Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Humorless griping

Posted By on 10.04.11 at 01:45 PM

Marco_Bellucci.jpg
  • Marco Bellucci
“As a 35-year subscriber to The Times, I continue to be disappointed in the number of typos that have become chronic and, sorry to say, expected on a daily basis,” reads a letter received recently by the New York Times. I always look forward to After Deadline, the series in which standards editor Philip Corbett takes his colleagues to task for their various spelling, grammatical, and editing errors. This week's installment opens with a discussion on readers' perceptions of the Times' declining proofreading standards, as evidenced by, for instance, the phrase “committee that overseas foreign aid," a malapropism that produced in Times readers a "distress," according to Corbett, that was "hard to ease."

While hard-to-ease distress over a simple typo might suggest a condition in need of medication, it's also important to remember that it's fun, sometimes, to be a humorless pedant—I mean, we just celebrated National Punctuation Day around here, so we'll throw no shade. But it's also fun to make fun of humorless pedants, especially when they're New York Times readers (ranks in which, need it be said, I count myself). Anyway, Corbett's column this week reminded me of a Slate article written in March by Farhad Manjoo, who complained about the "tedious, annoying complaints" of NPR listeners—surely in a class of their own when it comes to humorless griping. Manjoo cataloged a hilarious few:

. . . you'll find blogging ("another example of the slow decline of our once-educated society"); Tiger Woods ("what a waste of my time"); the National Enquirer (NPR's citing it as a source "shook me to the core"); adulterous Gov. Mark Sanford ("Can't NPR reporters find more important events going on in the world?"); comedians Adam Carolla and Mo Rocca; the rapper Waka Flocka Flame ("For this, I donate part of my precious pension?"); Twitter ("the CB radio of our era—just as much hype, just as much lasting impact"); Bristol Palin ("The only thing this story provoked me to do was change the station"); Levi Johnston ("We do not care about this subject"); Mel Gibson ("Shame on the producers of ATC for allowing such a scrape at the very bottom of the barrel"); heavy metal legend Dio ("You didn't have to do it just because he died recently"); e-books (they can't compare to "the smell of new paper"); the iPad ("a foolish waste of time"); the thought of children using the iPad ("Hopefully, this will be followed up by an uplifting story about the great things that are happening to children in the realm of outdoor play and unhooking from screen time"); and, perennially, sports. "You can't mention sports without someone saying, 'Why are you covering sports—it's just a bunch of Neanderthals, it's just a bunch of fascists!' " says NPR sports correspondent (and Slate sports podcast "Hang Up and Listen" panelist) Mike Pesca.

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