The Death of English

As previously noted “Regret the Error,” “Annabelle and Other Friday Follies,” I love reading about the errors, particularly typos, committed by newspapers and magazines.

In that spirit, Gene Weingarten of the Washington Post has proclaimed the death of English. He even picked a date: August 21, 2010. Mr. Weingarten presents evidence in the form of a number of errors that have occurred since the WaPo, like other newspapers, has consigned its copy editors to the ranks of the unemployed, or “repurposed” them.

Even when copy editors worked diligently, mistakes escaped us. I recall a colleague’s saying (gerund takes the possessive, don’t you know) that there were “only” three or four mistakes in the paper that day. Our boss replied, “I’m glad you aren’t my surgeon!” The rejoinder: “This isn’t brain surgery.” Maybe not, but the point was that readers deserved to have it handled as such. These days newspaper owners and managers only care about keeping their shareholders or the bankruptcy judge and maybe their few advertisers happy. (“Spel czech wanted me to change “days” to “days’” in the preceding sentence.) Actual news consumers fall way down on the list, just above rank-and-file employees.

Mr. Weingarten cites a number of instances that preceded the final breath of the English language. My favorites are: “pronounciation”’; “spading and neutering,” “prostrate cancer.” Spel czech should have picked up the first gaffe, but it would take an actual human eye (or two) to catch the incorrect use of actual words.

This effort to write the proper obituary is salutary, but, my dear Mr. Weingarten, I fear you are years late. Here’s a correction from your own paper dated 2009, which actually won the award for crunk of the year: “A Public Enemy song declared 9/11 a joke. The song refers to 911, the emergency phone number.”

Apparently I am not alone in welcoming a slam or five at the slaughter of the language. A significant number of others inveighed (love that word) against the confusion of it’s and its, (a confusion that spel czech doesn’t understand); they’re, their, and there; formally and formerly. The best commentary was a link from a British commentator, who really wants us to start using the Queen’s English properly. (Does he want it back if we don’t?)

Others have sent Mr. Weingarten their own “favorites.” I won’t repeat them as chalk across a blackboard would be preferable.

All in all, Mr. Weingarten, I join you in mourning the death of a beautiful and cranky language, and thank you for the eulogy. I fear the corpse has long since rotted.

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2 Responses to “The Death of English”

  1. The ‘Joys’ of Copy Editing « Lizr128′s Blog Says:

    […] Somehow I managed to omit Lori Franklin’s eloquent and depressing post when I wrote “The Death of English.” […]

  2. At Last the Rest Can Be Revealed « Lizr128′s Blog Says:

    […] a quick item. Gene Weingarten (“The Death of English“) is just the best. I don’t know if the hat maker will still insist on the ® after […]

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