or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Monday, June 04, 2007


Dear Salon:

Oh, why do you treat me so badly? I champion you. I give you my money when subscribers are, apparently, deserting you in droves. I read you every day and post (I hope) insightful comments to your more interesting or controversial articles. And this is how you treat me?

A picture's worth a thousand controversies -- especially if it's a photograph of Dick and Lynn Cheney with their new grandson, Samuel David Cheney. According to the Bay Area Reporter, this official White House photo was identical in treatment to those commemorating the birth of the Cheneys' other two grandchildren, but that hasn't immunized it against symbolitus.

"Symbolitus"? How could you do this, Salon?

There is a small handful of words in English that end in "-itus", but that in itself isn't a suffix. Words such as "vomitus", "tinnitus", and "coitus" have taken a suffix, it's true, but that suffix is "-tus", and the words come to us directly from Latin.

If instead we want to denote a symptom, a condition, an abnormal tendency, or (very slangily) an uncontrollable urge, then we use the suffix "-itis", which is in fact a full-blown suffix (it's from Latin by way of Greek and refers to an inflammation) that we may attach to almost any word we like: medical terms such as "gastritis" or "phlebitis" are of course commonplace and literal, and we can make joking figurative compounds such as "movieitis" or "chocolatitis", which you will find already exist if you Google them.

That's "-itis", Salon. Not "-itus". They aren't even pronounced the same: "-itis" is pronounced all by itself, two syllables, "EYE-tuss", whereas words ending in "-itus" are blended into the rest of the word with no stress on the syllables themselves: "TINN-it-uss", "CO-it-uss", "VOM-it-uss".

Please pay attention to this sort of thing in the future. You know what would be swell? If you could find a couple of affordable copy editors.

Yr humble servant,



Post a Comment

<< Home