Paramount.

While reading the sports section over breakfast this morning (a lifelong habit), I plunged into an AP story headlined “Tiger opens with a 72 at Torrey Pines” purely because it was there — I care nothing about golf — and was pulled up short by this paragraph:

“Even par is not too bad, but I didn’t play the par 5s worth a darn today,” Woods said. “Obviously, that’s (tantamount) to try to get any kind of scoring on the South Course. You’ve got to take care of the par 5s because there’s not a lot of holes you can make birdie here. Subsequently, I didn’t finish under par.”

Tantamount? (thought I) — that makes no sense here. What on earth did Woods actually say? So I googled another phrase from the quote and got this USA Today story, which has the actual quote:

“Well, even-par’s not too bad, but I didn’t play the par-5s worth a darn today,” said Woods, who won last year’s Farmers by four shots. “I played them even-par. Obviously that’s paramount to try to get any kind of scoring on the South course … “

Paramount. Of course. A perfectly good word which some idiot at the AP changed to the meaningless (in context) tantamount. It is of paramount importance to know what words mean before editing them; to change a perfectly good word to one that will cause readers to lose the train of thought is tantamount to treason against your language and your profession.

Comments

  1. Surely he meant “Consequently, I didn’t finish under par”?

  2. He may well have, but “subsequently” isn’t actually wrong.

  3. John Roth says:

    There’s something else wrong here, unfortunately I can’t define exactly what it is. Possibly the following infinitive clause doesn’t like something. It’s perfectly fine if I replace “to try” with “if i want,” or something similar. For some reason the sentence as phrased makes the predicate adjective look wrong; possibly it’s looking for a subordinator?

  4. John Cowan says:

    Well, y’know, maybe he said “tantamount” and the USA Today editor corrected it to “paramount”. He wouldn’t be the first celebrity to use the wrong big word.

  5. USA Today had it right — he said paramount. See the end of this video.

  6. In addition, the AP miscorrector used round parentheses instead of square brackets to mark their editorial intervention.

  7. Mollymooly, newspaper style normally uses parentheses rather than brackets for interpolations like that, probably because brackets weren’t available in the old days. Similarly, newspaper style normally does not use italics for titles (or anything else).

  8. In my day at the AP, this … grumble, grumble, etc.

  9. Keith – US newspaper style is generally as you say. UK newspaper style is to use square brackets, and italics for titles.

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