Miners Charged with Murdering Themselves

11 09 2012

A headline from Time magazine’s website, dated Aug 30:

People can’t murder themselves, of course; constraints on reflexives require that themselves refer to the same miners mentioned earlier in the clause, not just other members of the same group of miners.  Of course, the use of murder instead of kill makes the intended meaning obvious; murder is a legal term specifying the killing of another; cf. the similar contrast of assault, which can’t be perpetrated on oneself, vs. attack, hurt, injure, sacrifice, etc., which can.  Had the writer used kill, readers would assume, incorrectly, that they were reading about a mass suicide.

As for alternate phrasing, murdering each other wouldn’t work, since it requires that each murder victim also be a murderer, something only possible in the world of Quentin Tarantino.  Strangely, the subhead suggests a simple solution: substitute colleagues for themselves.

The New York Times (from Aug 31) took a better approach, with (IMHO) the repetition of miners after police shooting of miners highlighting the tragic absurdity of the situation:


Irregardless of a strike, let’s teach the kids site words

11 09 2012

This web site, describing contingency activities for Chicago schoolchildren during the teachers’ strike, is no doubt experiencing a spike in traffic in the last several days.  But here’s what it looked like around 8:30pm on August 30, just before the start of the school year:

While irregardless is unjustly reviled (the ir– likely arising from a blend of irrespective and regardless, rather than from “true” affixation), it is almost never seen in writing, and given its nonstandard status, school district officals who want to project confidence in their abilities are probably better off avoiding it, particularly if they’re about to strike.

Not surprisingly, this was quickly corrected — when I checked back a few days later, I saw regardless.

Update: Today I checked the page again — neither irregardless or regardless appears, but there’s metalinguistic amusement aplenty in this statement that the page will be updated regularly, yet clearly hasn’t been since last Friday, when school was in session (capture from today, Sept 11, at 1:20pm):

Schools in suburban districts remain in session, but their difficulties with language and Web use may be even worse.  Earlier this summer, I saw this in a Skokie Park District brochure:

Yow.  The online registration page uses sight words but calls the class Kindergarten Kick Of instead of Off, though that could be mere truncation.   Of course, this error probably reflects a mere frequency effect reflecting the rise of site in the past two decades; here’s a Google N-gram of the two words:

Still, it looks baaaad….