You may remember my quick pronunciation tip video for al dente, wherein I make it clear that it’s not said like “Al Dante”:
Well, last week a guy named Robert emailed me about that video. “I am creating a joke metal project that is themed around Pasta,” he wrote. “Very silly, very fun. I was wondering if I could use audio from that video (basically voice clips) within a song of mine?”
Of course he could. I could not possibly say no. That sort of thing is very much to my taste.
So he did. He made it the middle of three pieces in a YouTube EP. You don’t have to listen to it – not everyone likes metal music – but I think it’s fun, and it’s less than three minutes, anyway. Here:
ACES, the Society for Editing, has an annual spelling bee as part of its conference, with proceeds going to its education fund, and this year it’s something extra special. Like the rest of the conference, it’s online – and this time it’s all editing celebrities! OK, it’s five celebrities and me. I will be competing against Benjamin Dreyer (of Penguin Random House, and author of Dreyer’s English), Mary Norris (of The New Yorker, and author of Between You & Me), Ellen Jovin (of the Grammar Table, and author of quite a few editing guides), Henry Fuhrmann (of the Los Angeles Times), and Steve Bien-Aimé (professor of journalism at Northern Kentucky University).
Only one will prevail! But the big winner (aside from you lucky audience members) will be the ACES Education Fund: your fee for getting to watch is a donation of at least $15. It’s on April 21, 4–5 pm Eastern time. Get your ticket at the ACES website.
They asked if I would make a promo video. Of course I would. Here it is.
In response to my guide on how to say the names of German philosophers, I had a request to do one for French philosophers. Personal experience tells me that giving pronunciation tips for French words or names is a good way to get into an argument – probably with another English speaker who is very confident in French pronunciation but shouldn’t be (although French speakers are also known for having little leeway for deviation from what each considers the best French, even though it varies quite a bit from person to person). But what the heck. It’s fun. And at the very least, it will help English speakers who really aren’t sure. So here you go: the full names of Abélard, Althusser, Bachelard, Barthes, Bataille, Baudrillard, de Beauvoir, Bergson, Bourdieu, Brunschvicg, Camus, Canguilhem, Cavaillès, Cixous, Comte, Debord, Deleuze, Derrida, Descartes, Diderot, Duhem, Foucault, Gilson, Kojève, Lacan, Levinas, Lévi-Strauss, Lyotard, Macherey, Malebranche, Merleau-Ponty, Montaigne, Montesquieu, Poincaré, Ricœur, Rousseau, Sartre, Saussure, Tocqueville, Voltaire, Vuillemin, and Wahl.
I’ve made a book. It’s a book of photos, but it has words in it, because they’re photos of graffiti. Not clever or funny graffiti, just graffiti that I find very visually attractive: the colours and textures and patterns. The book is available at Lulu.com in softcover (a hardcover will be coming, but due to factors beyond my control, the list price will be excessive). But I’m also going to send a copy of it to everyone who is supporting me on Patreon for $5 or more per month as of December 31, 2020. Also, I’ve made a PDF of the book that’s available for free to all Patreon supporters regardless of level. (I have almost 20,000 subscribers to Sesquiotica, but right now I have only 16 – sixteen – patrons on Patreon, and most of them are at $1 or $2 a month. It barely covers the cost of running the website.)
And I’ve made a video of the book. Take a look! (Advance warning: there are some vulgar words in it, because of course there are, it’s graffiti.)
There’s probably not a person who knows this word who wasn’t confused about the pronunciation the first time they saw it. It’s OK, though: there are many different accepted and established pronunciations. But there is one that, in my experience, is more reliable than the others. Here’s a bit of talk-head-gemony to lay it down for you.
After my previous editorial music video, I had a couple of requests for some Christmas songs. Which is good, because I was going to do it anyway. Here’s my medley – quick and dirty, because I’m too busy editing to spend all day on it. (I’m not lying: I’m fully booked – editing full books!)
My friend Mark Allen, @EditorMark, was this week’s host of a recurring Twitter event called #StetDanceParty, where editors can (if they want) take a break for a half hour for some lively music. He messaged me on Monday asking if I’d like to contribute.
“Do you mean I should sing the song?” I asked. “Or choose a video made by someone else?”
“I mean sing, man, sing,” he said.
So (after a couple of days figuring out what I’d sing) on Thursday I recorded and edited this video, put it up on YouTube just before bedtime, and sent the link to him. He shared it with the world about an hour ago. Here it is:
Marie-Lynn Hammond (a luminary in the world of Canadian folk music and also a professional editor) was asked to write a song to celebrate the 40th birthday of Editors Canada (also known as the Editors’ Association of Canada), and she asked me to join in writing the words. She wasn’t able to be at the conference in Halifax, so I led those present at the opening reception in singing it. Here’s a cellphone video of it.
And here are the words:
I am an ancient editor (well, OK, not that old);
I do to words what’s right and true and also what I’m told.
I mostly work alone and yet I’m not alone at all,
for editing lures many with its nerdy siren call!
CHORUS: Hey ho! Haul up the manuscriptand brave the waves of prose,
and on the storm of muddy words some order we’ll impose.
Hey ho! Fix up the manuscript by sunlight and by moon!
We’ll steer a course to clarity for deadline’s coming soon!
I sail through books and articles, and sometimes even verse;
I try to make them better or at least not make them worse.
I move, delete, and query, tracking changes all the while,
And though hands and eyes may weary, still I do it all with style.
I toil in anonymity, I serve the author’s voice;
It’s grammar over glamour—but when freelance, I rejoice!
For I can work from coffee shops, or home if I decide,
In my housecoat and pyjamas with my cats all by my side.
And when the writing’s so banal I fear I’ll fall asleep,
[I must] beware the dangling modifiers lurking in the deep!
And if the structure’s full of holes and threatening to sink,
I pray I’ll be forgiven should I end up in the drink!
Our crew’s been here for forty years, and we’re still going strong;
They said that we’d be obsolete, but oh! we proved them wrong.
As long as words are in the world, they’ll need a steady hand,
And that’s why we are editors, and oh! my friends, it’s grand!
Patrick Neylan, Eeditor of business reports. Permanently angry about the abuse of English, maths and logic. Terms and conditions: by reading this blog you accept that all opinions expressed herein will henceforth be your opinions.
The Economist "Johnson" language blog
In this blog, named for the dictionary-maker Samuel Johnson, correspondents write about the effects that the use (and sometimes abuse) of language have on politics, society and culture around the world