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Another week that was

As we prepare to mark off the third week of November and brace ourselves for the holiday looming ahead, some unfinished business.

Here’s a dispatch from Barbara Phillips Long, one of my informants:

From an AP story about “Amazing Grace”: Handel's "Alleluia Chorus," a rival to "Amazing Grace" as a spiritual favorite, has been recorded about 500 times, far fewer than "Amazing Grace."

From (and other locations too numerous to mention):

I can find plenty of Google references to the Hallelujah Chorus, but none to the Alleluia.

What I also noticed, trolling through this Yahoo post, is that they had a lot of links, possibly from automated software, but Handel’s putative chorus had no link. Of course, the link to “thou art” from the song title “How Great Thou Art,” was to a Romeo and Juliet reference. (I revise my stand -- definitely automated software.) Apparently the automated software doesn’t recognize the function of quotation marks, either. All the links except the one to Judy Collins are useless. The links at John Newton’s name lead the reader to information about Olivia Newton-John.

So much for the link economy creating value – in this case it created trash. Yet another reason to have a copy editor look at this piece after it was written AND after the links were put in.


My own response:

As we often say down here at the plant, you can’t spell crap without AP. I’m not sure what kinds of “research” [scare quotes are deliberate] went into this opus, but when I looked at, there appeared to be more than a thousand recordings of Messiah alone, not to mention that many recordings in which the “Hallelujah Chorus” appears as a separate element.

And no, no one appears to be editing this stuff.


Another purblind peever:

Professor Geoffrey K. Pullum has trained a full battery on one Simon Heffer, a drudge at The Daily Telegraph who has published a book, Strictly English: The Correct Way to Write… and Why It Matters, purporting to instruct us in the proper use of English. The barrage is here:

You will note that Professor Pullum is not unrelievedly negative: “I know that a few tender souls will feel that there must be something good in everything, and that I really shouldn't be so negative. So I will say one favorable thing about the book. Holding it in my hands did not make my skin erupt in a horrible disfiguring disease. There. I'm done. Don't tell me I don't know how to be fair and balanced.”

Now we have a new standard by which to evaluate books on usage: whether they give us a rash.

There is a link at Language Log to a somewhat more restrained but still thorough demolition job by David Crystal, and a comment draws attention to a review by in the Guardian by Stephen Poole, who wickedly suggests that Mr. Heffer’s book is a satire on prescriptivism, exposing its folly by fatuous overstatements and glaring inconsistencies.



Posted by John McIntyre at 8:35 PM | | Comments (3)


The persons, organizations, organizational units, locations, place names, etc. that are linked are known collectively as entities, and entity-finding software is usually extremely literal and stupid.

For example, there's a protein called "replication protein A", or RPA for short, that was on the list of linkable entities at Reuters Health until I ripped it out with my own hands. Why? Because any reference in a story to Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA) wound up being linked by the entity software. Of course, he's now (D-PA), but I doubt if anyone has added RPA back to the entity list.

Oops. Only "entities" should be italic in the first paragraph.

Even if it were accurate, the number-of-recordings comparison between the 'Alleluia' (ouch) Chorus and Amazing Grace would be pretty meaningless. A performance of Amazing Grace can be recorded with any number of musicians/singers from one upwards, so the pool of recording artistes who could potentially release an Amazing Grace is basically everyone who's ever recorded anything. The pool which could potentially record a Hallelujah Chorus consists of choirs with accompaniment.

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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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