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November 22nd, 2006


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12:45 pm
Dear Strunk & Web,

I need your help in confirming or denying the validity of the newspaper headline on today's Metro paper. Now I'm sure you're just as surprised as I am that "The World's Largest Newspaper -- In The World!" may have encountered a wee bit of grammatical trouble in its headline-writing today, but their obstensibly haphazard and slapdash use of a single comma is leaving me a bit cold.

The headline (and comma) in question is attached to an article about a group of BU Republicans who are creating a whites-only scholarship in an attempt, they say, to "convey the absurdity of any race-based scholarship." (For your reference, here's the Boston Glob article.)

Now the discussion of the actual issue is best saved for someone else's journal or blog or subway walls (and tenement halls) as I am only interested in pointing out trivial absurdities in our city's fine daily periodicals. So I will let you know that The Metro, then, ran this as their big bad front page headline this morning:
Scholarship, For Whites Only
At first glance that looks like the world's most superfluous comma. What do you think? The only way I could even remotely justify such a comma is if I were to suggest that the comma represents an inherent "but" qualifier, only maybe the newspaper just didn't have enough space what with its large easy-to-read headline font.

Nah.

It's just bad writin', that's all it is.

Isn't it?




Your pal,
Alanis Morrissette

(25 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments:


[User Picture]
From:jadasc
Date:November 22nd, 2006 05:47 pm (UTC)
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It reads to me as declaring that the realm of academia is reserved for Caucasians. But that can't be right.
From:eclecticavatar
Date:November 22nd, 2006 05:50 pm (UTC)
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I think the comma makes sense... but I'm weird. I also didn't read the article. So if they're talking about it the way jadasc interprets it, it's definitely correct that that's what I thought it was about, too.

But if that's not what it's about, it could be superfluous.
[User Picture]
From:dogofthefuture
Date:November 22nd, 2006 05:54 pm (UTC)
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I read that comma as being an implied, um, "available." Sort of as in classified ads. Like: "Ford Bronco, Used by O.J." or "Chairs, Dining Room."

Maybe not.
[User Picture]
From:derspatchel
Date:November 22nd, 2006 06:03 pm (UTC)
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I could see that, but those are classfied ad headings, not a front-page newspaper headline. To me it seems that even if they phrased it as "A Scholarship, For Whites Only" it would make the comma seem less superfluous.
[User Picture]
From:reveritas
Date:November 22nd, 2006 06:34 pm (UTC)
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Same here. And Alanis comma you can't use "A" in a headline nohow.
[User Picture]
From:derspatchel
Date:November 22nd, 2006 07:21 pm (UTC)
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Well if they've already got a Bad Comma in, why not just go whole hog? If only we could shove in a first-person perspective and some truly misplaced quotation marks (for "whites" only) and then boy howdy we'd surely have a parade here!
[User Picture]
From:eeka13
Date:November 22nd, 2006 05:54 pm (UTC)
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Nevermind the comma -- for the love of all that is holy, at least spell the name of my savior correctly.

M-o-r-i-s-s-e-t-t-e
[User Picture]
From:derspatchel
Date:November 22nd, 2006 05:58 pm (UTC)
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But I am not Alanis Mo(one-R)issette. You are talking crazy.
(Deleted comment)
[User Picture]
From:derspatchel
Date:November 22nd, 2006 09:56 pm (UTC)
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It is a good newspaper like the New York Slimes and the Washington Compost
[User Picture]
From:joyeous
Date:November 22nd, 2006 06:34 pm (UTC)
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If any sort of punctuation must be used, it should be the colon.

Colons: we're good for creating taglines.
[User Picture]
From:rosalux
Date:November 22nd, 2006 06:36 pm (UTC)
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Originally it said "Scholarship for White's Only" and some late-night copy editor stared blearily at it, thinking, "now, where does that little mark belong?" until they realized they could shove it in at Scholarship,



* * * * *

Chairs, Dining Room is the same as Fforde, Jjasper - it says "Usually we say dining room chairs but for alphabetization we put chairs first."
[User Picture]
From:luckimunki
Date:November 23rd, 2006 03:07 am (UTC)
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Actually, as the granddaughter of a copy editor, I can say with only vague knowledge that sometimes headlines needed to be crafted not just to be concise, clear, and informative, but also to fit correctly and look somewhat aesthetic. In this day and age of computerized typesetters, though, that shouldn't be a problem. But back when the letters were pulled out of little drawers and set by hand on a plate, that little mark might needed to have been moved elsewhere.
[User Picture]
From:samethreechords
Date:November 22nd, 2006 06:40 pm (UTC)
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The comma doesn't seem all that necessary, but it's also not the most egregious error in the world. Seem to me they were looking for a cheap way to emphasize the "for whites only" part, so they, um, gave it its own clause?

Dunno.
[User Picture]
From:xiphias
Date:November 22nd, 2006 07:05 pm (UTC)
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It has a different emotional tone. "Scholarship, For Whites Only" feels like a sort of title to a New Yorker essay. "Scholarship for Whites Only" sounds like the title to a news story.

"Scholarship: For Whites Only" sounds like the title to a news story, but one where the reporter does have an opinion about whether it's a good or bad thing.

So:
"Scholarship, For Whites Only" sounds like it's an essay or a column, and that there is no such scholarship, but that the columnist is saying, "what if. . . "

"Scholarship for Whites Only" sounds like the headline of a dispassionate, disinterested news story about a scholarship for whites only.

"Scholarship: For Whites Only" sounds like a headline for an investigative piece about racism in scholarship awards.
[User Picture]
From:derspatchel
Date:November 22nd, 2006 07:17 pm (UTC)
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I think we can agree that the entire headline stinks and would have been much better re-written, eh ?
[User Picture]
From:allicat42
Date:November 22nd, 2006 07:30 pm (UTC)
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Scholarship: For Whites Only?
[User Picture]
From:allicat42
Date:November 22nd, 2006 07:31 pm (UTC)
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(and yes, the ? is meant to be part of teh headline)
[User Picture]
From:kpht
Date:November 22nd, 2006 11:34 pm (UTC)
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Whites-Only Scholarship Upsets Everyone But Trent Lott?
[User Picture]
From:invisibelle
Date:November 22nd, 2006 08:25 pm (UTC)
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It doesn't bother me. (I have a journalism degree and am a professional proofreader, so I like to think my 2 cents count extra.)

I'm not good at explaining this stuff, though. Perhaps you could consult Bill Walsh. http://www.theslot.com/
[User Picture]
From:giantfightbot
Date:November 22nd, 2006 08:46 pm (UTC)
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I think what they meant to write is:

Dumbass College Republicans Reaffirm Status As Wastes of Blood, Tissue, Organs.

HTH.
[User Picture]
From:ungratefulninja
Date:November 22nd, 2006 10:53 pm (UTC)
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For REAL. "I am going to provide bonuses to the, on average, MOST privileged class of students just to piss everyone off!"

I bet in a week we see one that boils down to "Wow, that sure pissed everyone off." No. Shit.
From:ungratefulninja
Date:November 22nd, 2006 11:02 pm (UTC)
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Is "Strunk & Web" in any way related to jwz's "lazyweb"?
[User Picture]
From:derspatchel
Date:November 24th, 2006 04:57 pm (UTC)
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The phrase was, indeed, adapted from the original and freely modified under the GNU Public License and is distributed in the hope that it will be useful, but WITHOUT ANY WARRANTY; without even the implied warranty of MERCHANTABILITY or FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE.

DILUTE! DILUTE! OK!!
[User Picture]
From:luckimunki
Date:November 23rd, 2006 03:32 am (UTC)
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Whether or not it makes sense as it is (it does), it's still superfluous because if you remove it, it does the same thing. Generally, as a matter of taste, I would say the least amount of punctuation in a headline is what you should aim for, if feasible.

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