Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Of Showstoppers and Deal Breakers

I try to avoid the "increasingly common error" trap, so I will allow that maybe it's just coincidence, or heightened awareness on my part, that the first and second times I've noticed a misuse of "showstopper" occurred in quick succession in the past few days.

A "showstopper" is a good thing. Webster's New World:
1 a song or sequence in a musical theater production, show, etc. so exciting or impressive that applause from the audience interrupts the performance
2 anything so exciting, impressive, showy, etc. that it attracts much attention
It is not a synonym for "deal breaker."

Yes, I'm the Moron

If you get the early edition of the Washington Post, the one marked REGIONAL, you may notice one or two embarrassing errors in today's front-page space-shuttle caption. Now, the Post, like any newspaper, makes its share of errors, and I make my share of those, but usually when somebody points out a Post misstep to me, as chance would have it, I'm not the responsible party. This time? All me. This can be a frustrating line of work.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Mapping the Oddities

Jackson Hole sure sounds cool, but there is no "Jackson Hole, Wyo."
-- the city that gives the area its name is simply Jackson. There's also no "La Jolla, Calif." -- La Jolla is a section of San Diego. I hope we all know that the Pentagon isn't in Washington, but what about all those casinos on the Las Vegas Strip? Not in Las Vegas; try unincorporated Clark County.

Whether to go all copy-editor on people's asses about such things is another question, of course. I think the Jackson fact is worth enforcing, but you could argue that La Jolla is grandfathered in, the same way "Hollywood, Calif." exists in spite of its nonexistence. I would argue back that we shouldn't say "La Jolla, Calif.," the same way we don't say "Georgetown, D.C." But I would let the Las Vegas casinos be Las Vegas casinos.

"Wimbledon, England" also gets the Hollywood exception, I think, even though technically it's more like "the Wimbledon village of London," but I don't favor rolling over so easily for other violations of the city-state and city-country syntax. Brooklyn, N.Y.? Oh, all right -- it once was a city. But there's no Queens, N.Y., or Bronx, N.Y., or Staten Island, N.Y., or Long Island, N.Y. Go ahead and use "Bayside, Queens" and "Sayville, Long Island" for New York street cred, but screw the stylebook and give readers a little credit when it comes time to choose between a simple "Queens" or "Bronx" and "the Queens (or Bronx) borough of New York City."

"Darfur, Sudan"? No. It's the Darfur region of Sudan.

In a related note, my expertise on Scotland is a little shaky, but the "Gleneagles, Scotland" we keep hearing about as the location of the Group of Eight meeting appears to be a resort, not a city. The actual place that merits the comma-Scotland treatment seems to be either Perthshire or Auchterarder.

What have I left out? (Or screwed up?)

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

A Strictly Hypothetical Note

"Jurist" comes in handy as a synonym for "judge," but keep in mind that many consider that a loose usage. The primary meaning is "legal expert or scholar." The distinction could become important if, say, a partisan hack with little knowledge of the law were up for a seat on the bench.