In her capacity of copy editor, Rosie was roundly chastised this week by a reader who pointed out an error in the Back Page ("Nothing to Sing About"). The second verse of the lyrics that the writer quoted included the following:
"I'm not worried about the ring that you wear,
'Cause if no one knows, than nobody could care"
Uh-oh. Both the writer and Rosie were tricked by a similarity in sound. Of course the word should have been then.
The spell check can let us down. Than seemed a perfectly adequate word to this computer program.
Our reader complained that he also often sees a confusion of your and you're and that old bugaboo, its and it's. Any copy editor from time to time also finds writers confusing these words. He or she can only hope that an error like that in our Back Page doesn't slip by.
Coincidentally, Barbara Wallraff, who writes a column, "Word Fugitives," for The Atlantic Monthly, addressed this problem in her June discussion. "Word Fugitives" invites readers to make up or report words readers need but don't know. This month, she asked:
"Surely a term to describe mistakenly written homonyms (your for you're, for instance) would earn its keep in a language that has already made room for such specific words as protonym, 'the first person or thing to have a certain name, after which others are named.'"
Suggestions from readers included nononym and sinonym. The winner was illiteration, suggested by Rocky Raab of Ogden, Utah. Talk the Talk:
From Michael Quinion's World Wide Words:
"Dress-up Thursday. This has become dare I say it? a fashionable term in recent months in the US, and the phrase has now crossed the Atlantic to Britain. It's a reaction against 'dress-down Friday,' which started out as a well-meaning attempt to inject informality into office life, but which seems to have led to more stress than ever.
"Employees could no longer hide behind uniform business dress, but had to start thinking about what to wear.
This informal Friday clothing has itself become stylised into 'business casual.' 'Dress-up Thursday' seems to have been invented by enterprising American menswear firms last year to try to revive the popularity of the suit, though industry pundits predict that the move towards more casual work dress styles is going to continue inexorably. 'Dress-up Thursday' is causing some employers to tear their hair out. One said: "We have workplace dress-up and workplace dress-down. Why don't we dress normal and get the work done?"Let Rosie hear from you by telephone (358-0825), letter (1707 Summit Ave., Suite 201, Richmond, Va. 23230), fax (355-9089) or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org