“Analysts poured over satellite images…”

That’s the sentence I read in this morning’s Boston Globe, reprinting this Washington Post article. Oddly, the online Post article spells the word correctly: pored. Here we can read about the difference.

Did the Post article originally have the same error, and someone subsequently corrected the article on its web site? Or was the article at the Post correct all along? That meant someone at the Globe must have read the phrase, decided that “pored over” couldn’t possibly be correct, and made the change to show that folks in Boston know how to spell.

Either way, sheesh.

Every day Twitter shows us that famous people, including writers, don’t know how to spell. That’s fine. Everyone needs an editor. Where are they at the Globe?

In a league where success whithers away like a desiccated flower…

This over-the-top image is from a column in this morning’s Boston Globe talking about the Patriots.  Notice the atrocity perpetrated on the poor word wither.  It’s an odd mistake, because even my WordPress spellchecker alerts me that whithers is not a word.  And it’s not like this is some late-night game writeup that no one has a chance to edit. Has the Globe laid off all its editors?

Meanwhile, people complain about the low editorial standards in ebooks written by independent authors.  And people are correct.  I’ve been reaching such a book, and it’s hard to believe that the author–or anyone–read the words he typed before the book was published. Surely someone would have noticed that he regularly mistook then for than, that he was unclear about the difference between its and it’s, that the tree he was writing about was a cypress and not a Cyprus.  And on and on.

It doesn’t escape my notice, though, that this book is way more successful than any of mine, with dozens of five-star reviews.  It’s true that some reviewers point out the spelling mistakes, but just as many people seem exercised by the author’s errors in military technology.  (An M-16 apparently fires the 5.56 NATO round, not the 7.62 NATO round.  Who knew?)

Standards are slipping everywhere, and no one seems to care.  Also, you kids get off my lawn!

Are missing apostrophes more important than dying teenagers?

We report, you decide.

A bizarre battle is raging in towns across Britain between lovers of the English language and local councils that are culling the humble apostrophe from street signs.

The historic university city of Cambridge was the latest in a series of places this year that have made the change, which transforms names such as King’s Road into Kings Road.

Cambridge was forced to backtrack after anonymous punctuation protectors mounted a guerrilla campaign, going out in the dead of night and using black marker pens to fill in the missing apostrophes.

Apparently an apostrophe error earlier this year caused an ambulance to go to a wrong address, resulting in a teenager dying of an asthma attack.

“National guidelines recommended not allocating new street names that required any punctuation, as, we gather, this was not well coped with by some emergency services’ software,” Tim Ward of Cambridge City Council told AFP.

Although I’m not one of those who think the language is going to hell in a handbasket, I have some sympathy for the protesters who say the solution to the problem is not to make punctuation worse, but to make the software that emergency services use better.

On a vaguely related topic: At some point when I wasn’t paying attention, the Catholic Church seems to have removed the possessive from church and school names — at least in my neck of the woods.  When I was a lad,we lived in Saint Columbkille’s parish; this is now Saint Columbkille parish.  The parochial school down the street from me is Saint Paul School.  And so on.  A brief Google search indicates that if the school uses the possessive, “Saint Paul’s,” it’s Episcopalian.

The possessive doesn’t make a lot of sense in this context, I suppose.  Public schools don’t use it; there aren’t any Martin Luther King’s High Schools.  But the possessive usage for saints is so ingrained in my neurons that I’m always stopped short when I encounter the new style.

Next thing you know I’ll be demanding that the Mass return to Latin, which, after all, is the language that God speaks.

How do you spell the plural of “you”? Whitey Bulger needs to know

This is from the Fox News transcript of Whitey Bulger’s statement at his trial yesterday:

And my thing is, as far as I’m concerned, I didn’t get a fair trial, and this is a sham, and do what youse want with me. That’s it. That’s my final word.

The Boston Globe‘s online version of the statement also spells the word youse.  But the headline of its print edition this morning spells it yous.  Online, ABC News also spells it yous, while NBC News sanitizes it to you.

I would have spelled it youse.  Or maybe even you’se.  Google Ngram Viewer gives a slight lead to yous lately, but that might be because yous gets credit for thank-yous.  Youse had a big lead in American English from 1900-1940, and you’se had the lead briefly in the 1860s before falling back to third place.

I wonder if the Globe and other newspapers have the word in their style guides  It probably doesn’t come up that often, but it pays to be prepared.  You never know when you’re going to get another Whitey Bulger.

You’ve got to be carefully taut

Last night’s writeup of the hard-fought Celtics-Sixers playoff contest in the online Boston Globe called it a “taught game throughout.”  Yikes!

That reminded me of an email I got from someone telling me we needed to “reign in”  something or other.  How are all these extra g’s sneaking into words?

Dunno about “taught” for “taut”.  And I’ll excuse almost anything in email; I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve used the wrong its or there or your in a hastily written email. The guilty party in this case is an excellent writer and would be deeply embarrassed if I were to point out the error to him.  But of course “rein in” is the kind of dead metaphor that will get progressively easier to screw up as history moves us ever further away from the era the time when the metaphor actually had some meaning in every day life.  “Reign in”, “rein in”, what’s the difference?

Here is a grumpy guy complaining about “reign in” and other annoying mistakes like “vocal chord.”

Both the Globe error and the email error are, I assume, the result of fast writing unmediated by editing or even self-review.  Your spellchecker certainly isn’t going to complain about the error.  Google, however, shows that “reign in” is gaining traction, with over half a million hits.  Here are some novelists discussing what you should do when your characters “go rogue”: should you “reign them in”?  Here is CNN talking about reigning in the influence of Super PACs on elections.

Looks to me like “rein them in” is a cliché on its way out.