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.

Via MetaFilter.


  1. It’s virtually impossible to avoid referring to Chinggis/Genghis Qan/Khan as “Chinggis”.
    “Temujin”, his (only) given name clearly indicates the pre-Qan individual. But “Chinggis Qan” is a title or epithet, probably meaning “Oceanic Qan” but possibly meaning “Fierce Qan”. So calling him “Chinggis” is sort of like calling Louis XIV, le Roi Soleil, “Soleil” for short.
    But there’s no real alternative, because Chinggis Qan seems too long with two words, even though a three-syllable one-word name would be OK.

  2. Impossible to English-speakers may be. He is always referred to in Russia as Chingiz Khan.
    Even though the first part became a name by itself, like miriad of other adjective” or “epithet” names, as you’re surely aware of (first few came to mind – Marina, Benjamin, Bogdan, Halina, etc)
    There was a famous Soviet-era writer, Chingiz Aitmatov (he recently died), named after the Great Hero of Mongol Peoples…

  3. Did Aitmatov die? Damn, I hadn’t heard.

  4. Oh, sorry, sorry, a 1000 times sorry. Just heard he’s OK after the operation.
    And I all but bury the guy!
    That should teach me.

  5. Uf! You gave me a scare.

  6. Sigivald says

    The “One small step…” broadcast was all a government coverup.
    What he really said, and was edited out on live time-delay, was “That’s one small step for [a] man, one giant… holy !@#!, wolverines!”
    Needless to say, the real Armstrong never made it back from the moon, and the one we know is a double.

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