Who’s to Blame Here?

This blog site writer and many of his devoted readers keep striving  to be alert to errors made in writing,  especially when they appear in the print media and even more especially when they appear in the most respected of the print media.

A prime example (I’ve misplaced the exact context for this linguistic booboo) was the time several years ago when “The New Yorker” referred to (or maybe it was in a letter to the revered magazine) Camilla Bowles as Prince Charles’s “powermower.”  Another that really rankled my academic skin and raised some goose flesh occurred when a national teachers’ magazine referred to a story by Eudora Welty as “The Warm Path.”  In making an apology and a correction in a subsequent issue,  the editors offered its title as “The Warn Path.” (I may have the sequence reversed.)  For those who have read or at least know of this fine short story by one of our nation’s most gifted writers, it is “The Worn Path.”Maybe the editors of the magazine should have been asked to sit in the corner until they completed a reading of Welty’s story.

Some stuffy academics might characterize such errors as “egregious”; that is, very bad.

The revered “News & Observer”  covering Raleigh and regions nearby (note that its proper name is not “Raleigh News and Observer”–the ampersand is part of the title) and that it is often familiarly referred to as the “N&O”) was brought to the forefront in the current (August) issue of “Carolina Country,”  the official publication of the electric membership cooperatives in the state of North Carolina,  which every subscriber to South River EMC (such as yours truly) in our area receives free each month.

In a column titled “And then I read,”  the magazine brings to bay a paragraph apparently submitted by a reader.  Now whether the mistake in approxinyms should have been corrected by the editors is a matter of some interest.  Actually, there is also a fairly serious grammatical error in the letter.  You can likely find both and make the needed/desirable corrections.  After presenting this paragraph,  the editors of “Carolina Country” offer the witty remark, “Is it spreading?” With no further ado,   here is the complete paragraph of the letter to the N&O as it appeared in the magazine:

“Here’s just two examples of what’s happened  with potential  mixed use property appraisals in Chapel Hill.  In October of 2005 and February of 2006 Walgreen’s purchased four contagious parcels at the intersection of Weaver Dairy and MLK for $3 million.  The 2009 assessed tax values for these parcels was $1,530,826–a reduction of nearly 50 percent from the recent sales price . . .”

Have some fun stirring around in this gumbo of communications. We don’t want it to spread either, I suppose.



13 Responses to “Who’s to Blame Here?”

  1. Raymond Rundus Says:

    I gather from reading today’s newspaper that one of our most devoted “bloggers,” “Forest Crump,” recently completed a stint as the jury foreman in the Myron Britt murder trial in Lumberton. “Forest” is quoted in today’s “Observer” about the completion of the jury’s duties yesterday with Mr. Britt’s being sentenced to life in prison.
    “Forest” (or his namesake) is to be commended for taking on and completing such a demanding and wearing task.


  2. Tammy Stephens Says:

    You are doing just fine, I learn a lot from you.
    “to be alert to errors made in writing,”
    Most of the time, I am too tired to catch mine, and readers do. It becomes pretty funny, and I enjoy it. Especially my post on Stan. Made big boo boo’s on that one.
    Yes, I can’t even imagine what Forest has gone through. Had to be tough, but so remarkable for stepping up.

  3. Tom Says:

    Dr. Rundus,
    HEALTH WARNING to you.
    Do not read Ted Mohn’s blog on the pot bellied pig.
    You might have a stroke with the number of people who do not know the difference between “there” and “their”.

  4. Tammy Stephens Says:

    That’s cute!

  5. Marshall Faircloth Says:

    Yes indeed, I saw Forest on Channel 14! What a commendable service to the greater community.

  6. Raymond Rundus Says:

    Have none of the ever-faithful or the casual-somewhats been able to (1) identify the grammatical error in the N&O letter? (1) And what about the “approxinym” in that same letter?
    Then, (1) if these errors were recognized but not corrected by the Editor on the N&O responsible for this section or (2) they were unrecognized and thus not corrected, what should we think about either situation?
    (I recall that way back in the history of this blog, the relationship between Editor and Reader-Contributor as to the responsibility and correction (or not) of such gaffes as those in the “Carolina Country” example was adjudged a ticklish matter with no clearly suitable solution, particularly when it came down [does not here] to the reporting of the mangled speech habits of an interviewee).

    Comments, as always, welcome.


  7. Jeff Thompson Says:

    How about: “Here are just two examples of what’ve happened…” And I presume the writer meant to say “contiguous” meaning adjoining, as opposed to contagious.

  8. Raymond Rundus Says:

    The silver-tongued voice behind the golden microphone has offered two correct responses to the problems that were in the quoted letter:
    “Here’s” is incorrect because embedded in it is the singular verb “is.” But the subject of that verb is “examples,” a plural noun. Therefore, since there is no abbreviated form of “are” used with “here,” the correct English would be “Here are. . . .”
    And, yes, “contiguous” is the correct adjective that should have been used, not “contagious.” No, no, no: the words may sound somewhat alike and are spelled somewhat alike but are as much different as “needle” and “noodle.”

    In the TV postings in yesterday’s “Observer,” appeared the following sentence, in an entry about the renewed showing on “The Learning Channel” of a reality series, “Jon & Kate Plus 8.” I don’t know whether the mistake is to be assigned to the network president, the AP, or our local “Diva” of the airways. Here is the sentence as it appeared in print: “As for TLC, the network’s president said TLC will ‘continue to capture this family’s journey in a respective and sensitive way,’ The Associated Press reports.”

    Do you see (and hear) the problem?

    Appears to be a simple act of negligence, not a permanent case of dyslexia or something on that order. And, again, we all have sinned, every one of us.


  9. Marshall Faircloth Says:

    ‘Respective’ should have been ‘respectful’.

    Perfesser: While yer at it, please help us with ‘due to’ vs. ‘because of’ and maybe even ‘sensual’ vs. ‘sensuous’.

  10. Jeff Thompson Says:

    Marshall and Dr. R- The entry below is a posting I made to Gene Smith’s recent thread on language:

    “…Gene, I too am a language purist. There are so many improper uses that have worked their way into everyday lexicon. “Bring and take” are almost always “bring.” There is a difference! “Because of” has been taken over by “due to.” A new fad seems to be the elimination of collective singulars, i.e. the band ‘were’ late for the gig, and the team ‘were’ better than expected. It just ain’t right!!! The biggest useage error of all time is: Me and my dad have a t-time tomorrow. It’s “my dad and I” but educators have allowed the wrong useage to take root for over twenty years.

    Re: your inquiry to the perfesser on ‘due to’ and ‘because of’ I was taught in third grade English that planes, boats and trains are due, as in ‘due to arrive…” Everything else is ‘because of.’

  11. Raymond Rundus Says:

    OK, Mr. Commish, you’ve yanked me by the gray beard once again.

    Re first of all “due to.” Fowler suggests that “owing to” had been used for about 150 years before that sneaky little “due to” began to be used in its stead and, as of the mid-twentieth century seemed impossible to root out, even though considered incorrect by many, if not most, grammarians.
    In American English, “due to” became a substitute for “because of” quite a few decades before. “The Grumbling Grammarian” (Robert Hartwell Fiske) in most situations where “due to” is posted, says “USE because of.” In a particular instance, however, it may be better to use “owing to.”
    “Due to,” he posits, can best be justified when it follows forms of the “to be” verb or is used in the sense of “scheduled to” or “expected to.”

    In distinguishing between “sensuous” and “sensual”: usage gurus and the more generic fussbudgets will avidly seek to keep a distinction between the words absolute: As Fiske observes, “The word ‘sensuous’ is used in reference to the senses, especially those concerned with aesthetic pleasures such as art or food; ‘sensual’ is properly restricted to the physical senses, especially sexual pleasure.”

    Thus saith Professor Readycure, aka “The Perfesser.”


  12. Marshall Faircloth Says:

    Thanks Jeff and Perfesser! It’s great to have smart friends!

    The practice of a collective singular noun being paired with a plural verb is apparently widespread in the UK. I am a member of the Yahoo Jazz Guitar Group, and the UK members use that construction in their posts invariably.

  13. Marshall Faircloth Says:

    I forgot to mention that, to take the senuous/sensual idea through another wringer: In reading older English literature, I noticed the word sensible has changed meaning. We now think of a sensible man as one who possesses sense, whereas Austen thought him to be sensitive. (Or is that a UK thing, also?)

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