While more benighted climes swelter through the dog days, we here in the Bay Area are keeping warm by cozying up to all the hot takes. Let’s dig in to all the worst takes we’ve seen in the past week:
David Brooks does not have friends
Let’s just be clear on this: While humanity may be plagued by numerous ills — greed, anger, a tendency to choose unbecoming haircuts — the basic human instinct for survival precludes the possibility that anyone would willingly be in a platonic non-contractual relationship with New York Times columnist David Brooks. And yet we read:
Recently I took a friend with only a high school degree to lunch. Insensitively, I led her into a gourmet sandwich shop. Suddenly I saw her face freeze up as she was confronted with sandwiches named “Padrino” and “Pomodoro” and ingredients like soppressata, capicollo and a striata baguette. I quickly asked her if she wanted to go somewhere else and she anxiously nodded yes and we ate Mexican.
Better and more generous commentators than I have dissected the content of the column, but I’d like to focus on the writing, which is terrible.
We have three loose sentences followed by a compound monstrosity, chock-a-block with adverbs (six of them, all -ly constructions). The subject of each initial clause is “I,” which is unwittingly appropriate in a piece about the solipsism of elites. The first three sentences all begin with adverbs; the last has an adverb as the second word. The paragraph is saved from crushing repetitiveness only by recklessly eschewing the commas after “recently” and “suddenly.” A mess. That the paper recently repurposed its copy editors, declaring them unnecessary, elevates it to dramatic irony.
Matty is a wonk, pass it on
Big news, folks: The term “single payer” is a wonk term. All this time, we’ve been wonks and haven’t even known it.
Oh Matty. I honestly have no idea where he gets this distinction — that “single-payer” is wonky while “Medicare-for-all” is tendentious. I think he just makes stuff up so that he can throw the word wonk around.
The rest of the article is inoffensive, but Matty just can’t stop himself from sounding like an all-suffering schoolmarm explaining cursive to a particularly dim 8 year old.
Thanks for explaining it all, Matty!
The New Yorker’s anachronistic style guidelines are finally catching up to it
The New Yorker’s approach to punctuation and grammar may best be described as “In case the guy on the masthead with the top hat and monocle is too subtle.” The guidelines require an umlaut over the second vowel in words like cooperation, and they insist on spelling out large numbers (from an article last year: “it had reviewed three thousand six hundred and eighty-seven books, from a hundred different countries, originally published in sixty-eight different languages — an average of two hundred and thirty books a year”). The magazine’s style does exactly the opposite of what writing style should do: It draws attention to itself and away from the content.
It also leads it to some ridiculous places. This week, with Don Trump Jr. in the headlines, the New Yorker had some explaining to do:
The guidelines require not only the period after Jr. (a common enough tic, although the Brits and some more enlightened U.S. publishers delete it without sinking into full philistinism). They also require commas before and after Jr., a stupid and archaic convention that every other major media organization has abolished. Add in the possessive S and you get four pieces of punctuation for three letters. Perhaps this brouhaha will persuade the magazine to bring its style conventions up to standards that are slightly less antiquated than the prevailing moral code of Pat Robertson.
Frank Bruni gave someone anonymity for this
Back when the New York Times had some sense of accountability, we would get regular reminders from the public editor to limit the use of anonymous sources to cases where lives or freedom may be in danger.
Last Sunday, Frank Bruni granted anonymity to a “prominent Jewish Republican” in order to answer what has to be the stupidest question ever posed in the Sunday Review section of the Times:
Why indeed, Frank?
The answer — Trump doesn’t hate the Jews, but rather, doesn’t have the social grace or moral capacity to care about the propriety of his actions and failures to act — is neither new nor insightful.
So, in sum, Bruni granted anonymity to a person whose gravest danger was probably some social awkwardness, in order to elicit a banal thought that he (Bruni) somehow stretches out to a full two columns. If Bruni believes that to be the answer, then he should just write that column. Why is he hiding behind an anonymous source for what is an achingly dull observation?
The editors of Merriam Webster belong to wildly different social spheres than I
“Bosky,” adjective, having abundant trees, is a fun word. It is not, contrary to the claims of Merriam Webster, a widely popular word:
Since its formation, bosky has been firmly rooted in our language, and its widespread popularity seems to have resurrected its parental form.
Here is how it ranks against Cthulhu, HP Lovecraft’s monster that “lies in a death-like slumber”:
Cthulhu wins. As it usually does.
Kevin Drum needs to stop
and you need to read Pail Blest on why.
This piece was originally published on Medium.