Monday, April 02, 2007

How Safire does his research, part whatever

Someone on ads-l (you can go to the archives and see details) has once again posted the list of questions Safire's research assistant sent out to at least one specialist for an upcoming column. (He surely works on shorter lead time than Doonesbury Sunday cartoons, on which see Ben Zimmer's story here.)
Grab Ahold Questions
1. Should "grab ahold" be hypenated? Should there be a space between a and hold? What is the correct usage?
2. What is its origin? Is it a new construction?
3. Are there any similar constructions? Is the formation of ahold part of a larger linguistic phenomenon?
4. Have you noticed this phrase being used more often recently?
5. When do you remember first seeing it used?
6. Has its meaning or usage changed over time?
7. Please also include a brief biography of yourself or a sentence about how you would like to be cited in the column.
Oh yeah, … "My deadline is Tuesday by 8pm so if you could respond before then, I would be very appreciative."

Could you grab me a cup of coffee while you're at it?


Anonymous said...

This is just like undergraduates who write you similar lists of questions, trying to get you to do their work for them! Has anyone responded directly to Safire or his flunkies, telling him this is not an appropriate way to do research? What a cretin!

Mr. Verb said...

Well, clearly the standards in journalism and even commmercial publishing of (semi-) scholarly books. THink about those plagiarism cases (I think the one with Doris Kearns-Goodwin was an example) where a role of 'assistants' came to light that has no relationship to how scholars work.

In a way, this speaks to the quality of the work: It almost has to be garbled when it's a list of written questions being passed to a scholar with a short deadline (even if you wanted to, could a given professor do much under those circumstances?), then the answers being passed back to Safire. He's not looking at anything directly, not poking around, not talking directly to anybody who's an expert, etc.