Sunday, October 08, 2006

Safire update

... in which the protagonist shows us how not to admit to a mistake. Safire writes: "Only last month, in a fit of lexical triumphalism, I gleefully claimed to have minted e-maestrom to mean "a storm of e-mails" — only to be brought low by the Gotcha! Gang's pajama-top patrol citing five previous usages and going nyah-nyah."

It's good that Safire realizes that his columns are about 'fits' and characterized by 'triumphalism' — although he doesn't acknowledge how seldom they get above or beyond that level. But five previous usages? In my September 3 post on the topic, I reported ca. 1,450 g-hits, including on-line dictionaries which reflect usage and don't to my knowledge coin things themselves. (Google now yields about 1,760, including of course this blog.)

And going nyah-nyah? The point, William Safire, is that people need to get things right. We all make mistakes, but this was simply irresponsible. It took me a few seconds to show that you were wrong. I simply do not understand how someone who is so ignorant of his subject and who so often fails to check basic facts continues to write about language for one of the highest profile outlets in the English-speaking world.

Just for the record, and to reassure the handful of people who know my real-world identity, I don't own any pajama tops and blog fully clothed.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

So I was wondering whether in your fully-clothed blog you could address how many g-hits one needs for nyah-nyah to be listed in the IPA as a legitimate phoneme of American English.

English has the beloved Sha-na-na and dear-to-our-heartsMama and the nasals in those words have reached soaring contrastive heights. What's wrong with the palatal nasal? Why must it be reduced to whining and tears (as in onion)? What's worse, that cabose of a sound, the ng, gains legitimacy when when singing rivals sinning.