or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Friday, November 10, 2006

Accidental Death

I have a very simple rule about typos, grammatical errors, and the like: the more time there is between conception and publication of a piece of writing, and the more hands that touch that piece of writing, the less excuse there is for mistakes to creep in. A letter to your mom, or a Usenet posting? Mistakes will be made, and they don't matter. A website? You've got time to make corrections (and they're transparent--the new publication replaces the old, erasing the mistake forever). A magazine or a book? No excuse at all, really, and a mistake that's published stays published forever.

Here's a joke, and its explanation, from Entertainment Weekly:

"It says, 'Ingredients: Cancer'!"
Andy Dick, reading a food-coloring bottle after dying his tongue black, on

Okay. There are two kinds of verbs in English, transitive and intransitive. A transitive verb has both a subject and an object: "I reset the VCR." An intransitive verb has only a subject: "I fell." (Some verbs can be either, depending on the context: "I hurled the ball" versus "I hurled".) "To die" is only ever an intransitive verb: you can't die something. "To dye" is rarely ever anything but a transitive verb: something can't dye itself, but needs someone or something to dye it. The progressive form of "to die" is "dying": the progressive form of "to dye" is "dyeing". A spellchecker won't catch this: the writer and/or editor has to know what's what.

All of this is a roundabout way of saying that Entertainment Weekly is wrong.


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