or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Monday, March 13, 2006


What we have is here is not such much bad English as bad journalism. Well, bad journalism is bad English, isn't it? They often go hand in hand, it seems. Whatever this is, it's very bad.

A dogged six-month search had a happy ending as a Calgary woman was reunited with her missing pooch.

Lori Pichurski of Erin Woods had just left for Spain last September as a coach for the Canadian agility dog team at the world championships when she got the news her 14-kg blonde Mudi, Swerve, had escaped her dogsitter by leaping a fence. "We feel he left the dogsitter's to try and find out where I was," Pichurski said.

Friends tried to find Swerve, but to no avail. Upon returning, Pichurski consulted five "dog communicators" who did intuitive readings to track down the prodigal pooch.

One gleaned Swerve was alive and being fed by an elderly couple. The prediction was true.

The couple was Glenn and Pat Haase, who live near the Calgary Zoo. They saw the dog in December and began leaving out food.

Last week, Glenn spotted a poster for the missing Swerve and contacted Pichurski. The next day, Pichurski found her missing dog.

Swerve was in good shape and Pichurski credits the Haases with helping her dog survive.

This story appeared in our local birdcage liner, the Moncton Times and Transcript, as a wire story under the headline "Canine psychic helps find lost dog", which will provide the gullible and the stupid with further confirmation that there are people who can mystically communicate with their mutts. (I can tell you what your dog is thinking, too: it's thinking, "Give me some hamburger.")

We shouldn't expect much from a journalist, or an editor, who uses the dreadful pun "dogged" in the lead, I suppose. And "glean" is a bad word to use in this context--it means in its metaphorical sense "to gather [information] incrementally". (It looks like the writer used a thesaurus.) "Guessed", of course, would have been the most appropriate word, but even the neutral journalistic "said" would have been better than "gleaned".

And if, as the next sentence says, "the prediction was true", what about all the other predictions made by the same person? Were they also true? Were there specifics--an address, for example? (Evidently not, since the would-be psychic didn't find the dog; the couple who'd taken the dog in saw a missing-pet poster.) And what about the other four soi-disant animal communicators? Did none of them make the obvious guess that 1) the customer wanted to hear her dog was alive and 2) the dog might well have been taken in by another person? And why didn't they all come to the same conclusion?

Bad journalism! No snack for you!


Blogger Frank said...

Should "six-month" have a hyphen in it? I guess it's an adjective, but it still doesn't look right.

Monday, March 13, 2006 10:23:00 PM  
Blogger pyramus said...

In this case, "six-month" does in fact have to have the hyphen, since, as you note, it's a compound adjective describing the noun "search".

Frankly, it's a miracle that they got that right, because the story originally appeared in the Calgary Sun, and the Sun chain of newspapers in Canada is not known for its journalistic excellence or adherence to the highest standards of English.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006 4:57:00 AM  

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