I don’t know why you read the newspaper. I read it to fan the always-flickering coals of irritation at the continuing degradation of the language of Shakespeare and Lindsay Lohan.
From a weekend review of “Skinwalkers”:
The werewolves ride into town on motorcycles, sporting dark sunglasses, shaggy but mostly human except for pearly white, canine teeth.
There shouldn’t be a comma between “pearly white” and “canine.” I guess if I looked through my Strunk & White I could find the precise reason, but I play by ear and I say no. That started me thinking about how you use a comma when you have multiple adjectives in front of a noun. I would write, “
MaryMarv* lived in a big blue house,” but also “ MaryMarv* is an arrogant, elitist asshole.” I’m sure both are correct, but I don’t know precisely why. Some nice English-teaching nun in the readership, tell me. (Here’s my case: There’s no natural pause between big and blue if you read it aloud, and there is between arrogant and elitist. As I said, I play by ear.)
The next case was more irritating. The story was about a teacher at a local school who’s had some public problems with her temper of late:
Those two incidents earned her a one-day suspension and rebuke this year from D. Allen Diver, then the school’s principal.
“Unfortunately, these patterns of berating individuals have happened far too often during my six years at South,” Diver wrote July 11. “I am continually forced to diffuse situations that you have created because you sometimes appear to speak without thinking or have sent e-mails that are inflammatory.”
Educators are sometimes the most enthusiastic misusers of the language, but this one drives me crazy. It’s “defuse,” not “diffuse,” D. Allen Diver, please. I see this all the time. You defuse a touchy situation the way you defuse a bomb. You diffuse a bad smell by fanning a magazine in the bathroom before you leave. My Oxford American says:
USAGE: The verbs diffuse and defuse sound similar but have different meanings. Diffuse means, broadly, ‘disperse’; defuse means ‘remove the fuse from (a bomb), reduce the danger or tension in.’ Thus: Cooper successfully diffused the situation is incorrect, and Cooper successfully defused the situation is correct.
Of course, the reporter was quoting from a letter in a personnel file, but still. Either correct it or ‘sic’ it. (For continued friendly access to D. Allen Diver, I strongly recommend the former solution.)
Refreshed by curling my lip in scorn at the peons still employed in newspapering, I can then go about my day with a song in my heart.
There wasn’t much written about the gay debate Thursday. I know it was called something with “human rights” in the title, but I will think of it as the gay debate, since it aired on Logo, the gay cable channel, and featured gay questioners, and had the gayest audience ever, including the inevitable elderly lesbian couple, one with gray mullet. I had it on in the background while I worked, and have a few thoughts, none especially deep, but I thought it was sort of sweet and earnest — everyone had that “I can’t believe this is happening…to ME!” thing going on. You don’t see a lot of amateur television anymore, especially when presidential candidates are concerned (all Democrats, and I missed the part where they explained why). And the Logo production was decidedly amateur. The set was sort of homemade looking and some of the questioners looked just gobsmacked to be there, and yes I’m talking about you, Melissa Etheridge, and the post-game interviews were conducted by a young man who looked like he got out of high school five minutes ago. But that gave the whole production charm. Really.
Hillary sort of wiped the floor with everyone else, which she’s been doing consistently this season, although Obama and Edwards held their own. But perhaps only on Logo would you hear someone, when asked for a reaction afterward, say, “She looks really good in coral.” By the time the wrap-up turned to somebody I’d never heard of for the “lighter side” reaction, it was probably inevitable that Dennis Kucinich would be called “adorable. …like someone born in a flower.”
As a native Buckeye, I’ve thought of Kucinich a lot, but never like that.
Speaking of Ohioans, caught “The People vs. Larry Flynt” Friday night on cable. It holds up after a decade, and may have even improved with age. I was stung anew at the injustice Milos Forman perpetrates in the name of narrative coherence — he relocates Flynt from Columbus to Cincinnati. So, so wrong. Ohioans know what I’m talking about. Columbus never embraced Flynt, but it tolerated him better than the Queen City, where he was vigorously prosecuted by Simon Leis, one of those crusading, stick-up-the-butt prigs Hamilton County specializes in. When the movie came out, I wrote an essay about living in central Ohio when Larry was in high cotton, and I’d like to rewrite it now, and throw in all the stuff I had to leave out because of the family-newspaper thing. But it needs a news peg. I’ll save that for when he dies, or brings down another speaker of the house.
Apologies for lameness today. I had a more substantive, linky post in progress, and then discovered Alan had recommended the subject to one of the paper’s columnists, so I’ll step aside and let the people who provide our health insurance go first.
Do I have bloggage? Oh, a little:
I’ve been reading all I can about the current Wall Street meltdown, understanding maybe 80 percent of it. My econ training is apparently all obsolete now, although maybe not entirely. (One conclusion I’ve reached: If the Fed bails these dildoes out again, I’m becoming an anarchist.) If you’re finding it baffling — investment vehicles based on risky mortgages? ARMs as perpetual fee-generators? — you’re in good company. Slate provides a 101-level explainer, in plain English.
The last rat jumps from the sinking ship of the Bush administration. Tim Goeglein’s prolificacy of late, explained? Maybe he’s auditioning to be the News-Sentinel’s culture writer. Or maybe he was just killing time in his office while the wallpaper peeled off.
* name changed to spare the feelings of regular commenters named Mary. I don’t think we have a Marv yet, but I expect one to show up any minute.