Archive for August, 2007

Carnage If We Leave

22 August 2007

A great juxtaposition of headlines at Nytimes.com today: at the top,

Citing Vietnam, Bush Warns of Carnage if U.S. Leaves Iraq

and, next one down,

Copter Crash Kills 14 U.S. Soldiers

That would be in Iraq, where the carnage would be, if the U.S. left.

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Open “Mike”, Not Open “Mick”

9 August 2007

Respect your language, English speakers! Understand that the written language is above all based at representing the sounds of speech. As such, the word pronounced “mike” and meaning “microphone” should be spelled–can you guess?–“mike”!! Spell what you hear unless customary standards preclude it. Do not adopt the awful spelling “mic” as in the nowadays-common “open mic”. Anyone who understands how English spelling signals pronunciation knows that “open mic” should be pronounced as “open mick”. That is not how people say it. Not yet, anyway.

Of course, I know where “mic” came from. Every microphone jack on any tape recorder or audio component that has been produced in the last fifty years has borne the abbreviated label “MIC”. That is an abbreviation. Now sometimes people do make a funny word out of an an abbreviation. Maybe a few people out there talk about “St. Louis Moe”. But word shortenings in speech naturally are based on the spoken sounds, so the spoken short word for “microphone” has always been “mike”, not “mick”. So, if “open mike” is what you say, let “open mike” be what you write.

Ban the Home Run

8 August 2007

Speaking of how baseball supposedly indulges our appetites for crude spectacle, I am also against home runs, that is, the kind that goes over the outfield wall. I love an in-the-park homer, but I want the out-of-the-park ones eliminated from the game; if a ball is hit over the outfield wall, call it a foul ball. Make the guys hit for line drives, or move the walls back to keep more fly balls in the field of play, or deaden the ball for the same effect, but let’s make these hitters keep the ball in the park and earn their bases by running!

Who knows, this might even lower the incentive to pursue body-distorting hormone regimens.

“Lede” is not a word

6 August 2007

Too many writers are caught up in a fad of using “lede” to mean the beginning of a news article wherein the main news is summarized. (See the end of the fifth paragraph in this piece, for example.) If you thought that was a sense of the very well known noun “lead”, pronounced with a long “e”, then I am with you. I think it is weird and parochial to give the word a special spelling in a journalistic context.

The explanation is that it has been common practice in the newspaper business to spell it “lede” to avoid confusion with “lead” as in the lead metal type that printing presses use. I can imagine it might be useful in proofreading marks to avoid confusion with the verb “lead” in the sense of adding space between lines. I just do not see how it is a necessary distinction for the general consumers of an article.

Now if some reformer wanted to always spell the long-e form of “lead” as “lede”, in any context, I would respect that, but that is not what people are doing.