I am famous (at least in my own home) for my ability to spot errors in a newspaper or magazine article, be they misspellings, transposed letters, use of the wrong homonym or a just plain wrong word, or a headline that can be taken more than one way.
I rip the offending/amusing passages out and file them. (Translation: They stack up in the corner with the rest of my papers until I sort through them semi-annually.)I gripe regularly about the misspelling (and mispronunciation) of CONGRATULATIONS, which so many folks nowadays seem to think has a "D" in it. Similarly, I am annoyed by broadcasters who tout tennis championships at WimbleTON. Loose and lose are often used interchangeably, although their meanings are miles apart, and from the looks of things, YOUR (possessive) and YOU'RE (the contraction of you are) may never get straight again in printed English.
People everywhere are putting an apostrophe and an S where they should be put-ting IES to change a word to plural form. They're using OF when they should use 'VE as a contraction for have. Even editors don't seem to know that the past tense of "to lead" is LED, not LEAD as the mineral is spelled, and that there is no such word as UNDOUB-TABLY; it's undoubtedly. (Look it up!)
But it all keeps me alert and smiling as I plow through the day's news, which is usually not nearly as amusing as the way it's presented. It's also given me good material to share with my fellow journalists and aspiring journalism students, as well as a high reputation among members of my own family. (Such esteem from teenagers makes the pursuit worthwhile in itself!)
I have read of someone singing a PLAINTIFF song (not in a courtroom), employees catching hepatitis and other FOWL diseases, detectives surveying the GRIZZLY murder scene, a TRAIL date being set for an accused man, a witness who was VISUALLY disturbed (but had no trouble seeing), people POURING over scripts or books, and artists who have DIABILITIES. Recently, traffic semaphores have appeared as SEMI-FOURS, and President Reagan has reportedly kept a WEARY eye on Congress (which may be more accurate than it looks). A wedding story said the parents of the groom HOSED the couple at a garden reception.
My nomination for worst spelling in a headline goes to BODY RYTHUM, followed by POISEN CONTROL, neither of which would have been that noticeable if they hadn't been set in bold, half-inch-high letters.
Captions are also easy targets because of the bold type and size of print. For example, can you spot the errors in these excerpts?
The vehicle's breaks failed; annual pilgramage to Little Sahara; star-incrusted officers; professor helps an estatic student; the group's base drummer; exhibit was first scene in Montreal; U. students repel from the Salt Palace in exercise. And this one: Taylor discusses surgery which reattached severed hand from his hospital bed.
Then there are headlines that the headline writer should have thought more about, before printing them. The humor lies in what the subject of the sentence is, and the use or lack of connecting verbs. Try these:
TROUT PLANTING FIRST SIGN THAT SPRING IS HERE
LABRUM CLAIMS TWO HITCHIKERS (sic) KILLED ST. GEORGE GIRL, NOT HIM
ONLY MINOR INJURIGS RESULT IN CRASH
PERFORMING GROUPS HAD MODEST BEGINNING AS TALENT, VARIETY SHOWS
RAINFALL CLOSES U.S. 191, BUT DAM ROAD READY FOR USE
ERODIBLE LAND USERS MAY LOSE AID
UTAH POOR TOPIC OF MEETING
ANASAZI RUINS ATTRACTIVE HOME STATE EXPERIENCE
SENATE CONFIRMS PARK FOR BENCH
SCHOOLS STRUCK IN 6 STATES
S.L. MAN HIT BY CAR IN SERIOUS CONDITION
DETECTIVES GATHER IN MARIJUANA (Some party!)
ANCIENT SCRIPTURE PROFESSOR TO RETIRE
SCIENTISTS SEEKING ANSWERS TO WEAR ON ARTIFICIAL JOINTS
POOR SALMON CATCHES MEAN LEAN FISHERMAN
MAHONRI YOUNG WORKS AT BYU DURING JULY
In case you're wondering, it was the works of the deceased sculptor that were displayed during July; it was not the name of a temporary employee.
One of the most memorable gaffes appeared in the Deseret News years ago, with an article on a women's crisis center. "RAPE ON INCREASE," blared the headline. The kicker above it read, "Volunteers needed."
Similar words with vastly different meanings can cause problems. Try these, gleaned from actual newspapers (mostly the competition's, but a couple from our own DN). Choose the correct word:
Playing before local audiences helped them develop rapport/rapore.
He tried to elicit/illicit a response from the man.
It shouldn't cause any undue/undo inconvenience.
It was the only course/coarse to take.
The woman's role/roll was discussed. (Note: this was not a story about baking.)
"It's possible to think they're/their inviolable."
If you chose the first word of each set, you were correct. The writers, unfortunately, chose the second. Of course, it's the job of the copy editors to catch such errors and correct them, as well as to write headlines and captions that reflect the gist of the story. They are also responsible to put in or take out punctuation so that the meaning of a sentence is clear. Although it is becoming more common to omit the last comma in a series, that sometimes causes a problem - and a chuckle. Witness this from a DN feature story: Sharon lives at home with her parents, a Yorkshire terrier and a crab.
You see, there's no need to read between the lines of the daily news. There's enough right there to make you smile, if not occasionally groan at the state of English grammar and spelling (among people who are supposed to know better, yet!). Just remember, though, newspaper people are human, too, and should be aloud some misteaks. (Please note: If there are any unintended errors in this article, blame the guys at the copy desk!)