Saturday, September 17, 2011

Words Gone Wild

I love a good mystery, so perhaps that is why I enjoy collecting examples of strange or puzzling word usage. Instead of a whodunnit, this quest is more of a whydunnit. For instance, I want to know what could make an educated person say, as I heard HLN talking head Jane Velez-Mitchell do, “People are mind-boggled.” This was said in the same show in which a woman-on-the-street comment began “I can’t concept that anyone could do this.”

Or this, from a budding writer, no less: "Death has such an absurd casualty in its ability to occur in the most innocuous of moments." Death usually does lead to a casualty, but I don't think that was where she was going. Presumably she meant "casualness," an admittedly blah noun. I trust in rewriting she would recast that sentence to something like: Death is absurdly casual…"

From the Huffington Post, a column by an attorney about the Anthony trial: “Despite her proclaimed hatred of the media, Casey has relished in its glare since this real life thriller began.” How do you "relish in" a glare? That's just weird.

How about the CNN host who said “He treats her with kit gloves”? Maybe his tongue just got a little off-center. The same can't be said for the blogger who wrote: "Oh sure, the Star Tribune still has a squad of reporters out digging in every nook and cranny and leaving no stone unturned to try to find the latest victim de jure." Come to think of it, anyone who has ever been sued feels like a "victim de jure," but that isn't what the blogger was writing about.

But, of course, that was a blog. Not a well-know publication with a high-paid editor, such as New York magazine, where this was written of Michele Bachmann: "Like every GOP candidate, she would lay down in traffic for Israel." To be fair, that's not a strange use of words, it's a wrong use. The mystery here is why a writer and multiple editors don't know the difference in "lie" and "lay." 
Is this a clue? According to an article in Forbes, Moody’s tracked middle class jobs that are on the decline, including proofreaders—"generally highly skilled workers with a four-year college degree—were once vital to publications and communications departments. These positions shriveled by 31%, likely due to advanced software."

Oh, dear. The software is not nearly advanced enough.


  1. Two heads are truly better than one. I occasionally send an email or post a blog that I thought I had read carefully -- only to spot a glaring error an hour later. Ouch. Mass-market proofing software in Microsoft Word, etc is so primitive.

    As for Jane Velez-Mitchell, clearly she did not have Gladys Nichols for 12th grade English at Lee.

  2. If you don't proof, you'll have errors. Better is to have someone else proof your copy, and better than that is two someones reading behind you. Agree with you about Miss Nichols! She terrified me, but I learned a great deal from her. Unfortunately, I don't think she ever learned ME. She called me Nancy or Pam the entire year.

  3. Ha! Can you believe I worked as a proofreader for three years? You may find that surprising considering you have proofed my writing yourself. In my defense, that was a long time ago before words like "blog" even existed.

  4. Bless you, Kelly. Proofreading is not fun. In my youth, I worked for an ad agency and proofing was treated as a matter of life and death, as it was for the account involved.