Thursday, June 10, 2010

Pitiful

The New Republic is currently running a stupid and inane series called "Dispatches from the Blago Trial" by Margo Howard. In the third installment, Howard makes fun of Mike Ettinger, the attorney for Robert Blagojevich, Rod's brother:
Robert gained top military clearance because he was involved with Persian missiles and in charge of three "nucular" warheads (this pronunciation no doubt a tip of the hat to George W. Bush, this Blagojevich being a Republican).
Howard impresses here with witty commentary about "nucular." But what about those Persian missiles? What involvement did this U.S. military guy have with Iranian weaponry? Why didn't a journalist like Howard find this odd? Why didn't her editors at The New Republic?

Here's my guess about what happened. In Chicago, 39th Street is also (and primarily) known as Pershing Road. The Chicago pronunciation of the street's name is "Perzhing." Whether that's the pronunciation of Gen. "Black Jack" Pershing's name, or of Pershing missiles, I don't know. But my guess is that Ettinger applied the Chicago pronunciation of the street name to the missiles, and Howard didn't notice. Maybe she didn't know about Pershing Road or its pronunciation, maybe she didn't know about Pershing missiles. Whatever.

The point for readers of this editorial blog is that if we see something that seems very odd, such as a U.S. military person who works with Persian missiles, we need to query it. Another lesson, for all of us, is that if you're going to make fun of someone's pronunciations, you should try to look nonignorant when you're doing it. The best bet might be to not make fun of other people's pronunciations.

9 comments:

jrauch said...

Thanks for commenting and clarifying. Who is this Margo Howard woman? What rock did she crawl from? In her first post, she dropped names ("Judge Jim Zagel") and claimed to be a Chicago expert, then crowed that she left town in 1977. What an idiot. Her writing embarrasses herself and TNR. Unfortunately, now I find I'm reading her pap for the same reason I read Martin Peretz' blogs there--the sheer horror of the experience, and to marvel that a writer can be so truly awful.

Margo Howard said...

"Pitiful" here. I don't often respond to wild-eyed, flailing insults, but I see so few that I thought I would like to post a reply ... just in case anyone's reading this. To the blog's proprietor I would say two things: Ettinger did in fact say "Persian," and more than once; and it wasn't the Chicago accent getting in the way. The man you are sticking up for also referred to "the University of Vanderbilt." Also, without putting too fine a point on it, the proprietor's job is editing manuscripts for university presses. Perhaps such a job for someone who would really like to be a published writer is behind his hostility. Just a guess. As for jrauch, perhaps another wannabe, he might wish to consider that my newspaper syndicate and some top publications do not share his view of my "idiocy" (oh, my) or that I reside under a rock. Get it together, guys. For some well wrought insults, see G. Bernard Shaw.

Michael Koplow said...

Dear Ms. Howard,

As you note, not many people read this blog. Not even me, at least not regularly. I apologize for taking so long to reply.

There were no "wild-eyed, flailing insults" in this blog post. But I did do some name calling (clown, idiot) in my comments on The New Republic's site, and I apologize. I want to think such things are unworthy of me, but I'd probably be fooling myself if I thought that.

I clearly referred to your dispatches, not to you yourself, as "stupid and inane." The title of the post was "Pitiful," and again this referred to the articles. This may have been ambiguous, and I apologize.

You write, "Ettinger did in fact say 'Persian,' and more than once; and it wasn't the Chicago accent getting in the way." The more trivial point first: pronouncing the "Pershing" in "Persian Road" as "Perzhing" isn't a matter of having a Chicago accent; it is the correct pronunciation. The more important question is what your point is when you say he said "Persian" more than once. Does his repeating it means it's correct? Let's take another look at what you wrote in your column: "Robert gained top military clearance because he was involved with Persian missiles and in charge of three 'nucular' warheads (this pronunciation no doubt a tip of the hat to George W. Bush, this Blagojevich being a Republican)." "Nucular" is in quotation marks, and "Persian" is not; you make fun of "nucular" and not of "Persian." It looks to me like you saw nothing wrong with "Persian." If you saw something wrong with it, your writing was very misleading. If you saw nothing wrong with "Persian," why not? Why did it not strike you as downright bizarre that Ettinger was saying Robert was a U.S. military man with access to Iranian missiles? This is a serious question.

You seem to admit in your comment that "Persian" was incorrect, because the next thing you write is "The man you are sticking up for also referred to 'the University of Vanderbilt.'" The "also" suggests to me that you thing "Persian" was wrong (which doesn't explain why you seemed to find nothing wrong with it in your article). But really! "The man you are sticking up for"? Frankly, this sounds hysterical. I know nothing about Ettinger and have no opinion about him. And I was sticking up for him? A break, please. Let's review what I wrote in the post: "Here's my guess about what happened. In Chicago, 39th Street is also (and primarily) known as Pershing Road. The Chicago pronunciation of the street's name is 'Perzhing.' Whether that's the pronunciation of Gen. 'Black Jack' Pershing's name, or of Pershing missiles, I don't know. But my guess is that Ettinger applied the Chicago pronunciation of the street name to the missiles, and Howard didn't notice." Let's repeat part of this, in case you missed it: "Whether that's the pronunciation of Gen. 'Black Jack' Pershing's name, or of Pershing missiles, I don't know. But my guess is that Ettinger applied the Chicago pronunciation of the street name to the missiles." Did you get that? I don't know whether the pronunciation of the street's name is correct for the missiles--in other words, I don't know whether Ettinger's pronunciation was correct.

You write, "Also, without putting too fine a point on it, the proprietor's job is editing manuscripts for university presses. Perhaps such a job for someone who would really like to be a published writer is behind his hostility. Just a guess." Your guess is incorrect. As anyone who reads this blog--not a lot of people--knows, I can't write. My job is to read carefully. I can't do your job, and you can't do mine.

Michael Koplow said...

Ms. Howard,

My last comment was written in haste and annoyance. If I were to do it all over, I would change the final clause to "and you probably can't do mine."

mr. belvedere said...

if i remember correctly, ms. howard once wrote an advice column for the TRIB and is, in point of fact, ann landers's daughter ... so watch whose hypersensitive tootsies you step on, buster!

Michael Koplow said...

Mr. Belvidere, thank you for writing. You're correct on both counts--she did write an advice column for the Trib, and her mother was Ann Landers. But who cares? My criticisms would have been the same if she were from one of the hoods (in which case she might have known about Pershing Rd., which may not have been in her childhood stomping grounds) or if I'd had no clue about her background.

mr. belvedere said...

returning once again to this comment board after a few neglectful days away, i see that our host--whose captiousness over even minor infelicities of language is, well, legendary--has quite unprofessionally, not to say fecklessly, MISSPELLED MY NAME!!!

perhaps it's only a test, to see if mr. belvedere would notice (a convenient excuse; i offer it as a gift), but considering he--meaning moi-meme--had checked MULTIPLE reference sources just to be sure his (occasional) nom de guerre was appropriately styled, he--which is to say i--was utterly SHOCKED at the (apparently--yet another gift ...) HEEDLESS display of editorial inattention

ergo: apology or duel, sir--say, quill pens at 50 paces?

Michael Koplow said...

Mr. Belvedere.

I have no defense. I can only say "oops" and "sorry." Not to mention "Thank you for the correction."

You say "i see that our host--whose captiousness over even minor infelicities of language is, well, legendary." Mr. B., if you think my attention--my captiosity, as it were--to minor infelicities is legendary, you've been listening to the wrong legends. I'm interested in illogic and bogosity, not typos. And I've called myself out on my own errors. Which I'm about to do again.

Let's look at my comment on Margo Howard's comment. "Does his repeating it means [sic! sic!] it's correct." "The 'also' suggests to me that you thing [sic! sic! sic!] 'Persian' was wrong."

But serially, ladies and germs, I don't think of this as one of those "Na na na na na, I found a typo" blogs. There are lots of those.

Thank you again for writing, Mr. B.

Michael Koplow said...

Jeepolas. And in my last comment, where I was commenting on incorrectnesses in a previous comment of mine, that period after "correct" should have been a question mark.