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?


Frank said...

So, John Edwards is simply John Kerry's running mate, right?

But, John Kerry is also John Edward's running mate.

Ergo, it might be helpful to point out which is the presidential candidate and which is the vice-presidential candidate.

This might seem to be overdoing it right now, as it assumes a reader who knows what "running mate" means but doesn't know who's who between Kerry and Edwards.

But considering that these news stories ("the rough drafts of history") will probably end up in databases that will be electronically accessible decades from now, it might be helpful for some future reader.

That's my 2 cents.

Bill said...

I can't imagine a story in which it wouldn't be abundantly clear which one is the presidential candidate. In a similar vein, I'm trying to wean my desk from the habit of imposing full first-reference style on every single so-called first reference, which in an edition of convention coverage gives you "Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.)" about two dozen times in very close proximity.

Le Petomane said...
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Le Petomane said...
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Bill said...

Why wouldn't "mate" work both ways?

Le Petomane said...


running mate: (1) a horse used in a race to act as a pacer for another horse from the same stable; (2) a candidate for the lesser of two closely associated offices, as for the vice presidency, in his or her relationsship to the candidate for the greater office.

That's Webster's. Edwards is Kerry's running mate. Kerry is not Edwards' running mate. Kerry and Edwards are not running mates. I've followed political coverage for a fair number of years; until last month, I'd never seen this error.

Reporters, suffering as usual from the elongated-yellow-fruit syndrome, have hijacked the meaning of this term, the misuse of which will cause educated readers to wonder what else the reporter doesn't know. I always fix it.

But even though it's wrong, the meaning is at least clear and it's not unintentionally humorous, unlike the inevitable references to the "first lady in waiting" that we will see if Kerry wins in November.

Sorry about the deleted posts. The system did not show either as deleted when I was trying to kill first one and then the other to avoid wasting your readers' time. It looks like they both vanished hours later.