When I left the copy desk and set up shop in the guest bedroom, Twitter became my virtual office. I’m never a few clicks from my copyediting cohort on Twitter. It provides ongoing education in writing, word usage, and the craft of copyediting. And whiskey.
It’s unlikely that copyeditors and and other word lovers escaped the release this week of Word Crimes, a grammar lesson in the form of a comedy song and video by “Weird Al” Yankovic. It showed up dozens of times in my Twitter stream. I was tagged on Facebook, got links through email discussion groups and read about it on LinkedIn. Several people suggested Weird Al ought to be invited to deliver the keynote address at an American Copy Editors Society conference.
I don’t casually browse dictionaries as often as I once did, but I’m still thrilled at moment of serendipity, when the dictionary yields a new word and distracts me from what I was supposed to be doing.
Today, I discovered wordhoard, a store of words and, therefore, the vocabulary of a person, group of people or an entire language. It may be an obvious compound, but it existed (without the a) in Old English.
Copyeditor discussion forums often turn to ethical issues as copyeditors seek reassurances about their dealings with difficult situations. Copyeditors don’t have common coursework to draw on. We are former journalists, English teachers, college professors, lawyers, marketers and fresh-out-of-college wordsmiths. Questions of ethics feel different depending on where we come from.
The first time someone wrote luxurious, in a story called Arthur and Merlin, he meant lascivious, lecherous or unchaste, according to the Oxford English Dictionary. That was around 1330. Arthur and Merlin, by the way, also gives us the first recorded use of the insult biche-sone, or son of a bitch.
When I type pejorative, I must consciously stop my left forefinger from dropping down on the r key after my middle finger taps the e. When I hear it spoken, it’s often unclear whether there is an r sound at the end of the first syllable.
Posting first, fact-checking after is no longer uncommon for journalists in the age of instant publishing, according to a new survey of international journalists.The survey found that 45 percent of journalists say that at least 60 percent of what they publish is done without checking facts beforehand.
The data-analyzing folks at FiveThirtyEight sought to assess where America stands on the Oxford comma, and the results told us very little. A survey of 1,129 people found 57 percent favor a serial comma when presented with a simple series and 43 percent said leave it out. Presumably, “I don’t care” was not an option.
We’ve been clearing some clutter, and my wife decided to sell a music box that has an impressionist-style scene on the front of ladies with parasols and that plays Debussy’s Reverie. The potential buyer, no doubt motivated by an ironic sense of humor, was disappointed when she realized it did not play the bugle call reveille. So that was a $3 sale lost.