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Taking our medicine

A reader of The Sun favors us with this observation.

Congratulations to the Sun for inventing yet another new word ….the neologism

"obstinance” …. ("His obstinance prompted the committee of lawmakers..."). Perhaps some day she'll write about the value of "abstinacy" as a way to prevent unwanted pregnancies.

This particular neologism dates to A.D. 1475, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, which also quotes citations from 1708 — Ward’s Hudibras Redivivus, “For if a Prince declares his Want To those whose Duty 'tis to grant, And they, thro' Obstinance, deny The Sov'reign Pow'r a due Supply” — and 1987 —“Wittgenstein was rather pleased with the resolve, obstinance, spite or whatever it was making him stick by his decision to remain in England over the vacations.”

All the same, obstinance is at the very best an alternative for obstinacy, which we ought to have used, for at least the reason that our electronic dictionary identifies obstinance as a misspelling. Maybe a reporter/assigning editor/copy editor might have paid a little more attention to spell-check.

Another reader complains about the recent headline “'Fundraising Success Tied to Whom Is  Helped," saying, “It should say: ‘Fundraising Success Is Tied to  Who Is Helped.’ ‘Who’ is the subject of the verb ‘is  helped’ and should be in the subjective mode. The object of the  preposition ‘to’ is the entire clause ‘who is  helped.’ "

Please notify the person in charge of writing headlines to bone up on  proper grammar and forward this to the editor in charge.

There we are guilty as charged, to the chagrin of the person in charge of the persons in charge of writing the headlines. (That would be me.) The hands' grog ration will be stopped.

Posted by John McIntyre at 9:23 AM | | Comments (1)


Please notify the person who directed you to "notify the person in charge of writing headlines to bone up on proper grammar" that you cannot "notify" anyone to do something -- you can only notify someone "of" something.

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About John McIntyre
John McIntyre, mild-mannered editor for a great metropolitan newspaper, has fussed over writers’ work, to sporadic expressions of gratitude, for thirty years. He is The Sun’s night content production manager and former head of its copy desk. He also teaches editing at Loyola University Maryland. A former president of the American Copy Editors Society, a native of Kentucky, a graduate of Michigan State and Syracuse, and a moderate prescriptivist, he writes about language, journalism, and arbitrarily chosen topics. If you are inspired by a spirit of contradiction, comment on the posts or write to him at
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