Blessed Are teh Copy Editors.

I’m taking shameless advantage of my bully pulpit to post a plug for my profession, that of copyediting (or, if you or your style guides prefer, copy-editing or copy editing). Ben Yagoda at Lingua Franca writes about the lamentable decision by the New York Times to cut their copyediting staff in half and get rid of the so-called backfielders (“who come up with or approve the idea for an article, work with the reporter as the piece develops, then perform a big-picture edit”) and about the importance of copyediting in general. It begins:

In a recent Lingua Franca post, I had reason to mention Rogue Riderhood, a character from Dickens’s novel Our Mutual Friend. Even though I had just perused the relevant passages, I wrote the name as “Rough Riderhood.” The mistake did not appear in the published post. That’s because a copy editor, Heidi Landecker, caught it and fixed it.

It wasn’t a rare occurrence. Heidi and her colleagues Mitch Gerber, Sarah Henderson, Charles Huckabee, Andrew Mytelka, and Don Troop regularly find and correct dumb and/or thoughtless errors like that, and in general allow me and other Lingua Franca and Chronicle of Higher Education writers to seem at least moderately knowledgeable and competent.

I have complained about this stuff before (e.g., at the end of this 2012 post, which features an appearance by a defensive representative of the publisher concluding with the immor(t)al lines “Books always contain a few errors. No book I’ve read produced by any publisher is perfect”), and it just keeps getting worse. I have before me a headline from my local paper (the Hampshire Gazette, or as they might print it, the Hmapshire Gzette) that reads “Los Angles a likely host in ’24 or ’28” [sic]. Go read Yagoda’s piece, and if you feel like complaining to the Times, I won’t try to stop you.

Comments

  1. Ha! At the risk of self plugging – a local paper announced a talk I was giving on the Great Siege of Malta, which talk I generally preface with the Voltaire’s ironic comment that nothing is better known that siege – ironic because, in America at least, it’s not a household reference.

    Anyway, the paper headlined the book cite as “The Great Siege of Matla”.

    On the plus side, they got my name right.

    (BTW, I had a wonderful copy editor, and gave her a named shout-out in the acknowledgements.)

  2. I agree with you — but — I recently downgraded my print subscriptions to the NYT and WaPo to digital subscriptions on account of I am a financially constrained freelance writer and editor and the newspapers were getting steadily thinner and more expensive.

    So I lament the death spiral of print media while being part of it.

    I have no good ideas on how to solve the problem.

  3. J Sterling says:

    Non Angles, sed Angeles

  4. Today’s paper has a story datelined “HALDEY.” Last time I checked, the town I live in is Hadley.

  5. In the village of Pardeeville, Wisconsin (pop. 2115), there is a business called “Partyville Pet Clinic”. I can’t imagine that a veterinary establishment wants to associate itself with fun-loving twenty-somethings, so I would guess that the name of the village is changing informally, since the two forms are homophonous in AmE.

  6. David Marjanović says:

    Non Angles, sed Angeles

    Thread won.

  7. @John Cowan: There is a Pardeeville Veterinary Hospital in Pardeeville, Wisconsin. Same place or different, I wonder? http://pardeevillevethospital.com/

  8. Michael Eochaidh says:

    It looks like they have different addresses; this could be a way for one to distinguish itself from the other.

  9. Trond Engen says:

    The Part-Evil Veterinary Hospital went out of business,

  10. marie-lucie says:

    Non Angles, sed Angeles

    Wasn’t the Latin citation Non Angli, sed Angeli? English angel, French ange are from latin angelus, an adaptation from Greek angelos. Angeles is Spanish, as in the name of the California city.

  11. marie-lucie says:

    But perhaps someone has making a pun.

  12. Yes, it’s a riff on the mangled newspaper headline I cited above.

  13. marie-lucie says:

    OK!

  14. J.W. Brewer says:

    A 2012 story datelined Pardeeville in the Portage Daily Register begins “Just call it Partyville.” I don’t think the actual name and jocular nickname need to be exact homophones – they just need to fall within some sort of close-enough-for-wordplay zone. (Pardeeville may not boast its own daily paper – it’s about 10 miles from Portage, which has approx 5x the population and is the county seat.)

    http://www.wiscnews.com/portagedailyregister/news/local/article_953a56ac-f18f-11e1-84ae-001a4bcf887a.html

    Perhaps relatedly, I distantly remember that the enthusiastic partiers of my teenage years never quite reached consensus on whether “party hearty!” or “party hardy!” should be the fixed-phrase injunction to party with enthusiasm for the enterprise. The google books n gram reader (which of course I couldn’t have consulted back in those days) consistently shows “hearty” as the majority variant but with “hardy” as a large enough minority you can’t really call it an error. I’m not sure if one is notably preferable to the other on compositional-semantics grounds?

  15. The U.S. National Spelling Bee was won one year because one of the last two competitors misspelled heritable as heridable, and I myself cannot spell Herodotus without thinking of the etymology ‘granted by Hera’ or else it invariably comes out Herotodus. Nonetheless, the written distinction is tolerably well maintained in most American English prose despite the complete merger in most AmE accents.

  16. That’s interesting. I wouldn’t distinguish between “heritable” and “heridable” if the latter were a word, but I do pronounce the <d> and <t> in “Herodotus” differently.

  17. SFReader says:

    Heridage and inheridance are great words too

  18. I like saying quickly “I edited it”, [aj ɛ̞ɾɨɾɨɾɪt̚].

  19. When I read Wells’s The Sleeper Awakes as a child, I was struck by the word sevendy, short for seven dozens or eighty-four, since to me seventy and sevendy would sound the same. I didn’t yet know that in BrE they were quite different. Here is a bit from the book:

    “But what was that you said—sixdoz?”

    “Yes. Six dozen, Sire [which he takes to be sir in a future accent]. Of course things, even these little things, have altered. You lived in the days of the decimal system, the Arab system — tens, and little hundreds and thousands. We have eleven numerals now. We have single figures for both ten and eleven, two figures for a dozen, and a dozen dozen makes a gross, a great hundred, you know, a dozen gross a dozand, and a dozand dozand a myriad. Very simple?”

    Besides sevendy there is also twaindy ‘twenty-four’ and sixdoz ‘seventy-two’.

  20. David Marjanović says:

    I don’t think the actual name and jocular nickname need to be exact homophones – they just need to fall within some sort of close-enough-for-wordplay zone.

    Like the State of Misery.

  21. J. W. Brewer says:

    You would think that in a spelling-bee context the words would be read out to the competitors in a somewhat exaggerated and overarticulated fashion that would be likely to preserve phonetic distinctions often blurred/lost/elided/merged in ordinary speech. I’m thinking that “heridable” for “heritable” might be more attributable (for a competitor with the spelling of lots of words memorized and thus not going primarily by sound) to muddling the set of words that ultimately descend from Latin hereditare w/o having gone through French on their path into English with the separate set that descend from Old French enheriter, which is itself from hereditare (well, inhereditare to be precise) but with a vowel and consonant somehow mislaid along the way. That the legal lexicon of inheritance (from the French) has come to be used when discussing the biological concept of heredity (from Latin) means that we no longer have cues from separate contexts/domains as to which set “heri[t/d]able” falls into. Indeed a quick dip into google books shows recent uses of “heritable” when discussing genetic disorders mixed with 19th century uses in treatises about Scots property law.

  22. SFReader says:

    Inheridable would be a good name for a Grand Fleet dreadnought

  23. Крупный русский математик и инженер, основоположник теории автоматического регулирования, министр финансов И.А.Вышнеградский, когда был директором Петербургского технологического института, всячески поносил своих профессоров за обилие ошибок и опечаток в их литографированных лекциях. Когда же раскрыли его собственные литографированные лекции, то в их заголовке вместо «Теория живых сил» было написано «Теория сивых жил»…

    http://zhurnalko.net/=nauka-i-tehnika/tehnika-molodezhi/1981-06–num66

  24. Ha.

    A book on geology left the author’s hands saying “The plain was completely strewn with erratic blocks” (boulders that come from somewhere else and were dragged there by water or ice). Unfortunately, it appeared in print as “The plain was completely strewn with erotic blacks.”

  25. Sir Vincent Edwin Henry Corbett in 1927 wrote “That story is probably a myth,” and I find myself ready and willing to agree with him.

  26. Si non è vero, è ben trovato.

  27. From my copy of the Sherlock Holmes story, The Adventure of the Second Stain (Ballantine, 1975):

    As we left the house Lestrade remained in the front room, while the rependant constable opened the door to let us out.

    It’s a striking image.

  28. When I hear “pardy hardy” in US TV/cinema offerings, I have always interpreted it as “party hard-y” with a silly pleonastic -y to force a rhyme. It never occurred to me that the word might be “hearty” used as an adverb. I guess “hearty” sounds too learnèd for the fratboys and Valley Girls of my imaginary America.

  29. J. W. Brewer says:

    Doing a little internet poking around, there may be an AAVE-ish backstory to the party hearty/hardy fixed phrase. You can see it in R&B/soul/funk lyrics and song titles, running back through e.g. Slave’s 1977 “Party Hardy” to Act 1’s 1974 “Party Hardy People” to Sly and the Family Stone’s 1968 “Fun” (relevant lyric given in internet transcription as “When I party, I party hearty”). I don’t know if hearty and hardy are more or less likely to be exact homophones for black AmEng speakers than white AmEng speakers. I will say that even if the phrase first arose among black speakers, my own memories of peer-group usage in a racially-mixed public junior high school circa 1979 definitely have it down as white-kid jargon rather than black-kid jargon.

  30. AAVE may have differences of detail, but the general phenomenon of intervocalic /t/-flapping is pretty general in all of North America. WP says that AusE and NZE have it too, but doesn’t go into details.

  31. Y, do people flap /t/ in repentant (not that anyone actually uses rependant anyway)? For me /d/ and /t/ are distinct after /n/ (though I’m not sure what the /t/ is).

  32. I think the rependant typo was motivated by the written word word pendant, not by a detail of pronunciation. In any case, no, there’s no tap/flap there.

  33. David Marjanović says:

    AAVE may have differences of detail, but the general phenomenon of intervocalic /t/-flapping is pretty general in all of North America.

    Even Bernie Sanders has it.

  34. J. W. Brewer says:

    Are the [t/d] in hearty/hardy really intervocalic for rhotic speakers? If not, maybe flapping would be more common for non-rhotic speakers (including black ones)? The wiki article on flapping says rather inconclusively “It is also reported that tapping may occur after r, as in barter[citation needed] and sometimes after l, as in faculty[citation needed] (but not immediately after the stress: alter → [ɔːɫtəɹ], not [*ɔːɫɾəɹ]).”

  35. Eli Nelson says:

    For me, flapping/tapping is mandatory after rhotic vowels in the usual environments (something like, before an unstressed vowel, which does not include syllabic /n/ but does include other syllabic resonants).

  36. Yeah, in NAmEng, flapping is nearly as universal after rhotic sounds as after (other) vowels.

  37. dainichi says:

    > the two forms [Pardeeville and Partyville] are homophonous in AmE

    Everybody’s talking about tapping/flapping, but nobody’s discussed whether there’s any difference between the vowels of the second syllable. Surely “Pardee” and “party” aren’t homophonous (either a length difference or a secondary stress/unstressed difference, I guess, depending on the analysis), but maybe that difference gets neutralized when the “-ville” is added?

  38. No, I’d say they are homophonous. I’m not familiar with Pardee in particular, but I see there’s a commercial YouTube channel called Pardee Homes, pronounced like “party”; there’s also a fast food chain called Hardee’s, pronounced as if it were Hardy’s.

    (Well, not strictly homophonous for me, since I have Canadian raising: [ˈpʰɑːɹɾi], [ˈpʰʌɹɾi]. But if I didn’t, they would be.)

  39. For me, “repentant” is a very high register​ word, so it gets an exaggeratedly​ careful pronunciation; the sound is very fortis. Most similar words would get a flap though.

  40. Happy-tensing has seen to it that the final vowels of party and Pardee are the same. So yes, for me the words are absolutely homophonous: [pɑɹɾi] (with a retroflex flap, not a tap).

  41. My initial assumption on seeing the name Pardee would be that it would be accented like Dundee, with stress on the last syllable, or possibly equal stress on the two syllables. But that doesn’t seem to be the way people there say it.

  42. rivers of ice flow down to water that teams with krill

    http://narrative.ly/waging-war-on-rats-in-sub-antarctic-south-georgia/

  43. Well, the tapping/flapping business may well be the source, but this old Canuck kept thinking through this thread:
    When I studied linguistics in the Sixties, I learned that English on this continent was divided on a gross (as opposed to fine) level, between North American Emglish and Northern North American English. The latter covered Canada and the northern tier of states ( I think there was a Southern layer in there too, but my focus was higher, latitudinally speaking).
    One of the characteristics of Northern NAmEng was devoicing intervocalic consonants (including semivocalic ar). I seem to recall that the ultimate origin of this was Scots, because of their dominance in our early history, which extended south of the nonexistent border.
    So, Pardeeville would be pronounced Partyville. I believe Pardee would have been a French name; he would have been an original Johnny Canuck from Quebec (Lower Canada). Of course English-speakers would have have moved the stress from final to initial syllable.
    Of course, when the expression ‘party hearty’ came into my ken in the Nineties (no TV, no radio in my life) hearty/hard-y reverberated strongly through my grey and white cells.
    I don’t think I need to apologize if recall has scrambled memory, as is its wont.

  44. Here’s the text of a state historical marker in Pardeeville:

    HISTORIC PARDEEVILLE

    In 1848, New York native and Milwaukee merchant, John S. Pardee hired agents to oversee his Fox River land holdings and to establish business operations from this location. Yates Ashley, the most notable of Pardee’s agents, managed the on-site operations and surveyed and platted the town in 1850. Although railroad tracks were laid here in 1857, real growth did not begin until after the 1870’s. By 1899, Pardeeville boasted of two hotels, a flour mill, a grain elevator, a creamery, several potato warehouses, a lumber yard and a bank.

    So no obvious Canadian influence on the name, though it is ultimately Anglo-Normand, someone who habitually said “Par dieu!” There have been Pardees recorded in the US since the 17C, in Canada since the 19C.

  45. marie-lucie says:

    JC: someone who habitually said “Par dieu!”

    Pardi! is a variant of Par Dieu!, meaning approximately ‘Of course! Don’t I know it!’ or something similar, confirming what someone else has just said. At least that’s how my mother (not a ‘swearing’ person) used it (quite often) but it may be obsolete by now. My father did not use it (that I remember), and neither my sisters nor I do. I don’t think the younger generations of my family do either.

    It must have a regional origin, but I don’t know any more.

  46. Thanks, JC, the name was new to me.

  47. Then where’s the name Partee from?

  48. dainichi says:

    > Happy-tensing has seen to it that the final vowels of party and Pardee are the same

    If I understand correctly, happy-tensing refers to final [ɪ] turning into [i]. But there is still a difference between the vowels in the final syllables of “happy” and, say, “pedigree”. I believe in analysis of AmE, the latter is usually said to have secondary stress, whereas in BrE, it would be called a long [i:]. Possibly because of the “-ee” in Pardee, I believed it to be of the “pedigree” type, but it seems I was wrong.

  49. If I understand correctly, happy-tensing refers to final [ɪ] turning into [i].

    Right.

    But there is still a difference between the vowels in the final syllables of “happy” and, say, “pedigree”. I believe in analysis of AmE, the latter is usually said to have secondary stress, whereas in BrE, it would be called a long [i:].

    It’s true that happy-tensing leaves Yanks and Canucks with a final short tense vowel, which violates the North American Vowel Length Rule. But I do not believe there are any minimal pairs other than this party/Pardee, which also depends on t/d-neutralization, and perhaps biography/biographee (the latter a 19C invention).

    In an earlier state of the language, we had the guaranty, a certain kind of promise, and the person for whose benefit it existed was the guarantee. But the latter word has been used to mean both for a long time now. When contrasted with guarantor, both words often take final stress; cf. “not Goodyear, Goodrich“, a slogan of the latter and lesser-known brand of tires, and “In a tug of war you have your yankers and your yankees“, a facetious etymology of Yankee.

    Similarly with warranty, which is the same word routed through Anglo-Norman rather than Central French, except that warrantee has always been rare and warranty is not used in its place.

    Y: Partee is from the same source as Pardee. I don’t know if it exists outside North America or not.

  50. In an earlier state of the language, we had the guaranty

    We still have it. It may not be as common as it used to be, but it’s in all the dictionaries and I’ve seen it used; we’re not talking about Old English here.

  51. Searching in COCA finds mostly company names and the compounds guaranty company, guaranty agency ‘company that researches titles to land’. Only a few of the mere 400 hits are places where guarantee could be used.

  52. Your friends at Ancestry.com show a map of Partee distribution in the British Isles in the 1891 census. It appears to be commonest in counties with port cities.
    In the 1840 US map, Pardees are mostly in New York state. Partees are less common, and are concentrated in Tennessee and Ohio.

  53. On reflexion, though, I wonder if this of ee isn’t a bit of a red herring: a check of some dictionaries confirms that conservative RP has /ˈkɒfɪ/ for coffee. So I think it’s conceivable that a non-happy-tensing speaker might say Pardee with /ɪ/.

  54. RP is out of the case here, although happy-tensing appears in all major strands of English, because it’s not subject to a Vowel Length Rule: vowel length is pretty much locked to vowel quality.

  55. I don’t really understand what you mean about a vowel length rule here.

  56. The predictability of vowel length from the following consonants. In Scottish English and Scots, vowels are lengthened in open syllables and when followed by voiced fricatives or /r/. In North America, all following voiced consonants trigger lengthening, but /r/ before a voiceless consonant does not affect length even in rhotic accents. (In Insular Scots, vocal length is phonemic.)

  57. I have to voice my disagreement once again with the notion that there’s a fundamental or generalizable difference between RP-type accents, or BrEng more broadly, and NAmEng in the treatment of vowel length. In both RP and typical AmEng speech there’s an interplay of intrinsic length and allophonic effects in determining the duration of a given vowel; Wells has remarked on pre-fortis clipping, as he calls it, which is just as relevant on both sides of the pond.

    One thing to be considered is that in most varieties of English, most of the free vowel phonemes are at least subtly diphthongal – which naturally renders it unlikely that you’d hear AmEng feet with a duration as short as fit, as you would in Scotland. But even where pure monophthongs are involved, the vowels that I use e.g. in Burt and bot/bought are longer than those in bit and bet – and my [ɛ] in bed sounds noticeably shorter than the [ɛː] in Estuary bared, which it shouldn’t if there was a North American Vowel Length Rule.

  58. For me feet is definitely as short as fit, or very little longer; it is nothing like feed or fee.

    my [ɛ] in bed sounds noticeably shorter than the [ɛː] in Estuary bared

    Well, sure. It’s not meaningful to compare the actual length in one accent against another.

  59. > conservative RP has /ˈkɒfɪ/ for coffee

    Right, and AmE doesn’t have secondary stress on the second syllable. I admit I had to think a bit to come up with the example “pedigree”, because most other words I could think of ending in -ee either have primary stress on it (like guarantee) or no stress on the -ee at all (like coffee, might as well be spelled coffy).

    So all we’ve established is that non-primary-stress -ee doesn’t necessarily get secondary stress or length. I’m thinking that maybe there also has to be at least one other syllable between the -ee and the primary stress for the -ee to be able to get length/secondary stress, like in “pedigree”.

    > North American Vowel Length Rule

    I googled for this but couldn’t find anything. Could you summarize or post a reference?

    > I have to voice my disagreement once again with the notion that there’s a fundamental or generalizable difference between RP-type accents, or BrEng more broadly, and NAmEng in the treatment of vowel length. In both RP and typical AmEng speech there’s an interplay of intrinsic length and allophonic effects in determining the duration of a given vowel; Wells has remarked on pre-fortis clipping, as he calls it, which is just as relevant on both sides of the pond.

    I completely agree. My non-native, non-linguist intuition, though, is that the clipping is slightly more important as a phonetic clue about voicing in AmE than in BrE, possibly because AmE tends to use unreleased stops in codas more.

  60. Well, sure. It’s not meaningful to compare the actual length in one accent against another.

    It can be when they have analogous features: my bet and bed sound pretty much the same, length-wise, as their equivalents in RP or Estuary, while the monophthongal Estuary bared is noticeably longer.

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