Sunday, July 10, 2011

Grammar Guy vs. Deeth Blog

But is there a hyphen in anal-retentive?

Last week, while trying to figure out which cola beverage Tim Pawlenty is most like, I cited the great Nate Silver. He's the single best example of blogger made good: his number crunch blog FiveThirtyEight has been annexed by the New York Times itself. The move to the mainstream required some compromise, though, as I noted in a tangent:
"Instead of being the consensus choice, he finds himself with very little breathing room. Voters deciding between Mr. Pawlenty and Mr. Perry tend to prefer Mr. Perry, those deciding between Mr. Pawlenty and Mr. Romney tend to prefer Mr. Romney, and so forth.

(Tangent: One of the compromises a blogger made good has to make is the New York Times stylebook that Mr.'s and Ms.'s everyone. Most famously, the NYT referred to the singer of "Paradise By The Dashboard Lights" as "Mr. Loaf." We now return to our block quote already in progress.)

Put differently, Mr. Pawlenty is not intrinsically well differentiated from his opponents. A lot of voters might find him acceptable — but the types of voters who find him acceptable will also tend to find a lot of other candidates acceptable."
This tangent prompted a response that has to be repeated verbatim to be appreciated:
Dear Mr. Deeth,

I’ve just come across your blog entry with a digression on “Mr.”

The New York Times did NOT refer to Meat Loaf as Mr. Loaf, except in an unmistakably self-mocking headline. The story is apocryphal, though it has embedded itself in the conventional wisdom.

You owe The Times a correction.


Allan M. Siegal
Retired A.M.E.
and co-author, The New York Times Manual of Style and Usage, 1999
Well, a little investigating finds the "self-mocking" headline and a subsequent article that call's the songwriter "Mr. Steinman" but the singer "Meat Loaf."

So I stand corrected, no doubt giving Mr. Siegal, still marking copy in his retirement, great pleasure in proving me wrong...

...and proving my tangential point about nit-pickiness even better than I did myself.

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