Wednesday, October 18, 2006

People are dumb.

I have random grammatical pet peeves. I know I'm probably on shaky ground, as this is a blog, and I sometimes forget to spellcheck, but I loved this from the New York Times. They're running an Ask The Editors series, and this was from the Assistant Managing Editor For Journalistic Standards (try fitting that on a business card):
DVD’s or DVDs? The Trouble With Apostrophes

Q. Why do you persist in insisting that the plural of DVD is DVD's? There is NO reason for an apostrophe, unless your are using it in the standard way -- to indicate possession. As in: "The DVD's special features are better than average." You just make yourself look out of touch when you insist that your own rules are better than the generally approved practice! Please change the way you handle acronyms, so that you look like you understand grammar!

-- Alan Moorman

A. We're not always as dumb as we seem. There was a good reason for that variation from general style (and our Stylebook has more than this one). Here it is, as explained in the entry on plurals:

Use apostrophes in the plurals of abbreviations and in plurals formed from letters and figures: M.D.’s; C.P.A.’s; TV’s; VCR’s; p’s and q’s; 747’s; size 7’s. (Many publications omit such apostrophes, but they are needed to make The Times’s all-cap headlines intelligible and are therefore used throughout the paper for consistency.)

But we expect to satisfy you grammarian sticklers soon by making a change, as soon as we can figure out a way to avoid the unintelligibility problem.

By the way, many of you keep us on our toes constantly when we make grammatical mistakes, as we so frequently do, and we point them out (and relay your complaints) to our editors and writers more often than we are able to acknowledge your help. My own theory is that schools over the past 20 years or so don't teach grammar as well as they did in the public schools of Westborough, Mass. when I was there (hommage to Mrs. Murphy, Miss Wadleigh, Miss Conroy and others from the 1950s).

So, dear DVD fan, don't give up on us yet. Besides, you look like you could use a little work on grammar yourself.

The little zinger on the end really did it for me. Dad - did you spot the typo in his question first time through?

We keep a folder of "Greatest Hits" emails at my office - my department has a group email folder and we move the really stellar ones into it. One of my favourites involved an email with the subject "Star Wars for Horn Trio," and in the body of the email, the author asked us to please tell him what the instrumentation was. Uhhhhh...horn trio?

OK, maybe you had to be there. But I'm amazed at the stuff people send out, not necessarily thinking about the fact that whatever nonsense they've committed to email could potentially go around the office with "HAHA" stamped on the top of it.

The all-time prize goes to the bright spark at a company I used to work for who got one of those "Bill Gates wants to give you all his money" chain emails, which he then very industriously forwarded to EVERYONE on the global contacts list. Not just all the company employees, either...this list has all our clients, suppliers, affiliates, vendors, etc. I think it's somewhere in the region of 10000 people. Which must have taken quite some time, as there's no way to 'select all' in our version of Outlook. I think he was disappointed when rather than $100,000 from ol' Bill, he got laughed at by the whole company. D'oh.


LizMc said...

Great blogs!
I hadn't read in about a week so I had lots to catch up on. I love the NYT comments, I can NOT believe you bought footless tights, and I used to watch Ready Steady Cook on the days when I opened at Starbucks and came right home after my shift. I hope you're feeling better. My cold is still lingering a bit, too.

Bob said...

Hi Kate, yes I did spot the "your" typo in the email. The guy had an interesting point, and the Times Style answer made a lot of sense. I've actually had the same question myself, and decided on my own to omit the apostrophe, but no more. NY Times page two has corrections and clarifications every day, some quite interesting (and some not.) Also, do you read Safir's column on words in the NYT Sunday Magazine? Home computer finally back in service after hard drive crash (everything lost, sadly) three weeks ago. Tonight watching the Mets in their do or die 7th game of the playoffs.

Love, Dad.

StowmarKate said...

Liz- I can't believe I bought footless tights either. And my cold is better- thanks!

Dad- I've made a similar adjustment to my DVD's. :) Haven't seen the article but will check it out. Good luck with computer...remember that you son-in-law is a tech guru and can remote-desktop a lot of issues.