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Sunday, January 10, 2010

Murray Chass On Baseball: BLOGGERS’ TROUBLE WITH ENGLISH AND MATH

When blogging non-bloggers attack!

When you were in school, did you ever flunk both English and math in the same year? If you did, did you do it publicly, not just for your teacher and your parents to see?

I have come upon a whole organization that gets a failing grade in English and math. And I am not picking on it because it is an organization of bloggers. But if I didn’t already dislike blogs, this would do it.

I recently received a news release from the Baseball Bloggers Alliance (BBA), a recently formed organization that unabashedly acknowledges that it is copying the Baseball Writers Association (BBWAA). Except it’s for bloggers, not newspaper reporters. Before the Hall of Fame announcement last week, the BBA surveyed its members in an “election” that copied the BBWAA election. It was meaningless, of course, but the group was just looking to get some publicity. It wasn’t the kind of publicity, however, that I would want for my organization.

On the English side of the ledger, the release mixed singular subjects with plural predicates and singular subjects with subsequent plural pronouns. We writers care about that sort of thing. The release said Roberto Alomar and Bert Blyleven, the leading votegetters, “both received 35 of the 47 votes.” But they each got 35 votes; if they both received 35 votes, they would not have been the leading votegetters because their combined total would have been 35.

But the BBA saved its worst for its math exploits. Noting that the percentages for Alomar and Blyleven were 74.468, the release said the two players would make the Hall of Fame because their percentages would be rounded to 75.

Wrong. If the BBA is trying to imitate the BBWAA, it should get the rules right. The BBWAA does not round up to 75. A player has to get a pure 75 percent or more to be elected. In this year’s election, 539 votes were cast, and 75 percent of that total is 404.25. But 404 votes would not have put a candidate in the Hall. He needed 405.

But the BBA also fails simple math, something that two of my grandchildren, Jake and Josh, said they learned in first grade. The fraction .468 is not rounded to the next number. A fraction has to be half (.5) or more to round to the next whole number. If 74.468 is rounded, it becomes 74, not 75. So in the BBA survey, no one received enough votes to be elected. But that’s not what the release said.

The error-infested release only reinforces my feeling about blogs and bloggers. It becomes Exhibit A. If a person can’t write basic English correctly and doesn’t know basic math in a sport filled with numbers, what business does he have writing anything for public consumption?

Repoz Posted: January 10, 2010 at 12:38 PM | 149 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
Tags: media, online, site news, special topics

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Page 2 of 2 pages  < 1 2
101. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: January 11, 2010 at 01:48 PM (#3433797)

That irritates the hell out of me. You're having a simple conversation with someone and suddenly they have to act like they're in downtown Rome. Just call it Mozzarella for cryin' out loud.

Heh. I agree. I personally don't point out these "mistakes" when someone pronounces an Italian word American-style.
102. Slivers of Maranville descends into chaos (SdeB) Posted: January 11, 2010 at 02:25 PM (#3433818)
Especially since "mozzarella" is just as English a word as "pants". Yes, it was borrowed from Italian, but it's English now.
103. Blackadder Posted: January 11, 2010 at 02:31 PM (#3433819)
That irritates the hell out of me. You're having a simple conversation with someone and suddenly they have to act like they're in downtown Rome. Just call it Mozzarella for cryin' out loud.

I'm sympathetic to the, er, sentiment. However, I grew up in Europe, and the first time an America asked me if I wanted a "cruh-sant", I had absolutely no idea that he was talking about.
104.  Posted: January 11, 2010 at 02:35 PM (#3433823)
Dunno about you, WJ, but I'm going to keep on saying "for-tay," regardless.

I took English in University and read a book outside of my formal studies lamenting the fact that people said "for-tay" incorrectly when they should be saying "fort". The book had the same reasoning as above (the Italian for-tay is a musical term and not be confused with the French word).

Despite this new-found knowledge I still continued to pronounce it "for-tay". That was how everyone else I knew prononnuced it and I wasn't going to go around correcting everyone.
105. Yeaarrgghhhh Posted: January 11, 2010 at 02:43 PM (#3433829)
Chass's article is just depressing.
106. RJ in TO Posted: January 11, 2010 at 02:51 PM (#3433832)
However, I grew up in Europe, and the first time an America asked me if I wanted a "cruh-sant", I had absolutely no idea that he was talking about.

I grew up in Canada, and I'd still have absolutely no idea what someone was talking about if they offered me a "cruh-sant."
107. Lassus Posted: January 11, 2010 at 03:24 PM (#3433856)
However, I grew up in Europe, and the first time an America asked me if I wanted a "cruh-sant", I had absolutely no idea that he was talking about.

I grew up in Canada, and I'd still have absolutely no idea what someone was talking about if they offered me a "cruh-sant."

Um, way to think on your feet, guys.
108. Benji Gil Gamesh VII - The Opt-Out Awakens Posted: January 11, 2010 at 03:26 PM (#3433859)
My (high school) freshman biology teacher pronounced pharynx and larynx with three syllables each. ("FER-in-AX" and "LER-in-AX")
109. gef the talking mongoose Posted: January 11, 2010 at 03:32 PM (#3433865)
I had an English teacher insist on "the pronunciation "pwem" (and poetry was "pwetry") on the logic that "oe" was a diphthong. No amount of eye-rolling, arguing, or dictionary-referencing would convince him that nobody but him pronounced "poem" "pwem".

Reminds me of my college English teacher who insisteed that Quixote was pronounced "quick-sut." I guess he couldn't get over "quixotic" (which, indeed, I suppose doesn't make a whole lot of sense ...).

Also, the great-aunt who more or less raised me, & who taught school for 50 years, pronounced Vietnam "vye-ET-num." Maybe that was an older pronunciation; she was born in 1879.
110. Weekly Journalist_ Posted: January 11, 2010 at 04:01 PM (#3433883)

Reminds me of my college English teacher who insisteed that Quixote was pronounced "quick-sut." I guess he couldn't get over "quixotic" (which, indeed, I suppose doesn't make a whole lot of sense ...).

Or course, though, if your English teacher were teaching Byron's "Don Juan," it would be (correctly) pronounced "Don Joo-uhn."
111. Weekly Journalist_ Posted: January 11, 2010 at 04:04 PM (#3433889)
The really funny thing about "mozzarella" and "ricotta" is that the correct Italian pronunciation is much closer to the plain old English pronunciation than the "Italian-American" pronunciation.

In other words, it isnt:
Mootz-ah-DELL
Ruh-GAWT

No matter what my grandfather thinks. It's ri-COT-ta (middle vowel rhymes with "coat")

If someone came over from Milan they would be much more likely to understand you if you just said Mozzarrella and Ricotta in the American way than in the Italian-American way.

Oh yeah, and ga-ba-gool? Come on. It Italy, Capicola, like most Italian words, is pronounced exactly how it's spelled.
112.  Posted: January 11, 2010 at 04:35 PM (#3433927)
Mootz-ah-DELL
Ruh-GAWT

If you asked for that to an actual Italian you would just get a funny look.

ftr, I wouldn't know what a cruh-sant was either.

although on a related note; late last year I spent a couple months living in Zurich and when I came back I asked for a Gipfeli (Croissant) in a coffee shop and confused the girl behind the counter!
113. SoSH U at work Posted: January 11, 2010 at 04:49 PM (#3433938)
In other words, it isnt:
Mootz-ah-DELL
Ruh-GAWT

Is that a rather recent development? I grew up in an area that was heavily populated by Italian-Americans (the guy down the block from me cowrote Big Night based on a local Italian restaurant), I don't remember ever hearing these pronunciations?
114. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: January 11, 2010 at 05:00 PM (#3433952)
Mootz-ah-DELL
Ruh-GAWT

On my mother's side of the family, they always have pronounced the first word as Mootz-ah-RELL-a. The second word could be pronounced either the way that you posted it or as Ruh-GAWT-a.
115. esseff Posted: January 11, 2010 at 05:06 PM (#3433958)
The Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary's 11th edition has a long usage note on the pronunciation of forte, which it says "has no entirely satisfactory pronunciation." It says that usage writers denigrate the two syllable pronunciation because, as several have said, it reflects the influence of the separate Italian word. But the dictionary goes on to say that the single syllable pronunciation fort doesn't exactly reflect the French, which would be written le fort and sound like the English for.

The dictionary's conclusion: "So you can take your choice, knowing that someone somewhere will dislike whichever variant you choose. All are standard, however."

The dictionary concludes that two-syllable pronunciations are probably the most frequent in American English.
116. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: January 11, 2010 at 05:07 PM (#3433961)
If someone came over from Milan they would be much more likely to understand you if you just said Mozzarrella and Ricotta in the American way than in the Italian-American way.

Of course, dialects are not uniform across Italy (or at least it wasn't the case 100 years ago). My mother's family came from the provinces of Naples and Potenza in the south, so they might have pronounced those words differently than citizens of Northern and Central Italy. Of course, they might have pronounced it the same way there, too. Never been to the "old country."
117. The Polish Sausage Racer Posted: January 11, 2010 at 05:17 PM (#3433973)
In accordance with my Iron Law of Etymology, all etymologies are folk etymologies. For-tay is just as legitimate as fort since no one has the least ####### clue as to whether it's actually derived from French or Italian.

WRT regional pronunciations, "poem" was universally pronounced "poym" in northern Wisconsin where I grew up.
118. Eric J can SABER all he wants to Posted: January 11, 2010 at 05:18 PM (#3433980)
I took English in University and read a book outside of my formal studies lamenting the fact that people said "for-tay" incorrectly when they should be saying "fort".

Correct or not, I think most people would find "fort" confusing in a non-military context.
119. base ball chick Posted: January 11, 2010 at 05:37 PM (#3434008)
i can't actually SAY mary all 3 ways. i haven't nevah even HEARD someone use one of the other pronunciations

and there sure nuff are a lot of different ways to per-nownts thangs

i mean, really, how else would you say - cruh-SAHNT? because if you said it some other way, wouldn't nobody here know whatchu talkin bout

and "poem" is pernounct "pome"
120. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: January 11, 2010 at 05:42 PM (#3434016)
and "poem" is pernounct "pome"

agreed:

"pome"

"ornj"

"JEW-lah-ree"
121.  Posted: January 11, 2010 at 05:42 PM (#3434017)
Correct or not, I think most people would find "fort" confusing in a non-military context.

Or couch-cushion context.
122. PreservedFish Posted: January 11, 2010 at 05:42 PM (#3434018)
I took English in University and read a book outside of my formal studies lamenting the fact that people said "for-tay" incorrectly when they should be saying "fort".

Al Michaels pronounces it "fort." Really.

I think the battle is over for words like this. I know that it's supposed to be "fort," not "for-TAY," but using the former makes you sound like an idiot or, at best, a pedantic ass. So I stick with "for-TAY."
123. Avoid running at all times.-S. Paige Posted: January 11, 2010 at 05:45 PM (#3434023)
I'm confused. Do people say "crescent"?

"JEW-lah-ree"

ALVY
I distinctly heard it. He muttered under
his breath, "Jew."

ROB
You're crazy!

ALVY
No, I'm not. We were walking off the
tennis court, and you know, he was there
and me and his wife, and he looked at her
and then they both looked at me, and under
his breath he said, "Jew."

ROB
Alvy, you're a total paranoid.
124.  Posted: January 11, 2010 at 05:46 PM (#3434024)
I think the battle is over for words like this.

I am enjoying watching the definition of "literally" become "not-literally but still impressive".
125. PreservedFish Posted: January 11, 2010 at 05:50 PM (#3434031)
There was a NYT article about leaving off the last vowel in mozzarella and prosciutto and the like.

Basically, most Italian immigrants to the NY/NJ area were from southern Italy. And in those dialects, the final vowel in mozzarella was pronounced, but only faintly very faintly. When these words were passed onto the younger generation, who did not attain fluency, the faint final vowel was lost, as a kind of detail that a foreign speaker could not perceive or imitate.

So saying "mozz-ah-rell" means you are using a debased and inaccurate form of a dialect that probably already sounded ridiculous to Romans even when it was spoken correctly.
126. An Athletic in Powderhorn™ Posted: January 11, 2010 at 05:50 PM (#3434032)
i mean, really, how else would you say - cruh-SAHNT? because if you said it some other way, wouldn't nobody here know whatchu talkin bout"

The only other way I know would be kwah-son with the o-sound of "on".

I am enjoying watching the definition of "literally" become "not-literally but still impressive".

Gah. I've learned to mentally edit that word out when I hear or read it, since it almost never adds any meaning to a sentence.
127. regfairfield Posted: January 11, 2010 at 05:50 PM (#3434034)
So no one's seeing the irony about getting mad at Chass nitpicking minor errors?
128. Avoid running at all times.-S. Paige Posted: January 11, 2010 at 05:52 PM (#3434043)
So no one's seeing the irony about getting mad at Chass nitpicking minor errors?

It's impressive that it hasn't happened yet, but we're close to the point where a certain Canadian pop singer's popular song is discussed.
129. PreservedFish Posted: January 11, 2010 at 05:58 PM (#3434047)
The best misuse of "literally" I ever heard was a few years ago from a fisherman, who told me that when he was young there were so many fish that he could "literally" walk across the San Francisco bay on the backs of salmon.

This story is wonderful because it combines an absurd abuse of the word with a charmingly senile "uphill both ways" type of recollection. A comment of Grandpa Simpson quality.
130. CrosbyBird Posted: January 11, 2010 at 06:06 PM (#3434059)
I think the battle is over for words like this. I know that it's supposed to be "fort," not "for-TAY," but using the former makes you sound like an idiot or, at best, a pedantic ass. So I stick with "for-TAY."

Same reasoning, different result. I simply have removed the word from my personal usage. I can't bring myself to deliberately pronounce it incorrectly, and I don't want to come off like a snob, so I just typically just say "specialty."

How do different people on this thread pronounce "huge"? I say "yuge" (the H is silent) and a good deal of my friends insist that it must be "hyuge." The dictionary says either are acceptable.

The one I'm trying desperately to get rid of is "melk." You know, the stuff you put on your cereal. I cringe when I hear myself but it's a very hard habit to break, particularly since I don't drink tea or coffee, so I practically never have to use it in conversation. You'll never hear "Long Guy-Land" or "Noo Yawk" from me, but I'm perfectly content to say "ahr-ange," "Flahr-ih-da," and "chawklate" until the day I die.
131. CrosbyBird Posted: January 11, 2010 at 06:07 PM (#3434061)
I am enjoying watching the definition of "literally" become "not-literally but still impressive".

Don't forget "surreal" turning into "not-surreal but still somewhat strange."
132. Jose is El Absurd Pollo Posted: January 11, 2010 at 06:12 PM (#3434067)
I'm told I pronounce "saw" as "sore". I don't hear it that way when I say it but I've been told by multiple people that's what I'm saying.
133. Lassus Posted: January 11, 2010 at 06:14 PM (#3434076)
I'm confused, actually, as I feel like I've NEVER heard "fort" or "for-TAY", but only "FOR-tay".
134. Avoid running at all times.-S. Paige Posted: January 11, 2010 at 06:15 PM (#3434077)
I used to say "aunt" like "aunt", but after being called a snob too many times I changed to "ant".
135. base ball chick Posted: January 11, 2010 at 06:17 PM (#3434080)
melk????? like MELKy cabrera?

and it is chawk-LIT not chawk-LATE

as for "huge" i think that if it is in the middle of a sentence and not emphasized, you don't say the H and you just say "yewdj" but if it is like a one word answer, you would use the H

grinning

then again all yall Up There cain't say AWL (as in hot AWL or puttin fresh AWL in yer caRRRR - NOT cahhh)
136. PreservedFish Posted: January 11, 2010 at 06:19 PM (#3434083)
I'm confused, actually, as I feel like I've NEVER heard "fort" or "for-TAY", but only "FOR-tay".

I think FOR-tay is the way. I think I put the accent on the wrong one. Now I've said it so many times in my brain that I have no idea.
137. CrosbyBird Posted: January 11, 2010 at 06:41 PM (#3434114)
melk????? like MELKy cabrera?

Yup. Told you it makes me cringe.

and it is chawk-LIT not chawk-LATE

You're right. I suck at writing out pronunciations.

<I>then again all yall Up There cain't say AWL (as in hot AWL or puttin fresh AWL in yer caRRRR - NOT cahhh)<I>

I don't know how you folks don't end up poking holes in your cars and keeping an unhappy Mary single.
138. Biff, highly-regarded young guy Posted: January 11, 2010 at 06:44 PM (#3434119)
Mary/merry/marry all sound the same coming out of my mouth.
139. gef the talking mongoose Posted: January 11, 2010 at 07:23 PM (#3434166)
I pronounce Mary & merry (but not marry) the same way. My mother was named Mary; our next-door neighbor when I was a teenager pronounced it MAY-ree, which I guess is more Southern.
140. gef the talking mongoose Posted: January 11, 2010 at 07:26 PM (#3434173)
I simply have removed the word from my personal usage.

Good thing Ike Forte (star running back for the Razorbacks when I was a kid in Arkansas; he later played for the Patriots, Giants & Redskins a bit) didn't go into baseball, I suppose.
141.  Posted: January 11, 2010 at 07:27 PM (#3434176)
This story is wonderful because it combines an absurd abuse of the word with a charmingly senile "uphill both ways" type of recollection. A comment of Grandpa Simpson quality.

Agreed. That is a charming example.

The first time I can remember "literally" mis-used was watching hockey news (early 90s) when the talking head said in the next replay the goalie "literally stood on his head" to make the save. I stopped what I was doing and watched the replay and, although the save was impressive, there were no headstands. I stood confused for about 20 seconds because I didn't consider the annonucer mis-used the word. I foolishly thought it was a one-time event (the silly man meant figuratively not literally) but soon noticed it was a common evolution of the word; which doesn't bother me so much as intrigue me.
142. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: January 11, 2010 at 09:13 PM (#3434448)
I'm told I pronounce "saw" as "sore". I don't hear it that way when I say it but I've been told by multiple people that's what I'm saying.

my thesis advisor (a native New Yorker) pronounced "guard" and "God" the same

(I'll let you decide what the pronunciation WAS--it's hard to spell it out)
143. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: January 11, 2010 at 09:24 PM (#3434466)
when people think they're the first people to make fun of Alanis Morissette's song from 1995. It stopped being original or funny fourteen years ago! Stop it stop it stop it! Arrrrgh!

can we still make fun of Michael Kay?
144. Harmon "Thread Killer" Microbrew Posted: January 11, 2010 at 09:28 PM (#3434475)
Mary/merry/marry all sound the same coming out of my mouth.

100% agree. When I try to use the speaking tips provided upthread ("a" as in . . ) I sound like Marlee Matlin.
145. Harmon "Thread Killer" Microbrew Posted: January 11, 2010 at 09:35 PM (#3434481)
Found sound clips of the Mary / merry / marry pronunciations:

Those of us who have merged the sounds would say it like this.

While those who pronounce them differently say this.
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