07, 2004

    A D.C.-Area Note

    Soon it will be hard to find an unsigned Bill Walsh book in the Washington area. In the closest thing to a book tour that I'm likely to get, I drove around the area, mostly in Northern Virginia, and volunteered to sign books. To my relief, "The Elephants of Style" was available everywhere I looked, sometimes in large quantities. The bookstore managers were uniformly thrilled to have all copies on hand signed. So, for those of you in the area, you can now get autographed copies at:

  • Barnes and Noble, 12th and E streets NW, downtown Washington. (Autographed copies of "Lapsing Into a Comma" also available.).
  • Barnes and Noble, Potomac Yard, Alexandria. (Autographed copies of "Lapsing Into a Comma" also available.)
  • Borders, Baileys Crossroads.
  • Borders, 18th and K streets NW, downtown Washington.
  • Borders, Pentagon Center, Arlington.
  • Borders, Tysons Corner.
  • Olsson's, Old Town Alexandria.
  • Olsson's, Reagan National Airport, Arlington.
  • Trover Shop, Capitol Hill.

    The author with a window display at the Olsson's in Reagan National Airport.

  • Monday, March 29, 2004

    An Event

    I answered questions in a live chat at Here's the transcript.

    Wednesday, March 17, 2004

    If Somebody Isn't Shot, It Isn't a Shooting

    Those incidents in Ohio involved someone shooting a gun, but only the one in which a bullet hit a person was a shooting.

    Dictionary definitions vary in their rigor about this point, but think about it: If the neighbor kid is practicing with a .22 and a tin can, do you think a series of shootings is going on next door?

    So, what do you call it when a guy fires a gun into a tree or a door frame -- or, unsuccessfully, at a person? I don't have a good answer. Shooting incident isn't great, but it's better than shooting. In the Columbus case, sniper incident also works.

    Friday, February 27, 2004

    'The Passion'? No Such Movie.

    That [editorial comment withheld] movie is called "The Passion of the Christ." I can understand "Passion" as a headline shortcut, or even "The Passion" on second reference, but I'm puzzled to encounter so many first references to "The Passion" as if that's the name of the thing. Those last three words aren't a subtitle. (Are they?)