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Think you want to edit a magazine?

Item: Writing in 1936 to William Saroyan, H.L. Mencken said, “I note what you say about your aspiration to edit a magazine. I am sending you by this mail a six-chambered revolver. Load it and fire every one into your head. You will thank me when you get to Hell and learn from other editors how dreadful their job was on earth.”

If you have aspirations yourself, Baltimore’s Urbanite magazine is looking for an editor-in-chief. Here is a link:

I do not supply firearms.

Item: Carol Fisher Saller discloses at The Subversive Copy Editor Blog that by the end of the month she will be contributing to a new blog, Lingua Franca, at the Chronicle of Higher Education, along with Lucy Ferriss, Allan Metcalf, Geoffrey Pullum, and Ben Yagoda. That should prove to be some high-powered blogging.

Item: David Bentley Hart has entered the lists at Johnson, followed by a pageboy named A Lyttle. Although Mr. Lyttle’s comments seldom rise above the level of schoolyard taunting (R.L.G. and I, for example, are ignorant journalists; I am “barely literate” and R.L.G. is a “dolt”), he does make occasional revelatory remarks.

One such: “Transpire does not mean ‘occur’ in English according to Webster's 2nd, Chamber's, and the OED (at least, the OED I have).” He relies upon Webster’s Second, published in 1934, and presumably the 13-volume OED completed in 1933. If you asked him a question about physics, he’d likely turn to the 1911 Britannica.

Item: A colleague tweeted the other day in mild concern over wearing a dress for the second time in a week, owing to the exigencies of laundry. I saw the tweet and teased her, but had not the presence of mind to recall this passage from Northanger Abbey:

“It would be mortifying to the feelings of many ladies, could they be made to understand how little the heart of man is affected by what is costly or new in their attire; how little it is biassed by the texture of their muslin, and how unsusceptible of peculiar tenderness towards the spotted, the sprigged, the mull or the jackonet. Woman is fine for her own satisfaction alone.”

(Mull here is not the Scottish promontory but a variety of muslin.)

Item: A cheering indication that sanity has not yet been extinguished in the Republic. Chris Christie, the Republican governor of New Jersey, having appointed a Muslim to the bench, reacted to expressions of alarm that this would introduce Sharia into the courts. Responding directly to the criticism, the governor said: “Sharia law has nothing to do with this. It's crazy. This Sharia law business is crap; it's crazy and I'm tired of dealing with crazies.”

As are we all.



Posted by John McIntyre at 10:14 AM | | Comments (11)


I look forward to reading Lingua Franca; I admire the work of both Carol Fisher Saller and Ben Yagoda.

I would never have expected Governor Chris Christie to act in such an enlightened fashion; it's not his style.

Governor Christie's comments seem quite adaptable for one's response to the folks mentioned in your third item, Mr. McIntyre.


What version of the OED ignores the figurative definition of transpire, given that it has been in use for a couple of hundred years?

verb intrans. fig. Become known indirectly or unintentionally; leak out. Also, prove to be the case, turn out. M18. ▸ b Occur, happen. L18.

(Oxford English Dictionary)

The 1933 edition, the one I have in the two-volume compact set, prefaces the "occur, happen" sense with "Misued for." Any later edition, I suppose, must be less reliable because of those treacherous lexicographers.

I'm confused. The OED I have (through our library's database: Second edition, 1989; online version, June 2011) continues to carry this discrete entry about the _misuse_ of transpire to mean "to occur":

"transpire - 4b. Misused for: To occur, happen, take place. Evidently arising from misunderstanding such a sentence as ‘What had transpired during his absence he did not know’."

This follows 4a. (naturally), which lists the figurative use as

"‘To escape from secrecy to notice’ (Johnson); to become known, esp. by obscure channels, or in spite of secrecy being intended; to ‘get wind’, ‘leak out’."

I don't use the OED often, and I'm not terribly familiar with it. Am I reading this wrongly? Is this, perhaps, a historical entry?

Nancy, here's the full paragraph from Hart's piece. I don't think your reading of the dictionary is wrong.

To “refute,” moreover, is not, properly speaking, to “deny,” “contest,” or “repudiate,” but rather to “disprove.” “Restive” does not mean “restless,” but very nearly the opposite: “inert,” “intransigent,” “obstinately sedentary,” “difficult to move,” “resistant,” or “difficult to control.” And “transpire” does not mean “occur”: used literally, it means “exhale,” “emit in the form of a vapor,” or “exude percutaneously”; used metaphorically, it means “come to light” or “be disclosed.”

For what it's worth, I think Hart has a right to be offended. R.L.G.'s blog post cites only part of what Hart said, giving the strong impression that Hart acknowledged no figurative meaning at all.

My mistake. I read the R.L.G.'s blog post too quickly and focused on the quote in his addendum. Much ado about nothing.

Webster's 1st edition (1828) lists the intransitive definition "2. To happen or come to pass." without any condemnation or usage note.

Prof. McIntyre, thanks for explaining the meaning of "mull." I was walking Mull Head on Orkney just a few days ago under the misapprehension that "Mull" was simply a particular place name.

And on the subject of craziness, the Scotsman (a newspaper) said of our debt ceiling debate that the GOP consisted of "right-wing nutters" who threaten to destroy the world economy. No pussy-footing around or mincing words there!

Reading Lingua Franca; I admire the work of both Carol Fisher Saller and Ben Yagoda.

I would never have expected Governor Chris Christie to act in such an enlightened fashion; it's not his style.

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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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