Friday, October 01, 2010

Scholarships for Copy Editors!

Attention, college students: You still have a month and a half to apply to the ACES Education Fund for one of five nifty four-figure scholarships. In addition to the money -- four $1,000 awards and one prestigious $2,500 prize named for Merv Aubespin, the "godfather" of the American Copy Editors Society -- winners get some high-quality exposure to the kind of people who hire copy editors, to the extent that people hire copy editors these days. The application deadline is Nov. 15.

Friday, July 23, 2010

About That Lawyer ...

... there's good news and bad news.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Mark Your Dictionaries

"Tank" is now the official, not-at-all-slangy term for "fall." (In a related development, "rise" has become "spike.")

Saturday, July 17, 2010

There's Only One Child Myth

What I'm pretty sure Time is talking about is "the only-child myth." A myth about only children, not the only myth about children.

(If anyone cites "the '-ly' rule" as an excuse for this ridiculous refusal to hyphenate, I'm going to, in the words of a certain Holly Hunter character, lose it.)

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Thursday, May 20, 2010

When 'Might' Makes Wrong

Some self-styled sticklers I know, perhaps still smarting at the " 'May' is for permission" lecture they got when they asked "Can I go to the bathroom?" in first grade, insist on changing "may" to "might" whenever they see it used in a non-permission sense. That can be fine -- "I might go to the party" may/might indeed be better than "I may go to the party" -- but it can also screw things up.

Be especially careful when the word "have" is involved. Observe:

"She may have been killed."
"Oh, dear. I hope she just got lost and we hear from her soon."

"She might have been killed."
"So true. Thank goodness she was wearing her seat belt."

(If you read the former example as a quote from a mob boss giving instructions to a hit man, proper English usage is the least of your problems.)

Sunday, April 18, 2010

When 'Domestic' Doesn't Mean Domestic

I pointed out in "The Elephants of Style" that Samuel Adams often shows up on bars' lists of "imported" beer, and that phenomenon bubbled up at the tavern where the American Copy Editors Society toasted the conclusion of its recent conference in Philadelphia.

We were given wristbands that entitled us to $3 pints of domestic draft beer, and so I took a look at the taps and pointed to a Pennsylvania microbrew. That would cost more than $3, the bartender told me, adding that " 'Domestic' means Bud, Miller, Coors . . ."

It might be time for the more descriptivist dictionaries to add that:

6. ordinary or inexpensive [domestic beer]

I settled for a Yuengling, brewed in the town of my birth, which might qualify as premium elsewhere but is "domestic" in both senses of the word in Pennsylvania. (Is there a term that means "non-premium" but wouldn't turn off the marketing types? "Regular beer," to follow the gasoline analogy, falls a little short.)

Friday, January 01, 2010

Happy New Decade!

Yes, it's a new decade. Of course it's a new decade. The 2010s by definition include 2010. If this isn't a new decade, 1960 wasn't part of the 1960s (but 1970 was). You're not really going to assert that, are you?

Those who are mounting Walshian objections to this reality are getting it confused with the fact that 2000 wasn't the start of the 21st century or the new millennium. Again, it's a matter of definition: The first century is 1 through 100, the second century is 101 through 200, and they told two friends, and so on, and so on, and so on . . .

As I observed 10 years ago, there is a weird disconnect between the way we define centuries and the way we define decades -- and between the two most common ways of referring to centuries. The year 2000 was the start of the decade we call the 2000s, and of the century we call the 2000s, even if the 21st century didn't begin until 2001.

One loyal correspondent raises the question of whether it's the start of the second decade of the 21st century. In-ter-est-ing. On the one hand, it's obviously not (see definition of century above). On the other hand, if the decade we call the 2000s was the first decade of the century, isn't the decade we call the 2010s the second?