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Obloquy as a hobby

Samuel Johnson had high praise for Lord Bathurst: “Dear Bathurst,” he said, “was a man to my very heart’s content; he hated a fool, and he hated a rogue, and he hated a whig—he was a very good hater.”

Though risking an accusation of self-aggrandizement, I have to say that I am no amateur at hating myself.

Once, visiting Columbus to lead workshops many years after leaving Ohio, I took advantage of the opportunity to spit on the statue of James Rhodes near the Capitol.

I once did considerable business with an outfit called The Readers’ Subscription. When the company changed hands, the bastards cheated me out of a bonus book I was entitled to and answered my inquiries with a series of idiotic form letters. If they have gone into bankruptcy and their children and grandchildren must forage in Dumpsters behind fast-food restaurants for sustenance, then it is no more than they deserve.

I mention this because until very recently I had no knowledge of an employee of The New York Times named Hugo Lindgren, who edits its magazine. No doubt Mr. Lindgren is a fine fellow—washes his hands before leaving the loo, never types two spaces after a period, returns his library books on time. I have no reason whatever to think that he might swear at schoolchildren or tip stingily or shove elderly ladies into the street during his brisk, purposeful march to the office each day.

But he is the person responsible for dropping the “On Language” column from The Times, and unless he repents of his folly, and pretty damned quickly, too, he will not only find his name in the To Be Despised Perpetually column, but moved close to the top. (They would be ill-advised to put up a statue of him.)

You may want to join the 814 Facebook members of the Keep “On Language” in the New York Times group. This post lists e-mail addresses to which you may write to complain to The Times about dropping the column and urge them to reinstate it. If you do so, you may save Mr. Lindgren from an ugly fate.



Posted by John McIntyre at 2:01 PM | | Comments (4)


Once upon a time, the late Isaac Asimov, who was an avowed (but not militant) atheist at a time when that could still cause people real problems in their lives, received a letter from a reader cussing him out for his atheism. He started to reply, saying "Isn't it enough for you to believe that when I die, I will be sent to Hell and punished forever? Do you have to call me bad names in addition?" But then he grew wiser, and pitched letter and reply into the wastebasket.

James Rhodes died in 2001.

Mr Rhodes certainly seems to have acquired a remarkable unpleasant statue. But don't spit, there's a good boy.

Mr. McIntyre, regarding your second paragraph: why are you adept at self-loathing?


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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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