I Gotcher “Context” Right Here

Filed under:Blogging,Language Barrier,Need a Good Editor? — posted by Anwyn on June 25, 2008 @ 6:29 am

The AP’s recent demand for bloggers to stop quoting them without payment, in a petulant bout of trying to unilaterally do away with fair use, included the pretext that people needed to read entire AP stories “in context” rather than bloggers’ selected quotes.

“Cutting and pasting a lot of content into a blog is not what we want to see,” he said. “It is more consistent with the spirit of the Internet to link to content so people can read the whole thing in context.”

No serious blogger I’m aware of quotes material without providing a link. Except maybe to the AP in the light of this silliness. But that’s beside my point today, which is that somebody should clue Time magazine into how this works. In an article linked by Hot Air headlines today, Time quotes a phrase from Rachel Lucas’s post on the pregnant teenagers in Gloucester: “marauding narcissistic sluts”–a phrase so strikingly crafted, by the way, that I recognized it and its source instantly upon reading it in Time, but you’d never know who said it if you just read Time. Moreover, you’d be informed that it came from a “conservative” blog, a description Rachel herself would certainly take exception to.

A blog at The Village Voice did a little better, linking Rachel directly in discussing her pronouncement that all teenagers should undergo mandatory sterilization, but failing to include what the AP would no doubt describe as context: The fact that Rachel doesn’t really support mandatory sterilization.

This is one of the pitfalls of blogging, that if people don’t read you regularly they may miss posts that explain some of your hyperbole, that mitigate some of your rhetoric, that outright say some things are satire or just an over-the-top rant. But at the very least, sources like Time ought to see an obligation to provide a link that allows people to judge for themselves what the person quoted is saying and what she means by it. The MSM has been doing this forever, quoting people at the scene of whatever incident they’re reporting and identifying those people by name, even though that adds no additional “context” to the story and not much about the mindset of the person being quoted. Now that the mindset and context are available out the ears, the MSM doesn’t seem interested in people’s real opinions or the reasoning behind them, or even, in this case, identification of the speaker–because that would involve sending readers’ eyes elsewhere, to mere mortals with blogs, and everybody knows they’re not real content providers, but just unreliable cut-and-pasters with no context of their own.

It’s a backward stance and a hypocritical one–if you’re going to cite bloggers, you need to identify the source, at the very least just as you would identify the speaker in a news story and at the very most with a link that provides the “context” the AP was so exercised about. If bloggers are such peons unworthy your notice, then stop quoting them at all. Oh, wait–they come up with really juicy phrases like “marauding narcissistic sluts,” don’t they? Too good not to quote, too bad to ID and link. Poor, poor MSM caught in the web–the World Wide Web, that is.

Update: Commenter Buzzion notes that the article no longer describes the blogs in question, including Rachel’s, as “conservative.” That’ll teach me to always screencap. The text now reads:

Some blogs hosted a righteous orgy of “slutshaming,” denouncing Gloucester’s “marauding narcissistic sluts” for following the toxic example of movie stars and the Spears sisters, and longing for the return of the scarlet letter.

This morning it said “Some conservative blogs hosted …” I’m (reasonably) certain of that because it was the first thing I emailed Rachel about it. You can take my word for it or not, as it is secondary to the point–that they should be linking or IDing by name blogs they quote, no matter from what spot on the political spectrum.

Go Back to Learning; Don’t Bother Getting Educated

Filed under:Language Barrier,Need a Good Editor?,Politics — posted by Anwyn on June 11, 2008 @ 7:48 am

Dear Copywriters Everywhere, Including the Ones on the Email I Just Got from Newt Gingrich’s American Solutions website, where you can sign a petition, for all the good it may do, asking Congress to authorize development of more domestic oil resources:

Stop telling us to “get educated” or “educate yourselves” about anything at all. Go back to the older formulation of “learn more about …” right away. “Get educated about the issues” sounds trendy and pretentious, implies we’re uneducated to start with, and uses an unnecessarily tortured grammatical formulation. “Learn about” or “learn more about” is stronger in both structure and meaning.


I May Be Dumb, but Amazon’s Rude

Filed under:Good Grief,Need a Good Editor?,Not Cool — posted by Anwyn on May 20, 2008 @ 7:07 am

So I joined the Associates program, thinking to pick up a few cents here and there on people’s Amazon orders. I was aware there are no referral fees on items I buy myself, but stupidly overlooked this part:

This includes orders for customers, orders on behalf of customers, and orders for products to be used by you, your friends, your relatives, or your associates in any manner.

Okay, that’s pretty restricted–my mother almost never orders from Amazon because she doesn’t like wrestling with a click system rather than just picking what she wants and filling out an order form. She orders through Amazon specifically because I set up the portal on my blog–thus essentially referring a new customer to them, the ostensible purpose of the program–and her purchases don’t count because she’s my mother?

It’s understandable, if a bit narrow. But what really got my goat was the offensive and condescending expressions of the Amazon flunky who wrote back to my query about why there were several orders but no referral fees in my account. He accused me outright of ordering all the items myself, when actually some were ordered by my mother as aforementioned and some were ordered by Daddyman. He then snidely mentioned that Amazon is not running a “discount program” here. Yeah, no duh, moron.

And because their system is “proprietary,” he condescendingly declines to explain to me how they “know” I ordered the items myself. Hey, Sherlock? My mother has my same last name and Daddyman lives at my same address, though we aren’t married and thus aren’t even related. I pretty well grok on my own how you “deduced” these items were nefariously purchased by me. But you’re dead frackin’ wrong–I have zero interest in old episodes of Doctor Who.

So while I understand that you have to protect yourselves from being taken advantage of, and that orders from the same household should probably be restricted from the program, still, that’s not the same as me ordering them myself to try to hoodwink you. When you accuse people of that, you destroy a lot of goodwill and good faith. Yeah, it’s embarrassingly stupid of me not to have noticed the “relatives” part, but it’s offensively condescending for you to send a lengthy, rambling email accusing me of acting in bad faith instead of simply pointing out the problem and the restricted items. Thus my membership in the Associates program is finished. Hire some people who know how to respond to emails without acting like people who invite their friends and family to use their Amazon portal are deceptive little weasels who really are only after discounts for themselves.

Phrase Focus

Filed under:Abortion,Language Barrier,Need a Good Editor? — posted by Anwyn on May 15, 2008 @ 10:20 pm

Dear Columnists, Especially on the Right:

It is not “a woman’s right to choose.” It is more properly called “a woman’s right to choose abortion.” Without abortion she still has a choice: Keep her child or give the child up for adoption, both perfectly viable if heart-rending alternatives.

I read the phrase, which is, after all, only what everybody calls it nowadays–the common cant on abortion–in a Pat Buchanan column about something else entirely and it made me realize the more we accept the phraseology of the opposition, the more we legitimize their semantic sleight-of-hand. Now you see the abortion; now you don’t, because it’s become a “right to choose.” No, it is the right to choose the abortion itself, nothing more or less.

Disney/Pixar Getting a Little Too Cute for Their Boots

Filed under:Mothering,Movies,Need a Good Editor?,Not Cool — posted by Anwyn on May 1, 2008 @ 6:59 pm

So I’m watching Cars with The Bean, who now will occasionally deign to take a break from four or five episodes of How It’s Made per day to watch a movie, and we have the captions on, as is our custom since he likes to read them and I’ve got a long-standing caption habit dating back to his birth when I wanted the house very quiet. At the end of the first race when McQueen goes to make his appearance in the Rust-Eze tent, a comment from a random car in the crowd flashes up in caption: “That race was a pisser!”

What the hell? It’s one thing for that kind of line to be mumbled in a crowd scene so muddled as to be inaudible. Ha, ha, an adult comment in a kids’ film. Yes, we get it, you’re clever. But to put it in the captions? Do they just expect no kids to ever see those? In some houses “piss” still is a less than polite word, folks. What’s next–will I need to preview the captions on Aladdin to make sure that when the monkey, Abu, is leaping from stone to stone over the lava, he doesn’t really, in fully readable print rather than unintelligible monkey-squeak, say “Oh shit!” as it sort of sounds like he might be doing? (About 1:06 on that vid.)

Come on, people, get your act together. If you don’t want to make movies for kids, don’t. Don’t stick adult or even semi-adult language into kids’ movies, or if you do put in an inaudible nugget now and then, keep it out of the captions.

Disingenuous Word

Filed under:Jerks,Language Barrier,Need a Good Editor?,Politics — posted by Anwyn on April 30, 2008 @ 10:01 am

Can we just drop the word “former” from descriptions of “Obama’s former pastor”? Find some other word, like the literally true “retired.” He’s only former because he retired from the church and not through any action of Obama’s. A small but telling detail in article after article.

Apostrophes Aren’t Difficult, People

Filed under:Need a Good Editor?,Not Cool,Sports — posted by Anwyn on April 2, 2008 @ 10:44 am

But the mistakes can be hard–rock-hard. Or diamond-hard, as in baseball. [Link changed in October when original link broke.] The Cubs can’t do anything right even on their statuary.

Before the [Ernie] Banks statue went on display at Wrigley Monday, many people had inspected it, and they agreed: Mr. Cub, 7 feet and 300 pounds of bat-swinging bronze, looked great.

Cella, who works at the Fine Art Studio of Rotblatt-Amrany in Highwood, had scrutinized the things that mattered most to him as the sculptor.

How was the patina? Excellent. Was the inscription on the correct side of the granite base? Yes, it was. Right down there on Ernie’s left it said:



Katelyn Thrall, a Cubs representative, walked in, brusquely stuck out her hand and didn’t wait for me to explain.

“We’re going to fix it,” she said. “That’s all I can say.”

Fabulous. Will you also fix Harry Caray’s while you’re at it? You can just take his apostrophe off and give it to Banks.

H/t Banks article: J. I saw the Caray myself lo those years ago, last time I was at Wrigley.

Update: That was quick. You can tell there was no space for it to begin with, but we’ll take what we can get, which apparently does not include anybody noticing, commenting on, or fixing Harry Caray’s. H/t J again.

To Forbid, Or Not To Forbid, There Is No Question: Never From

Filed under:Language Barrier,Need a Good Editor? — posted by Anwyn on March 15, 2008 @ 7:37 pm

Seen frequently on the blogs of incredibly smart people who shall not be linked: “…forbidden from [doing something here … whatever kind of something you wish, be it innocent, salacious, carefree, what have you]”. You can’t forbid people from doing something; you can only forbid them to do it and hope they listen and punish them markedly when they don’t.

Don’t these people remember their childhoods? “Little Jimmy Blogger, I absolutely FORBID YOU TO ride your bike in the irrigation canal … Little Sarah Blogger, I positively FORBID YOU TO unravel all of that doll’s hair … Little Tommy Blogger, your father has FORBIDDEN YOU TO speak to him that way …”

I couldn’t guess how this one got started. But it needs to end before it spreads farther. I forbid you to do it. So there.

Unnecessary Verbing of the Day

Filed under:Blogging,Language Barrier,Need a Good Editor? — posted by Anwyn on February 5, 2008 @ 8:12 am

I love to read Anne’s LifePundit blog, so I hope she won’t be upset that I’m picking on her a bit here. As Calvin and Hobbes once ruminated, “Verbing weirds language.” And although verbing words may be a clever shorthand and perfectly understandable, like many things that are at first new and cool, after a while it can seem affected and pretentious. Anne’s use is one of the oldest forms of verbing I’ve observed in my lifetime and has definitely passed over into the “pretentious” stage:

To stay on track, I will journal every day.

To stay on track, perhaps she should write in a journal every day or even keep a daily journal, but to journal every day sounds both mysterious and banal* at the same time, like it’s the current hot fad that she will do because everybody says it will be good for her (and, in fact, a hot trend in all the various levels of schooling plus psychological journeying was indeed, as far as I know, the origin of the verbing of the noun “journal,” at least in its current incarnation). Now Anne’s a writer and she’s not keeping a journal because it’s a fad, but because she understands that this is something that works for her personally, I suspect. So remove the trendy jargon usage from the word and it goes back to being more a serious, thoughtful act of reflection than something she’s doing because she read it in the Oprah magazine. (Yes, if you’re wondering, I crack myself up, even if nobody else laughs.)

There’s the $.02 Anwyn’s Note on verbing. Don’t do it, especially when it’s popular.

Maybe for Lent, I should give up pointing out people’s bad grammar habits.

*I frequently look up words I already understand just to double-check that I’m using them correctly before I throw them up here. I’m going to link definitions when I do that, in case you also want to make sure you know the word or just want to see what kinds of things I find myself having to look up. Fun, no?

The Wisest Woman in the World

Filed under:Need a Good Editor? — posted by Anwyn on February 3, 2008 @ 7:47 am

Occasionally I am seized by a fit of madness to pick up an Oprah magazine in the grocery store. There’s always some cool-sounding headline. Who wouldn’t want to learn How to Attract Your Heart’s Desire? I always, dumbly, think maybe there’s some good advice in there. The table of contents this time said they also had some of Kate Winslet’s favorite books and why she likes them. Sold!

It’s always disappointing, of course. There’s always crap inside, like screeds from that chick who wrote The Vagina Monologues and, in the current issue, novelist Wally Lamb, whose work I despise, encouraging people to tell their own stories. From prison, or something. Whatever. And how to attract your heart’s desire? Turns out you put it out to the universe. But this has to be the biggest laugh-getter of the issue. Right on the cover:

“Life Will Teach You If You Let It”
Oprah talks to one of the world’s wisest women

My response to that, and yours, is obvious.

Well, no shit.

I mean, seriously, you don’t say! I guess since I freakin’ knew that already, since you don’t get to be 33 and a mother and a basically successful human being without realizing you have to learn as you go along, that makes me one of the wisest women in the world. So I got that goin’ for me. Which is nice.

Pesky 18th Century

Filed under:Language Barrier,Need a Good Editor? — posted by Anwyn on January 31, 2008 @ 4:49 pm

“Transpire,” or “transpired.”

Meaning: To become known, as in “It did not transpire until the next day that McClellan had actually been defeated.”

Misuse: To happen, as in “What transpired there between Lee and McClellan is not yet known.”

True, Merriam-Webster, as with “comprise,” says that because the incorrect meaning has been in use since the 18th century, it’s all good. But why should meanings that come into use through misuse gain legitimacy solely on that basis, even if they are perpetrated by leading lights like Abigail Adams? On that basis, the apostrophe’s torturous misuse in phrases like “She went to see the Sheldon’s” will soon be completely okay. Which would be a multitude of shame’s.

The Currently Most Frequently Misused Word in the English Language

Filed under:Language Barrier,Need a Good Editor? — posted by Anwyn on January 28, 2008 @ 10:38 pm

“Comprise” or “comprised.”

Meaning: To consist of; to include; to take the parts into the whole, as in “The nation of Canada comprises several distinct provinces.”

Misuse: “The nation of Canada is comprised of several distinct provinces.”

The whole comprises the parts. The parts never comprise the whole; nor is the whole ever comprised of the parts. The word you’re looking for, misusers, is “composed.” “The nation of Canada is composed of several distinct provinces.” Drop two letters and substitute a third and you will have the correct usage.

The vast number of educated people who constantly misuse this word boggles my mind. If you’re one of them, stop it. Stop it right now, I say. Unfortunately the misuse has become so common that it has passed into general usage. Just because Saul Bellow decided he was cool enough to do it and his editors didn’t stop him doesn’t mean you have to contribute to the gradual erosion of proper meanings.

Wording Means a Lot

Filed under:Language Barrier,Need a Good Editor?,Not Cool,Politics — posted by Anwyn on January 3, 2008 @ 10:56 am

Take a look at the info-blurb under Thompson as he’s speaking here and then tell me about your lack of bias:

Fred Thompson Opposes Abortion Rights and Same-Sex Marriage

What’s wrong with “Fred Thompson Supports the Right to Life and Heterosexual Marriage”? Nothing except that the one they went with sends a context of opposition to something that should be a foregone conclusion.


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image: detail of installation by Bronwyn Lace