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Invective and remonstrance

Commenting on Facebook last week about the annual post condemning holiday cliches, Pete Zicari wrote:

“I have had several bad experiences trying to persuade people who write more than they read that certain phrases are geriatric cliches and more, that tired expressions like that are to be avoided. I wonder if it would work better to wear a bow tie that bristles and had the skills to apply ferocious invective while making it sound like gentle remonstrance.”

If you know of anyone with such skills, please refer him to Mr. Zicari.

Your word of the week is contumely.


Posted by John McIntyre at 11:49 AM | | Comments (6)


What a lousy, rotten pick for the Word of the Week! I already had to look up "contumely" when you used it in a post on Oct. 13. What in the hell is wrong with you?

An excellent contumelist.

Prof. McI.,

Hmm....... I never quite pictured your signature bow-tie as "bristling", as Peter Ziari has implied, but your generally measured 'velvet gauntlet' approach to admonishing those bloggers who have roused your umbrage by either resurrecting tired, time-worn holiday cliches, or just plain grammatically butchering some sentence, or other, might pertain. Frankly, a quality in your approach to critiquing all-things-lexicographic-grammatical that I quite admire. Civility, w/ firmness remonstrance always rules.

Now if "bristle" were narrowly defined as "to be ready to fight back", I would have to say that your jaunty bow-tie(s) would be more than up to the task...... if it were, in fact, an animate object, and not merely an inert, decorous sartorial accessory.

As a former professional animation artist, I could well imagine your bow-tie suddenly taking on a life, and distinctive personality of its own; not unlike those charming characters in the Disney animated classic "Beauty and the Beast"----- Lumiere, the candelabra, Chip, the tiny tea cup, and of course dear Mrs.Potts, the ample figured tea pot.

We might call your feisty bow-tie, 'Bowie', perhaps a backhand homage to that Southern gent of American frontier lore, Jim Bowie of knife fame. I believe he hailed from your neck-of-the-woods, no? But I digress.

Alas, post retirement from the entertainment industry, I've come to realize that you can take the animator out of the animation biz, but thankfully, you can't take the animation biz out of the animator.

Tha....tha....tha........t's all, folks!


You are disproving something I always believed, that no editor ever met a cliche he disliked. It always seemed that what made editors uncomfortable was not cliches but originality. They always prefered word combinations with which they were familiar, the more familiar the better.

I will always retain your gentle commentary on the use (or non-use) of Comic Sans.

Hence when I saw the following as part of the "Google Doodles You'll Never See", I sacrificed one of my precious monthly accesses to present it to your reading public...


Hi: The Zicari in your lead is missing its c.

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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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