In his introduction to the collected Sherlock Holmes stories, Christopher Morley quotes a passage in which Holmes and Watson are discussing Professor Moriarty. Watson says, “The famous scientific criminal, as famous among crooks as—” and Holmes interrupts, “My blushes, Watson.” Watson replies, “I was about to say, as he is unknown to the public.”
Nearly six years ago, unknown to the public, I began writing this blog, thinking that I might gather a few readers in my own newsroom and among local English teachers and a few editing colleagues around the country.
And so, mainly, it has been. I am lucky to get in a week the number of page views that our top sports blog gets in a day. I have also gathered a small following on Twitter, a little over 3,000, which is minute in comparison of those titans of the empyrean, Justin Bieber and Kim Kardashian.
But yesterday’s New York Times includes a full page ad for the new edition of the American Heritage Dictionary that quotes a chunk of what I wrote about it in this blog.
At The Economist’s Johnson, Robert Lane Greene bracketed me with Gabe Doyle of Motivated Grammar, Jonathon Owen of Arrant Pedantry, and Bryan Garner.
And Geoffrey Nunberg, in a thoughtful post at Language Log, “The Politics of Prescriptivism,” which I urge you to read, includes me among “the best critics writing about language now in major public venues.”
To have been granted such esteem leaves one a little giddy—at church yesterday morning, being quoted in an ad in The New York Times was treated as functionally equivalent to being published by The New York Times—and praise is always nice.
But really, this is a blog with a handful of readers, not that I don’t love you, every one, and at the paragraph factory I am a mere cog in the works. Really. Making sure that the winning lottery numbers are updated and the weather forecast is on the front page. Doing routine newspaper editing, which has two aspects: taking defective texts and rendering them merely mediocre,* and recognizing what is good enough and leaving it alone.
No need to have someone stand behind me in the chariot to remind me that I am mortal. I’m aware.
Back to business: Your word of the week is jejune.
*One cannot pour out of a jug more than is in it,” said Anthony Trollope, summarizing all editing in a dozen words.