Tuesday, July 16, 2013
You say "po-tay-toe," I say "po-tah-toe"
The freedom and immediacy of the web are wonderful. But there is a tradeoff. Tossing something online now means that it doesn't have to punch its way up through a substrata of editors before it reaches daylight. Good for speed, bad for accuracy.
Until it comes time to fix mistakes — then that speed is appreciated. No printing little "Errata" sheets and tucking them inside the cover. Just hop back online, boom, it's fixed.
Otherwise, preparation time is accuracy's friend, generally.
Then again, what is accuracy?
Of the hundreds of comments this blog has gotten in its first two weeks, only one gave me a chill.
"Shouldn't it be 'every goddamned day?'" wrote my longtime pal, Jimmy Seidita.
"Holy crap!" thought I. "Goddamned," with an "-ed" at the end.
The first impulse was automatic denial. No, of course it shouldn't be that. Definitely not. It's "every goddamn day." That's the blog's name.
And I wouldn't have named the blog in error.
Next bargaining. I said, "Every goddamned day" aloud.
It sounded ... appropriate. Maybe ... even ... good.
To the dictionary I fled, like a child who fell rushing to embrace his mother's knees. Help me help me.
The New Oxford American Dictionary -- my wordhoard of choice, always close at hand at the newspaper office (at home, I use the two volume New Shorter Oxford, which forces the extra step of figuring out whether the word in question is between A and M, and thus in the first volume, or N to Z, and so ... you see where this is going, yes? ... in the second. A challenge I invariably surmount—I went to college— but it does introduce a moment's pause).
And to "goddamn (also goddam or goddamned) -adj., adv & n. informal used for emphasis, esp. to express anger or frustration [as an adj] we're sick of this goddamn weather..."
Stop right there. Whew. Problem solved. And thank merciful God. To be honest, flipping through the book, the grim scenario of Jimmy being correct was already unspooling in my mind. I would either have to change the name of the blog — sheesh — or spend the next however-long I keep this up manfully trying to ignore the fact that I had built my castle upon sand, and created a blog that was named in grammatical error.
So in answer to your question, Jimmy. While it could be "every goddamned day," it not only shouldn't be, but "goddamn" is the preferred usage, with "goddamned" tagging along as an alternative possibility.
So I'm right. Actually, we're both right — your usage is fine, too. Though mine is a little righter. Or at least it came first.
Double whew. Win-win.
I love when that happens.
This is a version of one of the more common stumbling blocks in language — and faith, and philosophy, and just about everything else, now that I think of it. What I call the "Two Definitions Problem." People are familiar with one definition of a word, or a faith, or a philosophy, and they see another person using that word, or that faith, or philosophy in a different way and assume that because it's different than what they understand it to be, it's therefore wrong. When in fact it isn't wrong; it's just different. Words can have two, sometimes different, sometimes even contradictory, meanings. Or more. Anyway Jimmy, glad you asked, glad we could clear this up, and even gladder that the chips fell in my direction. This makes up for the time I thought "moral turpitude" was a praiseworthy thing.