old bad advice

victor steinbok aardvark66 at GMAIL.COM
Sat Sep 17 18:45:26 UTC 2011

This publication alone may account for some difficulties in locating
appropriate expression that may now be of interest in pre-WWI newspapers.
Some selections may still persist, others are long forgotten. In many cases,
the battle had already been lost when the book was published. I took a small
sample from the last dozen pages. Note, in particular a reference (under
Slang) to "on the hog", which was a part of the phrase "living high on the
hog" recently under discussion.

On the other hand, there is a piece in NYT magazine this weekend that
includes the quote, "Anyone who thinks that 2 + 2 = 4 is an idiot."


Hints & "Don'ts" for Writers and Copyreaders. By Robert William Ransom
[Assistant Managing Editor of the Chicago Record-Herald]. The Chicago Record
Herald: 1911

> QUITE--Don't say "quite a few." No established meaning of "quite" will
> permit it. Say "several," which is precisely what you mean. Don't say, also,
> "a quite large house," or "a quite rich man." The word "quite" properly does
> not mean anything less than completeness.
> RAISE--Children are "reared," not "raised."
> RENDER--Don't use this extravagant, far-fetched, equivocal word for "sing"
> or "play." Mme. Nordica "sings" and Busoni "plays" various things, but
> neither "renders" anything, except when the reporter or critic resorts to
> "line writing" or the copyreader overlooks the chief function of the blue
> pencil.
> ROAST--Don't use it as a noun, in the sense of "ridicule," or "criticism,"
> or as a verb, meaning to "ridicule," or "criticise." "Roast" is in the same
> class as "grill." "hit," "flay," "rap" and "score." All are used
> figuratively in the sense indicated and all have been overworked.
> SECURE--Don't use it when you mean "obtain," "procure," "acquire" or good,
> plain "get." Properly "secure" means to "make safe." It would be well to
> restrict it to that meaning. "Secure" has been overworked by a class of
> writers and copyreaders who seem to regard it as an "elegant" word. For no
> other apparent reason they will "secure" a divorce, a house, a meal, a
> night's lodging, a suit of clothes or a shave.
> SHOW--Don't degrade a dignified theatrical performance by referring to it
> as a "show."
> SLANG--Like nonsense, a bit of it "now and then is relished' by the best of
> men." A deft use of current slang often adds to the vivacity of a "story,"
> but the slang must be clever and it must not be ungrammatical or vulgar. No
> apologist, however eminent, can justify "in the soup," "on the hog," "cop"
> or "copper" for "policeman," "peeved" for "piqued," "awful" and "awfully"
> for "very" or "exceedingly," "buzz wagons" for "automobiles," "dope" for
> "information," or like atrocities. "Sky pilot," on the other hand, has the
> quality of apt description to commend it, and at least is not vulgar. But no
> well-ordered newspaper in ordinary news "stories" or in heads will
> characterize writers as "ink slingers." The expression makes undignified the
> paper using it and offends needlessly those upon whom it is bestowed.
> Don't use the adjective "some" for the adverb "somewhat," as in: "He is
> some tired." Don't use, moreover, such barbarous expressions as "some
> horse," "some picture," "going some," etc. These have acquired a certain
> vogue recently, but are to be shunned.
> A recent and popular addition to slang is "and then some" for "and more,"
> as in: "He earns all he gets, and then some." When this bit of ephemeral
> slang shall have run its course we probably shall hear again: "He earns more
> than he gets," which is good English and far more striking.
> Nowadays most papers allow great latitude in the use of slang in the
> sporting columns. This, "though it make the unskillful laugh, cannot but
> make the judicious grieve." But the judicious have their remedy. They can
> "skip" the sporting pages.
> SUBJUNCTIVE MODE--Occasionally you will encounter "If I be not mistaken,"
> or "If it be fair," and like phrases, but the subjunctive mode has fewer
> devotees than formerly and virtually is out of date. Say "If I am not
> mistaken," "If it is fair," etc. In any event don't say: "Rather than make
> such a confession he would accept any verdict that be forthcoming." Only a
> few extreme sticklers for the subjunctive would go as far as that.
> SUSTAIN--Properly the word means "to hold up or support," and one who dies
> of injuries never "sustains" them. Injuries may be "received" or "suffered,"
> or the construction of a sentence may be changed and its meaning preserved
> by saying "the man was injured" in such and such a manner and to such and
> such an extent. "Sustain" in this sense is another word favored by those who
> admire so-called "line writing." A careful copyreader will cut it out and
> substitute a different word or a different construction.
> THAT--Use the conjunction when it is necessary to the sense and omit it
> when it is unnecessary. It is necessary, for instance, after such verbs as
> "allege" and "stipulate" and unnecessary after "say." Examples: "Mrs.
> Michaelis alleges that Brand is endeavoring," etc.; "the ordinance
> stipulates that the city will stand the cost of repairs;" ,"he says he will
> be a candidate." If Mrs. Michaelis made other allegations, "tha£" should be
> repeated before each, both for the sake of good English and as a matter of
> safety to the paper, which by so doing connects each charge with the verb
> "alleges."
> "That" is unnecessary after the conjunction "provided," where it always is
> understood. Hence don't say "Provided that the repairs are necessary."
> "That" is unnecessary also after "notwithstanding." Hence don't say
> "Notwithstanding that the population had doubled."
> Be consistent in the omission of "that" after "say," i. e., don't omit it
> once and use It later, as in the following: "The International Typographical
> Union, he said, would stand for the protection and fulfillment of Us
> contracts, and that the members of the Chicago Typographical Union would be
> the first to take this stand." Inverted, the sentence would read: "He said
> the International Typographical Union would stand," etc., "and that the
> members," etc. "That" is omitted after "said" in the first clause and used
> after "he said" (understood) in the second. If omitted once, it should be
> omitted again; if used once, it should be used again. As previously stated,
> however, its use after "said" is unnecessary.
> Avoid the mixed construction involved in the following: "Both denied having
> received any offer to sell their votes, or that they had offered to award
> the contract for any consideration." Be consistent and say "or having
> offered to award," etc.
> Don't repeat "that" through mere carelessness, as in: "It is figured that
> if Mr. Lorimer can be vindicated by a majority voting that he should retain
> his seat in the Senate, that the same vote will be a repudiation of Colonel
> Roosevelt." The third "that" is a thoughtless repetition of the first.
> Don't say "just that near." "That" is not an adverb. What you mean is "just
> so near."
> TOGA--This word is misused persistently in referring to senators or
> candidates for the Senate, as in: "Sheehan Out for Toga." The toga was a
> loose, outer garment worn by Roman citizens when appearing in public Thus
> the wearing of a toga did not indicate that the wearer was a member of the
> Senate, but merely that he was a Roman citizen. It is well known that modern
> senators do not wear togas, but coats. The use of "toga" may be poetical,
> but it is not accurate. Moreover, the word has been overworked.
> UNDER--Don't use it as meaning "less than."
> VERBS--...A prevalent form of this error is found in sentences such as: "It
> is one of the best books that has appeared this year." Don't be guilty of
> this careless slip. The Qualifying phrase in such cases requires the plural
> verb, since the "that" refers not to "one," but to the several to which the
> "one" belongs. ...
> WINDY--The derisive term "Windy City" is applied to Chicago by envious
> rivals, thoughtless speakers and ill-informed country correspondents. Don't
> permit it to appear in the columns of The Record-Herald, unless it occurs
> in a speech which the paper is printing in full. Don't accentuate it even
> then.

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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