The CBC website has a section called Words: Woe & Wonder that contains lively and sensible essays on all sorts of language-related issues, for instance an excellent discussion of why many news organizations prefer to refer to the ex-dictator of Iraq as “Saddam” rather than “Hussein” (short answer: “Hussein” is the first name of the man’s father, not a family name, and virtually everyone in Iraq knows him as “Saddam” and not “Hussein”). The most recent is Quibbling over Quotes, which begins by defending the shorter noun “quote” (just as good as “quotation,” but used in different contexts) and continues with various related matters; I especially liked their catching the NY Times (my favorite whipping boy) in an incorrect correction:
When Neil Armstrong became the first person to walk on the moon on July 20, 1969, everyone back on Earth heard the following crackle over their televisions and radios:
“That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”
…When Armstrong got back home and saw the mission transcript (as well as some newspaper and magazine coverage of his adventure), he told reporters that he had been misquoted.
NASA concluded the “a” got lost in atmospheric static, the official record was changed and many news organizations ran a correction, including the New York Times on page 20 of its July 31, 1969, edition. After pointing out that Armstrong had requested the revision, the paper embraced the extra word without qualification: “Inserting the omitted article makes a slight but significant change in the meaning of Mr. Armstrong’s words, which should read: ‘That’s one small step for a man, one giant step for mankind.'”
Wait a minute. Small step, giant step? Is this right? Nope. It turns out that while publishing a five-paragraph correction outlining why an “a” was being added to a line that will be cited for generations, the Times turned “giant leap” into “giant step” by mistake. A slight stumble, to some. An astronomical bungle, to others.