INTERRUPTUS.

In a story in today’s NY Times sports section, “No Good-Conduct Medal for Ugly Americans” by Selena Roberts (which the Times is hiding behind its annoying TimesSelect pay-to-read screen), a description of the Olympic ideal (“The Olympics are the one event where the type of self-absorbed behavior that is tolerated and even celebrated in the mainstream is taboo…”) is followed by the sentence “But how can anyone demand Diva Interruptis?”
In the first place, there is no Latin word “interruptis” [or rather, none that fits in this grammatical slot; as commentator Justin points out, it is the plural dative-ablative form of interruptus]; what Roberts meant to write was interruptus. In the second place, interruptus is a masculine form and diva is feminine; the phrase, if you insisted on using what seems to me a construction too silly even for the sports page, would be diva interrupta. But this is not about the illiteracy of sports reporters (though there is much to be said on that topic); it would be unfair and certainly unrealistic to expect the average American, even the average American reporter, to know Latin adjectival declension or the proper spelling of Latin borrowings. That’s what editors are for, which is what this is about. The editing of even the front section has gotten sloppier and sloppier, but it’s as if they don’t consider the sports section worth bothering with at all. Sports reporters can babble whatever gibberish pops into their heads, and the staff on 43rd Street merrily tosses it into the paper as is. I can imagine some copyeditor glancing at “Diva Interruptis” and thinking “That’s not right, is it? But who cares—it’s just sports!” Meanwhile, Grantland Rice and Red Smith toss restlessly in their graves.

Comments

  1. michael farris says:

    The best option as an English blend would be diva interruptus, much funnier than the correct but lifeless diva interrupta. Just my opinion.

  2. I think the editor had in mind *Girl, Interrupted*.

  3. I think Tatyana has something there (though I’d say it was the author rather than the editor). In that case, “Diva, Interrupted” might not have been bad.

  4. Nitpick: interruptis is a word, just not in the lexical form. I suppose that means we could criticize diva interruptis. This of course makes the lack of agreement more complicated: diva is feminine nominative or ablative singular, interruptis is any gender, dative or ablative, plural. So they may well agree in gender afterall ;)
    Or maybe this is that Greek feminine -is suffix. Yeah, that’s it!

  5. Oops — right you are! I’ll emend the entry accordingly. My indignation overwhelmed my Latinity…

  6. O tempora, o mores!

  7. I wonder if in the author’s mind there might not have been some interference with the phrase “coitus interruptus.” I can’t think of any other common phrase used in English where the word interruptus is used.

  8. Of course, I think everyone on this thread realized this except me. Which means I just pointed out the obvious. E for effort?

  9. Of course diva interruptus could be appropriate for some Olympians.

  10. On the other hand Yogi Berra would be vindicated, or delighted, or something.

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