ED’S DESK: News Corp Columnist Lectures Others On ‘English’. Wat Coold Posibly Go Rong?



If you live in a glass house, it’s never a good idea to throw stones. Equally, if you’re a News Corp columnist planning to use sarcasm to lecture other people about ‘The Queen’s English’… well, you’ll do yourself less injury living in a glass house… and throwing stones. Over to Ed’s Desk to explain the Courier-Mail’s latest self-inflicted injury….

ED’S DESK is an occasional column where we give readers an inside look at the sub-editing process involved in news-making. Or at least, we give you an inside look at what should have been the sub-editing process to correct a steaming pile of sh*t story that should never have been published, but somehow was.

[HEADLINE] Mike O’Connor: English a casualty as gibberish takes over

[BYLINE] By Mike O’Connor | Courier Mail

[INTRO] It’s been a tough few weeks for the English language as it has -repeatedly failed to do what it is designed to do, which is to ­facilitate communication between one party and another.
[ED’S DESK] Umm, Morning Mike, Ed here. Sorry, I know we’re not even past the intro yet, but are you sure you want to take pot shots at people for their use of the English language? You work for News Corp Mike. I really think you should re-think this one buddy.

[LEDE PAR] It let Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk down pre-Olympics when she used it to repeatedly claim that there was no way she would be ­attending the opening ceremony. She had obviously meant to say that she would not be attending it unless she ­-allowed Australian Olympics boss John Coates to coerce her into doing soin front of several million people.
[ED’S DESK] Alrighty then… we’re doing this. Firstly Mike, your English has let you down in the opening two pars. ‘soin’ is not a word. It’s two words – ‘so’ and ‘in’. In the English language, we use a space in between them. There’s a long skinny thing at the bottom of your keyboard called a ‘spacebar’. It will assist. Secondly, your use of a hyphen (or a dash?) in ‘repeatedly’ and then ‘-allowed’ doesn’t make any sense. That’s not how we use hyphens, Mike. Please correct.

It also singularly failed to ­-adequately communicate what chief health officer Jeannette Young meant when she said that there would absolutely be no football games played in southeast Queensland during the current lockdown.
Okay, there’s that weird hyphen thing again. Please refer to our style manual for their use, Mike.

“There will be no football,” she said when what she really meant to say was that there would be no football unless the head of the NRL called the Premier and pointed out how much money was involved with sponsors and broadcast rights. Those people left wondering why it is acceptable for 26 men to wrestle each other for 80 minutes on a ­-football field while a gathering of 11 people with each standing 1.5m apart and silently mourning the passing of a loved one at a funeral is banned should blame the English language for not adequately conveying the understanding that when the CHO says something will not happen, she means it depends on how much money is involved.
Okay there big fella, whooooo up and take a breath. We don’t do sentences with 77 words in them. We don’t even do paragraphs with that many words in them. It’s the Courier Mail, Mike. Please break the paragraph up. Also, not everyone is ‘silent’ at a funeral, Mike. You might be, but that’s because you’re uptight and conservative. Most of the population isn’t. We wail like banshees. Consider changing please. And Mike… ‘-football’ does not need a fucking hyphen.

Similar problems confronted Health Minister Yvette D’Ath when she announced that seven new hospitals would be built. Once again the English language failed to convey that what the minister meant was that they wouldn’t really be hospitals, mainly because they would not contain those features that one would normally associate with hospitals such as emergency departments, beds and operating theatres.
They would, in fact, be health centres, but would most assuredly feature chairs. It’s the fault of the -­language, plainly, to adequately convey what the Minister meant to say.

Sigh. Of all the words you could fuck up with a hyphen, you chose the word ‘-language’. This is getting silly, Mike.

Deputy Police Commissioner Steve Gollschewski, a permanent prop at all Covid-related media ­-conferences, which generally have nothing to do with the police service, was let down by the language over the weekend when adopting his Very Serious Policeman’s expression, he warned Queenslanders that anyone leaving their homes should carry identification.
Okay. I’m a sub-editor Mike, not your personal assistant. ‘-conferences’ doesn’t need a fucking hyphen anymore than -language, -football, -allowed, -facilitate, or -repeatedly did. Clean your shit up man. On the upside, you DID get the hyphen right in ‘Covid-related’, but on the downside, ‘Covid’ is a fucking acronym, not a word, so it’s spelt in all caps, like this: ‘COVID-19’. Also, the sentence is too long. Would a full stop kill you, Mike? We don’t give out pay rises for verbosity at News Corp. We give out pay rises for mendacity, deceit and kissing arse. And more broadly, maybe you want to rethink the whole point of the paragraph? The story I subbed before yours is literally a breakdown of ‘who got charged with what criminal offence’ for breaching public health orders. The one before that was about police enforcing border zones. So, you know… suggesting police have nothing to do with ‘Covid-related media -conferences’ (sic) makes you look like a fucking hippie. Please revise.

Surely what he meant to say was that there is no legal requirement for any Queenslander to carry personal identification before they can venture on to the street because we don’t live in a totalitarian police state. If, however, people would oblige the police service by doing so, that would be appreciated, but there was absolutely no obligation to do so.
If you want to get people on side, one way of ensuring that you fail in this endeavour is to use language ­-designed to intimidate them.

Alright, I’m ignoring the hyphen thing from this point forward, and you can just look like a ‘-goose’ in a column about bad English. We have bigger fish to fry, specifically I’m concerned, Mike, that you’ve relied on our own reporting for your claims against Gollschewski. I checked the actual press conference and he simply URGES people to carry ID with them (so that officers can easily police the 10km radius restriction). As you’re no doubt aware Mike, News Corp policy is to publish sycophantic rants in support of police. The only time we attack them is when we need to remind them we’re more powerful than they are, and only then when we have authorisation from the relevant police union. We also need to at least make it look like they did something wrong. Please delete… and then spend this evening re-listening to the 15-hour podcast series ‘What Rupert Wants You To Say’ that you received when you signed your contract.

The language also failed the ­-Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation when it warned people under the age of 40 against getting the AstraZeneca vaccine. What ATAGI meant to say was that if there’s an outbreak then everyone should access whatever is available as quickly as possible. Now that this has occurred, it is modifying its language accordingly, having previously frightened people into avoiding AZ.
Professor Kristine Macartney, a member of ATAGI, is now urging anyone in Sydney to “strongly consider” getting the AstraZeneca vaccine. The language, not incompetence, surely is to blame.

Okay, I can’t take this anymore. So, there’s a few reasons why we would use hyphens in a story, Mike. And you don’t appear to know any of them. Where you write ‘-Australian’ above, that would be correct if, for example, the group were called the ‘Pre-Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation. But they’re not called that, not least of it all because it wouldn’t make any sense, but also probably because they’d end up with an acronym (remember those Mike?) that spelt ‘PATAGI’, which sounds like a Pokemon character. Maybe you’re actually confusing a hyphen with a dash – which is actually called an ‘em dash’ – but that’s only used where you might otherwise want parentheses. Like I just did in that very sentence.
Also, ATAGI gave that advice because that was what the science said at the time, along with every credible scientist on earth, plus the World Health Organisation. Things have changed Mike, so the advice has too. You were already lining yourself up for a beating with the whole ‘I know the English language’ bullshit, but you’re really leading with your chin now brother.

You and I don’t have any trouble communicating with each other. If I say “I will meet you at the Breakfast Creek Hotel at 1pm tomorrow”, I don’t mean that I will meet you there unless I get a better offer, in which case I will later claim that when I said “would” I meant that I ”might”, reserving my right to alter my plans in the light of changing circumstances. But then we’re not in politics.
Firstly, you mean ‘in light of’, (which means ‘in view of’) not ‘in the light of’ (which means ‘from the point of view of’). Anyhoo, I think we are having a bit of trouble communicating with each other, Mike. You didn’t say ‘would’, you said ‘will’, so ‘would’ shouldn’t be in direct quotes… because it’s not a direct quote. It’s been paraphrased. Also, your quotes marks at the front of “might” are facing the wrong way. And just to be clear… I’m sorry, I can’t meet you for lunch tomorrow. I was planning to stay home and stick my face in a fan.

The English language when ­-properly employed can be a ­-wonderfully descriptive means of communication, but for it to be truly effective, it requires people ­-employing it to say what they mean and mean what they say.
‘-properly’ ‘-wonderfully’ ‘-employing’… you’re just taking the piss now, Mike. Please stop by my office before you leave this evening. Please also bring the largest dictionary you can find, or a phone book. – Ed


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