Thursday, September 18, 2008

Fewer 'Less' Complaints, Please

"Sir, do you have 10 items?"
"I have less."
"Great -- come to this line, then."

Did the man say "I have less items"? No. He said he has less. It could mean less than that, or less stuff or it could simply mean less. Be the annoying stickler if you like and criticize him, and the signs, if they say "less items" or "10 or less items," but "less" is a perfectly good concept and a perfectly good word on its own, and "10 items or less" is perfectly fine. Don't go inferring a supposedly implied word to create an error so you can criticize it.

I have plenty to complain about at the supermarket as people park their shopping carts in the middle of aisles and pay with checks in the 21st goddamn century; I will not be joining the chorus of fussbudgets insisting that signs be made silly and pedantic.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

David Foster Wallace, 1962-2008

I never met David Foster Wallace, and he was much cooler and more successful than I'll ever be, but I always felt a certain kinship. He was almost exactly my age (two months younger), and we shared a love for tennis as well as a passion for language. A couple of links:

  • A clip about a usage peeve from an interview with Bryan Garner.

  • An essay about descriptivism vs. prescriptivism.
  • Sunday, September 07, 2008

    Waldorf Equals Astoria?

    Yes, that's an "equals" sign in the logo of the famed hotel. In any publication run by grown-up editors and not xerographers, of course, it's Waldorf-Astoria, with a hyphen.

    Friday, September 05, 2008

    A New Look

    My friends, when I started writing about editing on the Web more than 13 years ago, there were no blogs, there obviously wasn't any Web 2.0, and I had not yet written a book. Sites were just sites, and it hadn't dawned on a lot of us site owners that short, snappy URLs were the way to go. Oh, The Slot would come soon enough, but first there was The Crusty Old Man's Copy-Editing Peeve Page. For those of you who don't remember that address, it was

    Today I do most my ranting here on Blogslot. I could just redirect, but I'm loath to give up all the pre-blog resources at my main site, and, frankly, I just enjoy the design and the programming. But it was time to clean things up and give the important stuff more prominence, and so I redesigned The Slot's home page. My signature color scheme and stuck-in-the-'90s aesthetics remain, but things are more compact and pared-down. I hope you like it. If not, there's always Slot Classic.

    Tuesday, September 02, 2008

    Ms. Palin, Meet Mr. Drysdale. And Jethro.

    I covered this two years ago, but I can't resist repeating it as I hear Sarah Palin and her fans mention, over and over again, how she has fought "the good-old-boy network."

    The "old-boy network" and "good ol' boys" are practically opposites. As highly respected usage commentators usually do, I'll draw an example from "The Beverly Hillbillies." In the above photos, the old boy is on the far left. The good ol' boy is on the far right.

    Then again, maybe in Alaska they're the same thing.

    (Yes, that time stamp is accurate. If you have a comment, please make it quietly.)