Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Spelling Whores at the NYT

You've seen them on the internet since its inception -- the spelling and grammar whores. They are the folks whose posts to Usenet and other message boards meticulously point out mistakes of grammar and spelling in other peoples' posts. They insult the maker of an innocent mistake and rely upon the mistake as irrefutable evidence of a lack of basic intelligence. Spell "millennium" with one "n" and you're surely a knuckle-dragging dolt incapable of coherent thought. Argument over.

Just when you thought it couldn't get any worse, the New York Times -- ever on the cutting edge of social corruption -- today stoops to the level of a bottom-feeding Spelling Whore. In an article concerning recently (and, I'll add, inadvisedly) released documents authored by John Roberts during his tenure in the Office of the White House Counsel (my old OEOB stomping grounds), the Times notes:

The papers reflect that Mr. Roberts was a stickler for legal and semantic accuracy. In his review of proposed presidential remarks at the signing of a bill to end discrimination in housing, he asked that "from Maine to California" be changed to "from Maine to Hawaii," because the fair housing bill applied to all 50 states.

Mr. Roberts was asked to analyze numerous issues, though, often under very tight deadlines, and while he was a careful thinker and writer, the time pressures occasionally led to minor blots.

In a proposed response to a letter from Gov. Bob Graham of Florida about the disposition of Cuban refugees from the Mariel boatlift of 1980, he repeatedly misspelled Marielitos (writing "Marielitoes") and rendered the capital of Cuba three times as "Havanna."

HA! The stickler for accuracy misspelled (repeatedly misspelled) at least two words during his time as counsel to the President of the United States. Perhaps the authors of this strange piece -- John Broder and Carolyn Marshall -- will quickly come to realize how poorly these remarks reflect upon them as "journalists." I'm not holding my breath, though.