Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Penny-wise and £ foolish

© 2016 by Christy K Robinson

Arizona taxpayers will pay $400,000 to reprint and re-mail a ballot because it wasn't edited before it was published.
Ballot screw-up to cost taxpayers $400,000
by E.J. Montini, Arizona Republic columnist
I type for a living, and I have made more mistakes than you could imagine. Or maybe you could, since so many of you generously point out each one to me. Thank you.
Word omissions. Grammar errors. Misspellings. Sometimes an errant clause gets cut and pasted into the wrong spot. It goes on and on.
The landscape traversed by a news columnist is a linguistic minefield and my life a series of explosions.
Still, I don’t believe that any of my errors have cost my employer $400,000.
Apparently, that is what occurred when Maricopa County elections officials printed the same Spanish-language title over the text of Prop 124, which deals with pension reform,  as the title of Prop 123, which deals with educations funding.
The texts of the propositions are correct, but having the same title on both can be confusing.

By the way, these were the same Maricopa County elections officials who tried to save some bucks by reducing the number of polling stations in the March 2016 presidential preference primary from nearly 300 to 60-some, which created five-hour lines to vote at precincts that ran out of ballots and had misclassified voter registrations by the thousands. Lawsuits are pending.

Penny-wise and pound (£) foolish.
Stingy about small expenditures and extravagant with large ones... This phrase alludes to British currency, in which a pound was once worth 240 pennies, or pence, and is now worth 100 pence. The phrase is also occasionally used for being very careful about unimportant matters and careless about important ones. It was used in this way by Joseph Addison in The Spectator (1712): “A woman who will give up herself to a man in marriage where there is the least Room for such an apprehension ... may very properly be accused ... of being penny wise and pound foolish.” [c. 1600 ] http://www.dictionary.com/browse/penny-wise-and-pound-foolish
City, county, and state governments release booklets, brochures, ballots and voter guides, legal notices, and many other documents that need editing. They may be well-written, but a writer is intimately connected with the meaning they're projecting, and will often overlook a spelling or punctuation error because they're blind to it.
A document edited in Track Changes mode

Every writer needs a proofreader and/or editor. But government agencies, especially, need editors. They're quick to jump on the "cut big government" bandwagon, but once they've fired every editor or person with institutional memory, they screw up and have to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to rectify the problem.

For the cost of a contracted editor, or a full-time employee at $70,000 with benefits, government agencies, universities, and corporations could have security from silly mistakes and bureaucratic messes. The editor will more than pay for her own salary, in savings of money, redux, and embarrassment. Now that is a conservative fiscal policy to get behind. Don't wait until you have to face angry constituents--hire an editor now!

Monday, April 25, 2016

Today's lesson, boys and girls: HOMOPHONES

Not this kind of homophone!
 © 2016 Christy K Robinson

Oooh, I said “homo.” Don’t call the American Family Association to make war on me. Homophones are a type of homonym: words that sound alike but have different meanings.

In the comments on an article in The Nation, one commenter implored the author, "Katrina [vanden Heuvel], I besiege you..." 

(Besiege/beseech, whatever.) 

Beseeching money
verb: beseech; 3rd person present: beseeches; past tense: besought; past participle: besought; past tense: beseeched; past participle: beseeched; gerund or present participle: beseeching
  1. ask (someone) urgently and fervently to do something; implore; entreat.
"they beseeched him to stay"
implore, beg, entreat, importune, plead with, appeal to, exhort, call on, supplicate, importune, pray to, ask, request, petition;

verb: besiege; 3rd person present: besieges; past tense: besieged; past participle: besieged; gerund or present participle: besieging
Beseiging the castle
  1. surround (a place) with armed forces in order to capture it or force its surrender; lay siege to.
"the guerrillas continued to besiege other major cities to the north"
lay siege to, beleaguer, blockade, surround;
"the Romans besieged Carthage"
    • crowd around oppressively; surround and harass.
"she spent the whole day besieged by newsmen"
surround, mob, crowd around, swarm around, throng around, encircle More
"fans besieged his hotel"
"guilt besieged him"
    • be inundated by large numbers of requests or complaints.
"the television station was besieged with calls"
overwhelm, inundate, deluge, flood, swamp, snow under;
"he was besieged with requests"