Monday, July 27, 2015

Total Confusion

Is there a doctor in the house? More specifically, is there a podiatrist in the house?

FootSmart, a retailer specializing in shoes and pain-relieving products for the feet and lower body, e-mailed my mother this birthday offer the day before she turned … let’s say 39.

So, if Mom spends $55, does she get the discount or not?

This e-mail could use a touch of Lotrimin, because something stinks. According to the small print near the upper right, spending at least $49 triggers a 15 percent markdown. If it’s your birthday, however, you’re in luck: You only have to spend $10 more to see comparable savings. Don’t believe me? It’s the icing on the cake.

Happy freakin’ birthday, huh?

Is it $49 or $59, FootSmart? It’s got to be one ($49) or the other ($59). I’m waiting for the other to drop, at which point the ad will be back on its feet. In the meantime, it’s nice to know that you can have your cake and edit too*.

At the risk of stepping on someone’s toes at a certain shoe retailer, I’ve tweaked a famous nursery rhyme:

This little piggy went to FootSmart.
This little piggy stayed between $50 and $58.
This little piggy had a beef.
This little piggy had no idea if the offer applied.
This little piggy cried all the way home.

Poor piggy.

* If you’re indifferent toward this pun, you are as callous as the skin on the sole of an irritated foot.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Missing in ______

A word is missing from today’s title. The title, like me on days that end with a y, is getting no action. You knew the absent word was action, of course, because “missing in action” is a common three-word phrase that rolls off the tongue. So common, in fact, that if you enter “missing in” on Google, its search engine autocompletes “missing in action” as your top choice. In the same vein, I bet you can autocomplete the following three-word phrases:

no strings ____
with bated ____
trashy romance ____
some assembly ____
botched nose ____

Now try this one:

positive drug ____

If at least 95 percent of my readers didn’t fill in the blank with test, I’d be shocked. So would Google. Its search engine predicts you’re about to type “positive drug test” before you can even inject the u in drug. I know it’s “positive drug test.” You know. Google knows. A certain USA Today caption writer doesn’t. He or she must obviously, ahem, detest a certain word.

It’s time we do some cramming for a test, stuffing it in after drug. With that, readers, our test flight is over.

Job well ____.

Monday, July 13, 2015

T Wrecks

“That it should come to this!”Hamlet: Act 1, Scene 2

The excerpt below concerns Pete Rose, Major League Baseball’s all-time hits leader, visiting Bridgeport, Connecticut, and managing the local minor-league ball club for a day. Can you figure out if the snippet is from a modern newspaper article or a Shakespearean sonnet?

Three elements are as out of place as Pete Rose at the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

First up on our hit list…

You know what I’d like to see at the end of an autograph? A period. Will a comma get the job done in that awkward second sentence? In words that would have benefitted the former Cincinnati Reds player-manager years ago: Don’t bet on it.

Next up…

Twill is a fabric with a diagonal pattern. The word ’twill, with an apostrophe before the t, is a contraction of “it will.” (The apostrophe replaces the missing i.) You can choose the fabric or the archaic contraction — either way, ’twill be incorrect when used instead of will.

Our final at-bat…

Tis are tropical plants found in eastern Asia. The word ’tis, which was customary in Shakespeare’s heyday, is a contraction of “it is.” The contraction — often erroneously written sans apostrophe — is used sparsely today. You’re most apt to come across it in a poetic or literary setting: Each December, carolers remind us that “’tis the season to be jolly,” and in his most famous soliloquy, a certain Danish prince questioned “whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.”

The word works in those two familiar refrains. In this sonnet newspaper article, it does not. Remove the word after cost at any cost. I must tsk-tsk this tis, which should be is.

Oh, well. We know ’tis human to err. To err three times in but four sentences, however, is a bit much. I find it difficult to explain the unusual presence of the comma and two t’s. Perhaps it’s the present-day equivalent of spotting a smartphone during a performance of Hamlet at London’s original Globe Theatre. Something’s not right here.

Every Rose paragraph has its thorns, I suppose. Still, do not emulate the Player Queen and protest too much, readers. I’ve chosen to take arms against this paragraph’s sea of troubles. Once ’tis fixed, ’twill be better.

Monday, July 6, 2015

When Can I See You, McCann?

The gradation of journalistic offenses is a steep one. A journalist won’t fall far if he, say, fails to spell out an unfamiliar acronym on first reference or adds an s to toward. Upon committing such “misdemeanors,” a seasoned journalist learns a lesson and moves on. The world forgets. Near the top of the gradation, however, forgiveness isn’t as absolute; plagiarize, fabricate or commit a similar “crime” and expect to face the proverbial firing squad.

Today’s wrongdoing falls somewhere between those two extremes, albeit closer to ground level, where permanent damage is unlikely. The offense is worse than using it’s when the situation calls for its, but it pales next to a Rolling Stone-esque breakdown in which source material isn’t vetted and claims aren’t substantiated.

Professors drill nascent journalists to spell names correctly and to be extra cautious when composing headlines, which draw considerable attention.

The writer who crafted the headline pictured below forgot the drill. He swung once and, from a journalistic perspective, earned two strikes — something unheard of in baseball.


If at first you don’t succeed, try … try McCann.

Putting a G where a C needed to be created a glaring, above-the-fold mistake. Still, suffering minor “head” trauma is preferable to damaging your reputation. Just ask James Frey or Brian Williams.