Saturday, January 23, 2010

If you're interested in English...

I have one visitor to my blog who teaches English and I have a few others who are newspaper editors. Oh, they're retired editors but once an editor always an editor. I have learned from one and fixed some embarrassing errors thanks to a couple of others. (When talking about a company I have learned do not say 'they' when referring to the company; You must say 'it'.)

I found a copy of CP Copy Talk while cleaning my basement this afternoon. It's an old copy but an entertaining read nevertheless. Finding it got me to wondering, is CP Copy Talk still in production? And the answer, amazingly enough, is yes!

CP, Canadian Press, is in trouble. The all-important member papers are leaving. CanWest left over a year ago, I believe. You know the CanWest newspaper chain. It made news itself recently when it came out of the closet to reveal that it was bankrupt, and this time it's money they're lacking and not ideas.

Quebecor, CanWest's competitor, is taking all the SunMedia and Osprey papers out of CP sometime this year. That explains the QMI credits running in these papers. QMI stands for Quebecor Media Inc.

It's a shame to see the once strong Canadian news service rendered almost impotent. But that is a post for another day. But all cannot be lost if CP Copy Talk is still going. Something is right with the world.

There was a time when newsrooms were filled with folk discussing word usage. I can recall going for a beer after work and sitting quietly listening and drinking (and drinking, and drinking) as a couple of editors and a reporter engaged in a heated exchange over the use of a word or phrase in the day's paper.

The people who work at papers still care but their bosses don 't.

From the Dec. 2009 Copy Talk

Eagle-eyed reader Michael Boulet caught a mistake in a Canadian Press story that used the word barter to describe negotiations by travellers who had to pay their own hotel bills when their travel company went bust. Barter "does not mean negotiate, it means to trade goods or services for other goods or services. Therefore, unless the Canadian tourists abandoned by Conquest Vacations in Mexico were attempting to pay for their stay at the Golden Parnassus with goats or back rubs, they were not in fact 'trying to barter down the charges.' "

I didn't believe it, nor did my wife, but I checked and the Canadian Oxford Dictionary agrees that this is correct and this fact is not open to barter.

Would you believe that it is not accurate to refer to the Yukon Territory? Joanna Lilley, senior communications adviser for the Yukon government, pointed out that the territory's official name has been, simply, Yukon since 2003.

From the February 1997 Copy Talk I found in my basement.

A CP editor Ross Hopkins spotted the word parametres in a story. It is parameter, derived from the Latin; not to be confused with metre, derived from French. Hence the spelling difference.

And then I came across this in the October 2008 Copy Talk: Canadian spelling takes a blow. It seems that Oxford University Press announced it was laying off the entire staff of the Canadian Oxford Dictionary. Future editions will be published with the assistance of freelancers and the lexicography department in Oxford, England.

Our one truly Canadian dictionary is done. It is back to reprints of U.K. or American books, with a few changes added for a Canadian audience.

If you've gotten this far, please go on. You can explore the Copy Talk PDFs without me. I'm going to go and crack open a Brick beer in memory of retired editors, bought out reporters and laid off Canadian lexicographers.


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