Death Nail

Following on yesterday’s item about the death of the great Richie Hayward, the Washington Post’s Gene Weingarten gives us another decedent to mourn: the English language. Cause of death: email, texting, bloggers, and the decline of large-scale, professionally edited journalism.

We read:

The language’s demise took few by surprise. Signs of its failing health had been evident for some time on the pages of America’s daily newspapers, the flexible yet linguistically authoritative forums through which the day-to-day state of the language has traditionally been measured. Beset by the need to cut costs, and influenced by decreased public attention to grammar, punctuation and syntax in an era of unedited blogs and abbreviated instant communication, newspaper publishers have been cutting back on the use of copy editing, sometimes eliminating it entirely.

In the past year alone, as the language lay imperiled, the ironically clueless misspelling “pronounciation” has been seen in the Boston Globe, the St. Paul Pioneer Press, the Deseret Morning News, Washington Jewish Week and the Contra Costa (Calif.) Times, where it appeared in a correction that apologized for a previous mispronunciation.

On Aug. 6, the very first word of an article in the Winston-Salem (N.C.) Journal was “Alot,” which the newspaper employed to estimate the number of Winston-Salemites who would be vacationing that month.

The Lewiston (Maine) Sun-Journal has written of “spading and neutering.” The Miami Herald reported on someone who “eeks out a living” — alas, not by running an amusement-park haunted house. The Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star described professional football as a “doggy dog world.” The Vallejo (Calif.) Times-Herald and the South Bend (Ind.) Tribune were the two most recent papers, out of dozens, to report on the treatment of “prostrate cancer.”

Some will say that Mr. Weingarten is over-exaggerating the problem; that English isn’t really in such dire straights. Others could care less. But as a daily blogger, faultless English is my stock and trade, and I think that for all intensive purposes he’s right.

That’s my opinion, anyway. What’s your’s?


  1. Uncle Kenny says

    “Others could care less.”
    No professional editor would let that phrase pass. That’s my opinion.

    Posted September 22, 2010 at 10:07 pm | Permalink
  2. Malcolm says

    Right you are!

    What do we have for him, Johnny?

    Posted September 22, 2010 at 10:44 pm | Permalink
  3. Kevin Kim says

    “The point is mute.” That kills me. And I’ve ranted about vocative commas.

    Posted September 22, 2010 at 10:45 pm | Permalink
  4. Malcolm says

    Hey, Kevin, that’s an excellent post.


    Posted September 22, 2010 at 10:49 pm | Permalink
  5. Uncle Kenny says

    “for all intensive purposes he’s right.”

    As Mr. Mason my 9th grade English teacher, would have done I stopped reading at “could care less”, but now I see that boner follows.

    intensive careless?

    Posted September 23, 2010 at 8:21 am | Permalink
  6. Dom says

    Malcolm, aren’t you going to tell everyone that the last paragraph is one big joke? And I’m surprised no one picked up on “over-exaggerating”.

    Posted September 23, 2010 at 8:43 am | Permalink
  7. Malcolm says


    Well, if I must

    Ahem… That last paragraph is one big, six-pronged joke.

    I suppose the title will be noticed eventually also.

    Jeez, maybe I should stick to politics.

    Posted September 23, 2010 at 9:46 am | Permalink
  8. Dom says

    Six? I only count 5! I get …

    1. Over-exaggerating
    2. straights
    3. care less
    4. stock and trade
    5. intensive

    What did I miss?

    “Death Nail” is one of those odd mistakes — it’s actually better than the original.

    Posted September 23, 2010 at 10:04 am | Permalink
  9. Malcolm says

    Well, actually that paragraph isn’t really the last one… so five is right. One more a bit later.

    Idea for future post: the deflating effect of humor-analysis.

    Posted September 23, 2010 at 11:02 am | Permalink
  10. Kevin Kim says

    I got your humor. Including the self-conscious “commafication” of your reply to my comment.

    Posted September 23, 2010 at 12:26 pm | Permalink
  11. Malcolm says

    Never doubted it, Kevin.

    Posted September 23, 2010 at 12:31 pm | Permalink
  12. And, of coarse, the missing comma is intensional.

    Jeffery Hodges

    * * *

    Posted September 25, 2010 at 7:33 am | Permalink

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