I was in a grumpy mood pretty much all day yesterday. Would have happily gone 15 rounds with anybody over anything, but I confined it to one nasty email. It started when the lawn service showed up at one next-door neighbor’s house, followed by the carpet cleaner on the other. We finally get a couple of perfect summer days, the sorts of days when you glory in the breeze blowing through the open windows, and then you have to close them all BECAUSE YOU CAN’T HEAR YOURSELF FUCKING THINK.
The worst of the noise was over in an hour. Still. And guess who just showed up five minutes ago? The lawn treatment service, which squirts their potions from a truck-loaded tank, powered by a generator. Just slammed the windows shut again. Get outta my way.
But because I was grumpy, I can totally see why the comment thread on this TPM story about the end of the Minnesota government shutdown immediately fixated on a typo/usage error in the first graf:
Lawmakers on Thursday evening announced they had reached an budget agreement to end the shutdown.
For my money, that’s a typo. Someone wrote “an agreement on the budget” and an editor changed it to “an budget agreement” but forgot to make the a/an change. Someone carped. Someone else responded, and lo, we got ourselves a convoy:
…agreement is between the indefinite article and the NOUN – not the ADJECTIVE. I know is sounds odd, but it is definitely correct. 😀 (remove the word ‘budget’ to see my point). I know we were all taught that one went by the initial vowel sound of the adjective (whether an actual vowel or a soft ‘h’ sound, as in ‘historian’) – but this usage has come to be accepted as well.
The hell you say. After a few people piled on saying the same thing, the original offender doubled down:
Modern usage references ALL agree on the usage rule that I gave you. It may not ‘sound’ good to you – or to me – but it is accepted and used throughout the professional publishing world. And being a published author myself, as well as a historian who reads upwards of 12 professional journals a month, I can assure you that the ‘vowel sound of the adjective’ rule has been dead for a good 20 years now.
Oh, bullshit, and don’t pull that “published author” crapola on me. If it appears in “professional journals,” it’s because those things are, first, written by professionals in every field except writing, and lightly edited, if at all, by grad students working for peanuts, who concentrate on headlines and cutlines and don’t give a shit about a/an agreement. I’m so glad these arguments take place on the internet, because if I’d read it yesterday in the frame of mind I was in, I’d have smashed a beer bottle on a table and started waving the broken neck around.
I’ll bet $50 this guy is an engineer. They know everything. True story: Guy I know was trying to teach another guy I know how to pilot his — the second guy’s — brand-new boat. First guy said: “It would be unwise to drive the boat there, because even though the water looks just like the water in the middle of the lake? Frequently at the end of a natural point of land, there will be shallow water stretching for some distance beyond it. It’s called a shoal, and–”
“I’m an engineer, I know what I’m doing.”
(muffled thump belowdecks)
Well, I’m a writer, Mr. Published Author, and I say it’s either “a budget agreement” or “an agreement on the budget,” and I say the hell with it. Two dozen comments later, they finally got around to discussing it — the budget agreement — on the thread.
The lawn-treatment guys are gone now. I feel much better.
I’ve been thinking about this topic a bit lately — the true weight of comments left on the internet. The old rule of thumb in newsrooms is that every phone call equals 10 readers, and every letter, 100 — or something like that. If you get a few phone calls about something you’ve published, it’s probably no biggie. If you get a pile of letters, it is. I’m starting to wonder, however, if comments left on Facebook and other websites actually go in the opposite direction, if they might equal a fraction of a person who cares. Let’s call this unit a “shit,” as in the phrase “give a shit.” One phone call = 10 shits given, one letter = 100 shits given, one web comment = .3 of a shit given. Some people seem to have little else to do.
Which seems as good a time as any to go bloggage-ing.
You remember Saul Steinberg’s famous map of the U.S. for the cover of the New Yorker? An updated version of the same idea. My favorite is the driving distance between Los Angeles and San Francisco.
It’s not opening until August, but “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” is already on heavy TV-commercial rotation, and I totally want to see it. The trailer makes me laff ‘n’ laff. Go, monkeys!
And thanks to Coozledad for finding this.
Finally, remember Velvet Goldmine’s daughter Phoebe, and how y’all chipped in to send her to summer leadership camp at Yale? Guess where she is:
You all are good people. And Phoebe’s dad looks exactly like his brother, whom some of you may know as Mr. Lance Mannion.
OK, a long-awaited weekend is nearly here. So I’m off to join it.