More “Burps” in the Print Media?

I have found that the longer a post I post,  the fewer the repliers reply.  So: let me keep this short but sweet.  Here are three questionable statements that I have run across–or found again–lately.  And I believe I could be wrong about one of these;  research in a dictionary might clear things up, Gillespie Street Irregulars!

(1) From a freshman student’s journal:  “Children now and days know what sex is at an earlier age than you could ever phantom.”

(2)  Reading in “Closed Captioning” what President Obama supposedly said in a casual interview at the very recent MLB “All-Star Game.”  The President,  who had correctly picked the UNC team to win the NCAA Division I basketball championship and the Steelers to win the Super Bowl, was asked to pick a World Series champion.  This White Sox fan demurred, saying it was far too early and (in Captions now), “There is a great deal of parody among teams right now.  And I think that is a good thing.”

(3)  And finally this in a “Washington Post” story based on an interview with the Cardinals’  All-Star first baseman,  Albert Pujols:  “The unofficial host of all-star week, Pujols seems to be followed everywhere he goes by an ever-growing entourage of flaks, agents, security goons and, of course, dozens if not hundreds of fans . . . .”

Keep in mind that your interest here should be in the realm of diction; that is, the choice of words used in crafting these sentences.




46 Responses to “More “Burps” in the Print Media?”

  1. Tammy Stephens Says:

    My guesses…
    1) phantom? “More than you can ever ghost? I would have used imagined.

    2) parody? Why would it be good for a team to be made fun of?

    3) goons? security attackers?
    flaks? How about flakes?

  2. Lolly Says:

    Good grief.

    1) Nowadays, fathom

    2) Parity (Also, neither “president” nor “caption” should be capitalized.)

    3) Flacks

  3. Marshall Faircloth Says:

    I agree with Lolly except that ‘president’ shoud be capitalized when referring to ‘the President’.

  4. Lolly Says:

    Nope. “President” is only capitalized if that title is immediately followed by his name.

    Example: We attended the inauguration of President Barack Obama in January. We even shook the president’s hand.

  5. Raymond Rundus Says:

    An update on the current “Burps.”

    Good instincts/experience on the part of new “Blog Guest Lolly.” (Let’s hope “Lolly” can join us at our first “Blogger Breakfast” in September.)

    I completely agree with her amendments and comments, save that, as with Marshall F., I believe that protocol requires (or at least expects) words such as “president,” “governor,” and “secretary of the treasury” to be capitalized when they refer to the specific office or office-holder. For example, “The Chief Justice asked today that all Justices refrain from comments publicly about issues that are primarily moral and ethical rather than legal.”

    Here is another possible “burp” that I lost sight of as I was preparing this posting. It appeared in a university’s public relations outlet online and dealt with a student involved in a summer internship in which she was learning and demonstration. Here is a sentence that quoted this student:
    “This augur solution contains everything the plants need to grow, just like soil.” Do you see the problem? I think there is only one, and it is a bit difficult to identify and correct. Methinks.


  6. Lolly Says:

    Please check your AP Stylebook. Under “Titles,” it spells out quite clearly that “president” is not capitalized when not immediately followed by a name.

    It doesn’t matter if you are referring to a specific president, or the general job title. Add the name, or lower-case it.

  7. Marshall Faircloth Says:

    Why would you cite anything the AP does as an authority? This thread is all about mistakes in (shudder) print media.

  8. Marshall Faircloth Says:

    For instance, do you write, ‘thus saith the Lord’ or must it be followed by his name?

  9. Lolly Says:

    AP stands for Associated Press, and their AP Stylebook is the industry standard for newspapers. So why would I *not* cite it as an authority in a thread about print media? Especially on a site that is hosted by, you know, a newspaper?

    I don’t think I’ve ever written “thus saith the Lord.” If I did, I might be up for debate on how to handle that particular title. As for the title of president, however, the AP addresses it specifically — so there’s no room for debate.

  10. Tammy Stephens Says:

    “Do you see the problem?”
    I will have to sit that one out.
    Where’s Forest when you need him, lol?

  11. Marshall Faircloth Says:

    Since I already questioned the AP’s authority, there must be room for debate.

  12. Marshall Faircloth Says:

    AP Stylebook/Burps in the Print Media – one must call on one’s sense of irony here.

  13. Forest Crump Says:

    Hey, I’m all for breakfast.

  14. Lolly Says:

    I guess I’m not clear on *why* you’re questioning the AP’s authority, Mr. Faircloth. Print media usually adheres to a standard for things like capitalization and word choice, and the AP is usually that standard. Stop by the Observer’s copy desk and surely someone will explain it to you.

    And you’ll have to explain the irony to me. I’m afraid I don’t get that one.

  15. Tammy Stephens Says:

    “Hey, I’m all for breakfast.”
    There he is.

  16. cicvet Says:

    Lolly, your answer to Mr Faircloth could have been a bit less patronizing.

  17. Raymond Rundus Says:

    I don’t have time for a lengthy response here re the capitalization issue nor for another point or two.
    BUT, from my experience as a writer and author published in various periodicals and such, I have found that “stylebooks” are rather unpredictable and even often not very sound sources as “authorities” on usage or diction. I think they exist because the editorial staff decided that, not only would they offer advice to their reporters and staff writers, they would have more prestige if they made a manual of style available.

    For example, one publisher (or rather, One publisher, for example . . .) that I worked with a few years ago insisted that transition words (such as “however” or “for example”) could not be used at the beginnings of sentences. Seemed capricious to me, but I kowtowed.

    To me, William Safire (who perhaps is still doing a column for “The New York Times”), while a journalist himself, is a trusty source (using many contributions from his “Irregulars”) for thoughtful and rational positions on usage and diction. And, certainly more accessible as references, both Strunk and White’s “Elements of Style” and (regarded as the authority of first rank) the latest edition of “Fowler’s Modern English Usage.” And perhaps equally good and unfailing is “The Chicago Manual of Style,” which is impressively thorough and complete.
    Even though I am a “trained” (will bark on cue) academician, I have some serious issues with the Modern Language Association’s publications on research and writing, especially as relates to doing citations.

    Must add (soon!) a couple more comments re other, loosely related, issues that have come up in this particular Blog posting. “BURP!”


  18. Raymond Rundus Says:

    Refer back to my comment (#5) above: the usage problem in the student’s talking in a PR Website about micropropagating certain plants. The word “augur” was used incorrectly. As a noun it means (as in ancient Rome) a seer or a soothsayer: no relevance to micropropagating. The word intended must have been “agar,” which means (see AHCD) a “gelatinous material derived from certain marine algae and used as a base for bacterial culture media and a stabilizer and thickener in many food products.” You may recall the big fuss several years ago about agar being used an apples in the marketplace.

    Back to the original posting: (2) the “Closed Caption” spelling out what President Obama said about baseball’s best team should have been “parity,” not “parody.” (3) the word “flack” (labeled “informal” or even “slang”) refers today to a spokesperson or a press agent or a PR person.
    “Flak” (first used perhaps in English ca. 1938 as an acronym from the German “Flugabwehrkanone” or “Fliegerabwehrkanone” (meaning airplane defense cannon) has apparently been extended to mean “adverse criticism.” But the relationship of the noun “flak” to the noun “flack” is unclear, though it seems certain that “flak” was used widely in the English language before “flack” became first identified (perhaps in 1963). The plural forms of both words are identical to a third homonym: “flax.”

    Best wishes to all, and we’ll be planning a breakfast get-together in a few weeks. Maybe mid-September? Maybe “The Rainbow Restaurant” followed by a trek up the Cape Fear River Trail from Clark Park?


  19. Jeff Thompson Says:

    You go Lolly. And Marshall you should know better, but then again you were educated in Cumberland County Schools (lol). Note the capitalized proper name reference. For as long as I was in the business, the Associated Press style guide was ‘the’ authority in journalism. Interestingly, it’s rarely used any longer. In fact, from what I can tell, the local paper uses no particular style guide. But the A.P. aside, it’s a specific rule of English usage that any salutory title whether it be president, governor, doctor or reverend is capitalized only when it it’s part of a reference to a specific individual.

  20. Tammy Stephens Says:

    “breakfast get-together in a few weeks. Maybe mid-September? Maybe “The Rainbow Restaurant” followed by a trek up the Cape Fear River Trail from Clark Park?”

    Sounds fun. Maybe we can find Forest. He’s escaped! :shocked:

  21. Tammy Stephens Says:

    Opps, I was trying for the smilie, but I didn’t type it right, I guess.

  22. Marshall Faircloth Says:

    Jeff says: “any salutory title whether it be president, governor, doctor or reverend is capitalized only when it it’s part of a reference to a specific individual.”

    Exactly my (and the Perfesser’s) point. Now who is the specific individual referred to here:

    “The President, who had correctly picked the UNC team to win the NCAA Division I basketball championship and the Steelers to win the Super Bowl, was asked to pick a World Series champion. This White Sox fan demurred”

    Go ahead, take a wag.

    As to irony, it’s the people who write in the print media and make mistakes that caused the “Stylebook” to be needed to begin with. (Get it yet? lol)

    It became the generally accepted convention of those who write in the print media to use it as a crutch or authority. All professions have developed “standards’ of practice or conduct that are “safe harbors’ and often substitutes for otherwise experienced professional judgement.

  23. Lolly Says:

    Thanks, Jeff. I was starting to feel like I was on a very boring episode of The Twilight Zone.

    Whether or not the Observer adheres firmly to the AP Stylebook, it certainly seems to adhere to the rule in question: capitalizing “president” only when the title is followed by the name (yes, even when that title refers to a specific person).

    A couple of examples (I’m only including items written by their staff, since most of their stories on the president come from the AP itself and are obviously in AP style):

    — Sixth paragraph:

    — Third-to-last paragraph:

    Sorry about that, Faircloth and Rundus. You don’t get the points on this one.

  24. Lolly Says:

    Also, cicvet — you’re right, and I apologize for the snark. (I guess I should aim that apology at you, Mr. Faircloth.)

    It’s just that I happen to know quite a lot on this topic (if very little on anything else) and it’s frustrating to have my input dismissed on the grounds of uninformed opinion.

    I should not have resorted to being condescending. I’ll keep an eye on that!

  25. Jeff Thompson Says:

    Marshall…your example above does not reference an individual by name and that’s the difference. Had you said President Obama, it would have been capitalized. But, just saying ‘the president’ does not justify capitalization. By the way, a journalism style guide is just that…a guide. Good print journalism, and broadcast journalism for that matter, should always be the proper use of the language. Unfortunately, for the last couple of decades, the king’s english has not been a teaching priority in public school or college for that matter.

  26. Marshall Faircloth Says:

    Ok Jeff and Lolly: I’ll throw in the towel on this one. I don’t know style from shineola, but I have my 5 and 1/2 decades of writing my way, I guess.

    Lolly: No apologies necessary. I can take as good as I can dish. 🙂

    I am a strong proponent of public schools, but who knows what they’re teaching nowadays.

  27. Jeff Thompson Says:

    Marshall, as a former member of the Cumberland County School Board you know better than most what’s going on in our schools. Teachers spend so much of their time keeping order and filing reports that they’ve lost the inclination to instruct beyond the basics. To most English teachers, it’s okay to say “due to” when they mean “because of” or “bring it” when it should have been “take it.” And syntax isn’t important any longer so long as people communicate their thoughts adequately. It’s sort of like students using calculators in math class instead of their brains.

  28. Jeff Thompson Says:

    Dr. Rundus, you’ve got to love this…verbatim from today’s Fayetteville Observer:

    “…Construction of Fayetteville State University’s nursing building will start Monday, said Reubin Gillis, a project manager with the Resolute Building Co. Five university officials met Tuesday and decided to move the psychology department into one of the building’s three floors in July 2010, when it’s scheduled to be completed. In May, Chancellor James Anderson suspended admissions to the largest of the nursing department’s two programs – the four-year bachelor’s program.”

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but shouldn’t it be “the larger of the department’s two programs.”

  29. Marshall Faircloth Says:

    The problems of public schools mirror the problems of society as a whole. The poorest, least educated and least intellectually equipped tend to have the most children. Often out of wedlock. Then they put them on the bus and expect schools to be both parent and educator. It’s our own third world country population growing by leaps and bounds (no pun intended).

  30. Tammy Stephens Says:

    Hey now, there’s nothing wrong with having many children! We take very good care of ours. Some years they ride the bus, and some we pick them up. I spend many hours in the classroom and helping at the school, even if my children are not involved. We wanted a big family, and that’s not unusual now days. I know many other families with more, and they are good parents as well. Very involved also.

  31. Marshall Faircloth Says:

    Tammy: I don’t think you are to be counted among “the poorest, least educated and least intellectually equipped.”

  32. Jeff Thompson Says:

    Marshall, I’m not going to read too much into your remarks, ’cause I don’t think you mean what I could take from between the lines. You are, however, suggesting our children are being tracked in school. I sure hope that isn’t so. I’ll grant you that kids come to school with varying degrees of interest in learning. But, I also contend, as Dr. Rowedder used to say, all children can learn. But, there’s a caveat: If they’re taught well.

  33. Tammy Stephens Says:

    It’s where you stated, tend to have the most children, and what’s wrong with children riding the bus?
    Some of those problems could be solved for the single mothers, if the dads helped out. Last I heard, it takes two.

  34. Lolly Says:

    Tammy, he said:

    — “the poorest, least educated … tend to have the most children”

    He did not say:

    — “people who have the most children tend to be the poorest and least educated”

    There is a difference.

    Also, I doubt he meant to imply that bus travel itself is a problem; rather that the uninvolved, apathetic parents believe their job ends when the child is on the bus.

  35. Tammy Stephens Says:

    I was purposely picking on him. He’s got a good since of humor, so I thought I’d mess with him a bit, that’s all.

  36. Marshall Faircloth Says:

    Lolly: I think Tammy has 8 or 9 kids. I told her I think she should have all she can afford! 😉

  37. Raymond Rundus Says:

    I am inspired by all of these enthusiastic comments from some frisky and quite persuasive writers to compose a new “Blog Post” which I have tentatively titled “Bloggers Go Nuts Over Caps.” So keep alert, please.
    For this comment I will only express my appreciation for the extended interest and insights into subjects and themes far beyond the initial reach of the earliest comments.
    Lolly and Jeff Thompson are adding much to the pot we’ve been quietly stirring for some time.
    Thanks to Jeff Thompson for several examples of abusage or misusage of the written or printed language. The example of “largest” (superlative degree) for “larger” (comparative degree) is especially judicious. We need always to keep in mind that what is written or printed for general or educated “audiences” requires that the writer so far as possible adhere to established conventions of usage or diction.
    I always am left wondering, however, as I read some of the comments about school buses (I prefer for good phonological/lexical reasons the alternative spelling of “busses,” however) why no one sought to honor my piece about doing away with school bussing, in which I had brought forward another one of my remarkable ideas: that is, if bus riding was largely prohibited, we would (1) get our kids into better physical condition and help reduce cases of obesity and diabetes and (2) save enough money to keep class sizes at reasonable levels and also keep valuable teachers and programs in place. So there. Har! And Har! again.


  38. Tammy Stephens Says:

    Oh my, thanks a lot! I wish the best for those who can handle that many.
    Four is enough for me. Yes, we support ourselves. It’s not easy, but I wouldn’t change it for the world.

    They are all headed to Marshall’s CPA/commissioner camp next week. A week long over night camp. So, nice of you!

  39. Tammy Stephens Says:

    We live a little to far away, along dangerous roads. To make up for it, we walk the kids six miles a week, at least. We reward them, and make it lots of fun. We drove the kids most of this year. My husband would like them to ride the bus, but I’m not as comfortable with it. We might put them on, and if issues arise then pull them off.

  40. Tammy Stephens Says:

    Oh, and I’m so glad, I have Marshall’s blessing! 😆
    What would I have done without it?

  41. Marshall Faircloth Says:

    Sarcasm becometh her not!

  42. Tammy Stephens Says:

    Je disais seulement comment a honoré je suis d’avoir votre bénédiction. Autant d’alors, j’ai posté une image de vous. Un serpent. Je choisis seulement sur les gens que je pense extrêmement de. Même Raymond.

  43. Raymond Rundus Says:

    Ma chere Tammy!

    C’est une riposte tres amusante que vous avez jete a Monsieur Faircloth.

    J’ai rit pour un bon temps!

    Je voudrais que je connait les marques typographiques pour la langue francais en ce stupide “WordPress”!

    Votre bon ami,


  44. Tammy Stephens Says:

    Raymond, Quelques-uns tout prennent à sérieusement, et oublier de sentir les roses. A voulu alléger juste l’humeur pour une minute. Vous et M. Faircloth a été si bon à moi. Il est amusant pour choisir sur. Il y a le spécial de quelque chose est chacun de l’équipage de petit déjeuner. Je suis reconnaissant pour chacun de vous.

  45. Raymond Rundus Says:

    Ce serait dans mon reponse, “la langue francaise (pas “francais”). Quelquesfois j’oublie les marques de feminine ou masculine.

    Dites moi, pourquois, la vie est belle . . . N’est-ce pas? C’est toujours une belle chanson, je pense.


  46. Tammy Stephens Says:

    La vie est belle, de même que française. La vie est la façon trop courte. Chaque langue intrigue. Vous le parlez bien, je triche.

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