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Cranky in the heat

My colleague Rob Kasper has an editorial in this morning’s Sun explaining why he gets cranky during Artscape.* His reason is that he lives in the neighborhood most inconvenienced by the crowds and the blocked streets. For my part, it’s just as well that I’m at work every Artscape weekend, because attending it makes it progressively more difficult for me to maintain the illusion that I like other people.

And now for some non-Artscape matters:


No worries about data

On Twitter @Precise Edit posts, “If we use "data" as singular, we hinder ability to discuss an individual data point, i.e., datum.” I hesitate to differ with anyone favoring precision — my nickname within the family when I was seven years old was “Mr. Precise,” not applied admiringly — but I don’t see the problem here.

Datum is less frequently used, but it is always clear that it refers to a single unit of information. Data is equally clear as a mass noun or a count noun in context. That data has become an English word understood to be either singular or plural may be a matter of regret to Latinists (sorry, Alice), but it’s not a cause for the rest of us to fret.

Also, I don’t care much whether you say “dayta” or “datta.” It’s too hot to argue.


Your tax dollars at work

One of my regular correspondents has made a discovery: “In the Government Printing Office Style Manual, the correct spelling for a particular term of abuse is ‘stupidhead,’ unless used as a unit modifier, in which case it is ‘stupid-head.’ ”

She comments: “What this term is doing in the GPO Manual in the first place is not explained.” Can anyone suggest where, apart from the Congress, this rule in intended to apply?


Thanks for the endorsement

Dave Wilton comments on my post “And you call yourself a prescriptivist?” at “McIntyre ‘gets it.’ Very few people who dispense writing advice realize or acknowledge that different registers and voices are appropriate for different audiences, and the “rules” of style need to be adjusted accordingly.”


The science of swearing

Someone forwarded to me a link to a fine piece of British science, the Periodic Table of Swearing, which I commend to you. No, I am not going to link to it, for a couple of reasons. It is NSFW.** And I’m a little hesitant to draw attention to one of the milder elements, prat, because as the term moves up the scale, it develops into prat in a hat. You see immediately why that would make me feel vulnerable. I have no wish to be turned into an illustration for one of the darker Dr. Seuss stories.



*Non-Baltimoreans: Artscape is an open-air festival during the hottest, muggiest weekend of the year during which something like 300,000-400,000 people clog the streets in the middle of the city to gorge themselves on street food and perhaps listen to a little music or look at a little art.

**Not Safe For Work





Posted by John McIntyre at 11:06 AM | | Comments (3)


"Data point" seems to have replaced "datum".

love the PToS

I remember thinking, when I saw the periodic table of swearing, that the authors don't really seem to understand what an element is.

A lot of them are more like molecules.

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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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