or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Monday, May 26, 2008


I decided not to resubscribe to Salon Premium, even though I've been paying them (to be able to read it without seeing any ads) since I think 2000. They keep e-mailing me to warn me that my membership is about to expire, and at the end of each e-mail is this plaintive request:

P.S. If you don't plan to renew your membership, please let us know why: premiumfeedback@salon.com

I don't have the heart to tell them that their apparent lack of any kind of editorial oversight has finally driven me away. Sure, they've provided me with lots of blogfodder over the last few years, but it's time to cut the cord.

Slate isn't much better, but at least they don't ask me to pay for the privilege of reading their typos. Just look at this, from the "Also in Slate" sidebar today:

My first thought was, "Xenophonia? I don't think so!" This was followed closely by, "Well, come to think of it, 'xenophonia' is a plausible English word. I wonder if they meant it?"

They didn't. I went to the page in question, and "xenophobia" appears 7 times, "xenophonia" not once.

As usual, I can see how this happened: "b" and "n" are side by side on the keyboard, and if there isn't a second pair of eyes to review everything, which clearly there isn't, then such mistakes can slip in. I doubt that "xenophonia" is in the computer's dictionary (it isn't in my Mac's), which indicates that nobody at Slate even bothered to use a spellchecker, but they might have. Still, it's a mistake, something which doesn't have any place in a professionally run news website, not even something so trivial as a sidebar. If they don't care that what appears there is correct, how do I know they have any more interest in the correctness of anything really important, such as the facts they publish?

"Xeno-" is Greek, of course, and means "strange" or "stranger". "Xenophobia" is the unreasoning fear of strangers, or of anyone or anything unfamiliar to you. The much less common word "xenophonia" is, as you can probably winkle out, from the Greek for "strange sound" or "strange voice"; it's a medical term meaning not that you hear voices in your head, but that your voice has taken on a strange quality or accent that wasn't there before.


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