TV Journalists Conned by Language Prank !

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at YAHOO.COM
Fri Aug 26 17:34:09 UTC 2005

It would seem, then, that Hill violated all these principles by taking it upon herself to dispute the prior existence of "cleverer," which had obviously been vouched for by the professionally expert editors of the _British Journal of Psychology_.

Of course, she may well have been instructed to do so by the electronic voice piped directly into her head from the control room, in which case she is morally blameless.

But still wrong.


Dave Wilton <dave at WILTON.NET> wrote:
---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
Sender: American Dialect Society
Poster: Dave Wilton
Subject: Re: TV Journalists Conned by Language Prank !

> -----Original Message-----
> From: American Dialect Society [mailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU]On Behalf
> Of Jonathan Lighter
> Sent: Thursday, August 25, 2005 7:24 AM
> Subject: TV Journalists Conned by Language Prank !
> In a telephone interview with himself, Dr. J. E. Lighter, a
> lexicographer and contributor to the Oxford English Dictionary,
> commented, "What is most troubling in this case is the show's
> readiness to accept the gibberish word of an essentially
> anonymous member of the public over the evidence of a dictionary
> compiled by professionals. This would seem to violate
> a basic principle of journalism."

Ah, but you forget the basic principles of journalism:

1) Accuracy trumps the truth. A journalist should not strive to report the
truth, but rather to accurately report what someone says is the truth.

2) A quote by an "expert" is the most reliable type of research. All other
sources must be verified with a quote by an "expert."

3) Balance trumps objectivity. A journalist should strive for balance by
providing quotes from the differing experts. If you can't find someone to
take the other side, keep trying. Someone will turn up.

4) Never admit you were wrong, except when a) you've misspelled someone's
name; b) you've misidentified someone in a photo; c) you misquote an
"expert." A good journalist never asserts a fact. Let the "experts" assert
the facts. That way, as long as you spell their name right and quote them
accurately, any factual error is the fault of the "expert," not the

--Dave Wilton
dave at

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