RE: A rich rivalry for wordniks

From: Vincent Campbell (v.p.campbell@stir.ac.uk)
Date: Thu May 03 2001 - 15:32:51 BST

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    From: Vincent Campbell <v.p.campbell@stir.ac.uk>
    To: "'memetics@mmu.ac.uk'" <memetics@mmu.ac.uk>
    Subject: RE: A rich rivalry for wordniks
    Date: Thu, 3 May 2001 15:32:51 +0100 
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    Interesting. I have to agree with the comment about the misuse of the term
    media, as when students constantly use the term either in the singular, or
    for that matter without the preposition. If the NY Times had the audacity
    to have a headline beginning 'Media is...', I think I'd have written a
    letter of complaint- if I were a New Yorker.

    Vincent

    > ----------
    > From: Wade T.Smith
    > Reply To: memetics@mmu.ac.uk
    > Sent: Thursday, May 3, 2001 2:09 pm
    > To: memetics list
    > Subject: Fwd: A rich rivalry for wordniks
    >
    > Herein, a morning (check your time-zones...) tidbit of a distraction.
    >
    > - Wade
    >
    > ***************
    >
    > A rich rivalry for wordniks
    >
    > By Martin F. Nolan, 5/3/2001
    >
    > AMONG OLD RIVALRIES, you can have the Taiwanese and the Chinese, the Red
    > Sox and the Yankees, the Guelphs and the Ghibelines, the Flemings and the
    > Walloons. I'll take The Atlantic Monthly and Harper's Magazine. Their
    > genteel donnybrook broke out before the Civil War and has enriched
    > American readers since. Harper's is older, yet quirkier. The Atlantic is
    > younger, yet steadier.
    >
    > As if reacting to the efforts of President Bush to succeed by being
    > boring, both present centerpiece essays on the English language, Harper's
    > in 18 April pages, the Atlantic with 19 pages in May. Such a charming
    > collision has not adorned newsracks since the mid-1970s, when Time and
    > Newsweek, exhausted by Richard Nixon and Watergate, simultaneously
    > featured on their covers an obscure New Jersey singer, Bruce Springsteen.
    >
    > In ''Tense Present,'' David Foster Wallace reviews six books on usage for
    > Harper's with a forest of footnotes, admitting that he is ''the last
    > remaining kind of elitist nerd,'' one who shudders at seeing ''10 items
    > or less,'' (instead of fewer), or hearing ''`dialogue' used as a verb.''
    > He is a self-described SNOOT, a member of ''Syntax Nudniks of Our Time''
    > .... the Few, the Proud, the Appalled at Everyone Else.'' Wallace
    > confronts the strict cadences of what he calls PCE. Politically Correct
    > English, he writes, has ''achieved the status of a dialect,'' one he
    > regards as ''not just silly, but confused and dangerous.''
    >
    > In The Atlantic, Simon Winchester, author of ''The Professor and the
    > Madman,'' about the Oxford English Dictionary, follows up with a
    > biography of Peter Mark Roget and his thesaurus, a treasure-house of
    > words. ''Everyone has the book. Occasionally one makes use of it,''
    > Winchester insists. ''But one never, never relies on it to help with the
    > making of good writing.''
    >
    > In a parenthetical aside to his history of Roget's, he notes: ''We like
    > to think that our time is producing an uncountable welter of new words;
    > but in comparing the mere 45,000 English words recognized by the last
    > editions of Samuel Johnson's dictionary, published in the 1860s, with the
    > 414,825 listed in the first edition of the OED, published in 1928, one
    > can perhaps understand the pressure under which thesaurus compilers of
    > the time were compelled to work.'' Winchester's work is fascinating; also
    > alluring, charming, captivating, enchanting, etc.
    >
    > In the rivalry between two American insitutions, I confess a bias toward
    > The Atlantic, not only because I wrote for it decades ago, but also
    > because of an incident involving language. The editor of Harper's,
    > moderator of a panel about politics and rhetoric, persisted in using
    > ''media'' as a singular noun. Hearing the distinctive sound of a
    > fingernail on a blackboard, this panelist objected. Such barbarism cannot
    > continue, I said, imploring the chairman to recall George Orwell and
    > Spiro T. Agnew. ''It is clear that the decline of a language must have
    > political and economic causes,'' Orwell wrote in his essay, ''Politics
    > and the English Language,'' in 1946. ''In our time, political speech and
    > writing are largely the defense of the indefensible.''
    >
    > Agnew, as vice president, popularized the noun ''media'' as a propaganda
    > weapon, implying that the press, television, and radio conspired to write
    > as with one pen. Pulverizing ''media'' into a single noun simplified his
    > task. A headline in last week's New York Times saying ''Media is ...''
    > must have pleased the mendacious shade of Spiro T. Agnew.
    >
    > ''And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech,'' begins
    > Chapter 11 of the Book of Genesis. When the descendants of Adam and Eve
    > began to worship a tower they had built in Babel, the Lord decided ''to
    > confound their language, that they may not understand one another's
    > speech.''
    >
    > In dismantling today's tower of Babel, Harper's Magazine and The Atlantic
    > Monthly are useful, nay, heaven-sent tools.
    >
    > Martin F. Nolan's e-mail address is martynolan@aol.com.
    >
    > This story ran on page 15 of the Boston Globe on 5/3/2001. Copyright
    > 2001 Globe Newspaper Company.
    >
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