Native Writes: Writing the talk


The English language is complicated and it certainly has its quirks.

For example, a recent newscast called a man who shot up a meeting of department heads a “disgruntled employee.”

Is a happy employee gruntled? It sounds kind of gross to me.

He was a “former veteran.” In my opinion, anyone who has served his or her country is and will always be a veteran.

That isn’t a misuse of language; it’s a weakness of thought.

I once asked my old editor to clean up his language when someone was at my desk. If Doc Kirby was anything, he was master of the language, including its profane elements.

“Be couth, Doc,” I suggested.

“There’s no such word,” he replied.

“Not possible. You have been uncouth, so how can you be ‘un’ something that doesn’t exist?”

He headed for the big dictionary we had on a wooden stand in the corner of the newsroom, shook his head and went back to his desk where he began pounding on his old Royal typewriter.

Doc didn’t accept electric typewriters and begrudgingly used his MacIntosh for about a month before retirement.

He declared he could debunk the need for computers. Again, he was asked, “If it’s true, then it’s bunked?”

“Guess so. When I was out on maneuvers, I was out of the bunk... Guess I was debunked.”

“When you returned, you were rebunked?”

The old dictionary didn’t settle it.

This language has three words that sound the same, but are spelled differently. There, they’re, their... Someone who can’t read could be confused.

“They’re there for their things.”

You have seen the scene.

I would have, but I was chopping wood.

If one forms a plural with an apostrophe, it shows ownership.

Your’s? Our’s? It’s?

It’s a legitimate use, a contraction for “it is.”

Yours belongs to you and ours shows joint ownership. For how long? It was ours for hours.

The big dictionary is long gone. Today, we Google it or use another search engine to find the words or words.

Disputing this? If you agree, are you puting or are you removing the puting? Doc would be so proud.

Responsible? Once sponsible and doing it again? Response? Repeating the original sponse?

“There are reasons for all that,” Doc would say. “But why use a $5 word when a 50 cent word is just as good?”

Editing back then was done with a number two pencil and we double spaced so he could make necessary corrections. He would hand the copy back to the writer and order it retyped to show the corrections.

He received a box of blue pencils as a gift and wouldn’t use them. Normally, blue wouldn’t show up on a final draft and possibly on a photo that was waxed onto a page.

A budding journalist learned it wasn’t necessarily true when he wrote a bad word on a photo and it showed up in the final publication.

I don’t think Doc liked the way editing was done by computer. Blue penciling was too advanced, what about blue highlighting?

“We’re wordsmiths... Why not make clean copy so I don’t have to mark it up?”

I was gruntled to work with him.

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