Monday, January 28, 2008

Undue Non-Diligence 4

News flash: the New York Times is in desperate need of proofreaders! No one had to tell me; I figured it out all on my own. (Disclosure: I'm a recovering proofreader and copy editor.)

Exhibit 1
Pull-quote in opinion piece, Questions for The Clintons by Bob Herbert, in Saturday's national edition:
Is their a price to be paid for demolition-derby politics?

Exhibit 2
Jump hed from front-page story by Sarah Lyall, Britain Looks for Its Essence, And Finds Mostly Punch Lines, also in Saturday's national edition*:

Britain Seeks Its Essence, and Finds Most Punch Lines

Both pieces are excellent, which makes the errors even more egregious. The latter story is about how the UK government is seeking to formulate a “statement of values” (OY!) on what it means to be British. A great part of being a Briton is disdaining claptrap like "mission statements" and anyone who suggests them. The Times of London ran a decidedly tongue-in-cheek contest for a British motto:

The readers’ suggestions included “Dipso, Fatso, Bingo, Asbo, Tesco” (Asbo stands for “anti-social behavior order,” a law-enforcement tool, while Tesco is a ubiquitous supermarket chain); “Once Mighty Empire, Slightly Used”; “At Least We’re Not French”; and “We Apologize for the Inconvenience.” The winner, favored by 20.9 percent of the readers, was “No Motto Please, We’re British.”

The article ends with this marvelous passage (how I wish our politicians spoke this way!):

But the government has its work cut out for it, if the sort-of debate in the House of Lords is anything to go by.

After Lord Hunt’s assurances that the government had no plans for a motto and his colleagues’ insistence on discussing one anyway, Lord Conwy had a thought. Why, he asked, could they not just use the French “Dieu et mon droit,” which means “God and my right?”

Lord Hunt replied: “As the noble lord will know, that represents the divine right of kings. While it is of course a well-known phrase, one would need to reflect on whether that would be entirely relevant to a motto that we are not going to have.”
*Online title is "Britain Seeks Its Essence, and Finds Punch Lines"

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