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Obiter dicta

Steve Auerweck looked up one night from a particularly fetid text that had landed on The Sun’s copy desk and muttered, "I’ve lost the will to edit."

Having briefly given up on the complaints of readers and disputes among journalists, I offer instead a short catalog of purely arbitrary judgments. If you don’t agree, you can start your own blog.

A martini is made with gin, dry vermouth and a bit of lemon peel. Olives are acceptable. And, for those with an open-minded, latitudinarian approach, vodka may be substituted for gin. But some revolting concoction involving applejack, chocolate, peach schnapps and the like does not become a martini merely because it is poured into a martini glass. If you’re going to drink, drink like a grownup.

A gentleman uncovers his head in a private home, church, school, restaurant, library or other sacred place. An exception must certainly be made for yarmulkes, but not for baseball caps, particularly when worn back-to-front.

Also, a gentleman ties his own neckwear. (Note the assumption that he sports neckwear.)

Maintenance of personal hygiene is best performed at home, preferably while alone in the loo, rather than in the automobile or workplace.

Cultivate some vices. If you do not smoke, drink, swear, eat meat, gossip or indulge in fatty, sugared food, how do you hope to escape being taken for a prig?

Give murder mysteries a try. After a long day at work with professional journalists (or whoever your colleagues may be), nothing is more pleasant than to sit in a comfortable chair, with a good light over your shoulder and a drink at your elbow, and read about disagreeable people meeting violent death.

When the person dearest to you first suggests that it would be a good thing to remodel the kitchen, turn over your savings, checkbook and credit card; check into a Motel 6, and subsist on takeout pizza until it is all over. Do not, by word or gesture, express a view, an opinion or a preference. Get out of there fast.

This Saturday, I will stand while the band plays "My Old Kentucky Home" at the Kentucky Derby. Always be true to your native state, no matter how happy you may have been to leave it.

When, at parting, someone enjoins you to "have a good one," it is not compulsory.

Posted by John McIntyre at 8:34 AM | | Comments (5)


Thank you, that gave me a smile on a busy morning, where the will to edit is certainly hard to summon. . .

Re: a gentleman ties his own neckwear, does that mean his wife is not allowed to do it for him? Or that it must be tied, and not clipped on? :-)

JEM: That is exactly what it means.

I'm not sure I'll ever devote much of my limited leisure-reading time to mystery novels, but the TV series "House" has forced me to swallow my distaste for genre fiction. It's beyond formulaic, like the mystery genre, and (as my friend Mr. Blanchard pointed out) not without its sci-fi element, and I can't get enough of it.

A gentleman is one who if he knows how to play the tuba refrains from exercising that talent in public places.

In response to Il Professore McIntyre's reference to "Upstairs,Downstairs," one sterling grammatical moment leaps to mind. One of the new underservants had been chastized by Angus Hudson for a minor infraction of Hudsonian English. Later in the episode, the lad reports that Captain James had committed the same error. Hudson tersely reminds him that while it was true the man had"split an infinitive over luncheon," we should not make it our business to criticize our betters. Indeed.

Interesting...Mom was just saying how agreeable you were about the kitchen remodeling. May I join in on that pizza? :-)

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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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