Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Hello, Fodder

I have a weird problem. (Well, lots of them, actually, but you don't need to hear about cats who pick the exact worst time to plunk down on a sleeping person's full bladder or how I never tasted a Zima.)

Since 2002, I've been writing a column on grammar and usage for a couple of little newspapers, including the Burbank (Calif.) Leader supplement to the L.A. Times. And, every week for seven years, I experience the same unfounded panic: Oh, crap. I have no idea what I'm going to write about this week. I'm all out of topics. I'm all out of ideas. I'm going to blow deadline then I'll lose the column then I'll no longer be able to afford to indulge my penchant for dental floss and store-brand cola.

Of course, if that were a valid fear, I wouldn't be in my seventh year of writing the dang column. Yet every week, the same stupid fear. It's like Pavlov's dogs continuing to salivate long after they learn that bell ring is only going to get them a bonk on the head.

Anyway, I was just starting to stress over this week's column when I saw NY Times website today. There's a piece by a Times staffer about little language issues that perplex writers and editors at the paper. Not very interesting issues, as far as I'm concerned, but whatever.

However, the comments left by readers are pure gold. They include an assertion that you can't use "like" to mean "such as" (you can), a rant about "one of the only" (sticklers insist it should be "one of the few"), overstated complaints about the Times style of putting apostrophes in numerically designated decades like "1930's" (a bad but nonetheless defensible choice on the Times' part) and unfounded peeves against stuff like "in the hopes that" and "iconic."

Houston, we have a column ...

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Joel said...

I like the way you write. Partly, it's the frenetic, smart-assed neurotic in you that appeals to me. That's so easy to identify with. And yet still somehow marginally socially unacceptable.

The expression "blow deadline" is nice. Is that the current vernacular or is it just yours? It just rings better, more resonantly and provocatively than "blow my deadline" or "blow a deadline" or whatever. And somehow it makes "deadline" a force or a form (in the Platonic sense).

BTW, it isn't just that bit that I like; it's just that I had a question about that bit.

That's all. Thanks.

June Casagrande said...

Thank you. I was having fun with that. I think the walking a line between irreverance and, well, reverence is psychology 101-type stuff: torn between rebellion and needing approval.

But trust me, I'm much better now.

Now sure about "blow deadline." In the newspaper world, "deadline" is often used without an article. "I'm on deadline" or "coming up on deadline" instead of "coming up on A deadline."

As for "blow," I can't think of an example, but it seems that there's a trend in the language to shorten things in this way (maybe to shorten some idioms into simple transitive verbs? I'm not sure.). Sort of like "to make nice," just more modern and hip-hop. Wish I could think of an example ....

Anyway, thanks!


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