or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Tuesday, October 24, 2006


Reader Tony Pius, in a comment to yesterday's post:

Another for Salon.com's "need for an editor" file, from Broadsheet ("The politics of veiling"):

That surprising experience is why I'm receptive, though limitedly, to Yvonne Ridley's Washington Post Op-Ed about her complete 360 on the veil.

360 degrees make a circle, folks. If you do a 360, you're still going in the same direction afterward.

I have a mathematical background. This may therefore loom larger on my peeve radar than on yours.

P.S. "Limitedly"?

Well, you sank my battleship. I noticed it early this morning and was extremely annoyed by it, and was going to write about it, and here you've gone and done it for me, so that worked out well. (The piece is here, for anyone else who wants to read it.)

I am peeved as much as you are by "complete 360": it's one of those expressions that with even a moment's analysis makes no sense, for exactly the reason you state: a 180 is what's meant. (A couple of people, I note, made the same remark in the comments section for that article.)

However. As I've said before, English is not algebra, and not everything has to make perfect sense. I don't like the 360 any more than you do, but we ought to acknowledge that it's in common usage and that when someone says it, everyone understands what's meant by it. It still grates on the nerves, but at this point I'd be hard pressed to call it wrong. (Wrong in a geometrical sense, yes, but not from an English-usage point of view.) You're right, though: the mythical Salon copy editor should have caught and corrected it--it's forgivable in speech and casual writing, but in published writing it should be banished.

"Limitedly" is a hideous word, but nevertheless a valid one: it's in the dictionaries and everything. Even the OED makes passing mention of it under "limited", but don't ever expect to find me using it.


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