Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Pedantry of the day

This is the most gratuitous misuse of the word 'litany' I've yet seen:

A litany of errors by 111 ambulance dispatchers contributed to a Wellington man's death


Seriously, do you have to be illiterate to get a job in journalism now, or what? The word is 'series,' imbecile - a litany is a call/response prayer used in church.

It's tempting to blame Justice Mahon for this, because he coined the phrase "orchestrated litany of lies" during his Mt Erebus inquiry, to describe the memorised series of lies Air NZ staff repeated in response to his questions. That would be unfair, though - his use of 'litany' to describe it was a fitting metaphor. Sadly, illiterate NZ journos, not having the faintest idea what a litany is, assume he was using a fancy, intellectual-sounding word for 'list,' and figure they'll seem intelligent if they use it that way. Opposite effect, guys - makes you seem really stupid.

5 comments:

Adolf Fiinkensein said...

That's because most of them are.

Have you noticed the crop of 'referendums' in this morning's papers?

Andrei said...

There were one hundred and eleven errors according to the headline
111 errors blamed for biker's death

Naturally the assumption is that this fellow would have lived if the ambulance had got there earlier, which goes along with the assumption that nobody should ever die and if they do it is usually somebody else's fault.

Sus said...

There's nothing incorrect about 'referendums'. It's an alternative to referenda.

Literacy standards have indeed fallen right across the spectrum. I can't believe the business correspondence we receive; full of spelling mistakes -- and as for grammar, forget it.

Didn't that 'whole word' theory introduced in the late 70's work a treat?

Anonymous said...

95%+ of my spelling erros are keyboard related

WAKE UP said...

Damn right Sus, it never worked, and to this day they won't admit it. Nor will they admit that the "remedial reading" techniques they have to use actually closely resemble the methods used in the days when the subject was taught properly. Oh the irony.