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Persistence in error

You try to show journalists that some of their imagined rules and standard practices are without foundation,* and it is of no avail.

Citations from dictionaries, evidence from corpus analysis, examples over decades or centuries from notable writers, and appeals to authorities on usage pass over them, leaving no impression. "I just write the way that sounds right to me," they say. 

I have puzzled over this reluctance to be informed, and yesterday I recalled a story my father once told me that made everything fall into place. 

After my grandfather died suddenly of a heart attack in 1945, my father, Raymond McIntyre, undertook to make a go of his general store in Elizaville Kentucky. 

He told me that one week the man who drove the bread truck was apprehensive. He also made deliveries to a remote little country store,** and he had been accustomed to offload his stale bread there. "But last week," he said, "I didn't have any old bread to give them, and I delivered fresh loaves. They're going to be mad as hell when they realize what I've been doing."

The next week when the bread truck man came by, my father asked him how it had gone with the other store. And the bread man said, "They sure were mad at me. The storekeeper told me all his customers had complained and he never wanted me to deliver any of that damned raw stuff to his store ever again."

Once you're accustomed to journalese and its non-idiomatic practices, it sounds like natural language to you and actual English just seems wrong. 


*To pick two arbitrarily, the newspaper superstition that over cannot legitimately be used to mean more than; and the split-verb nonsense that insists on placing the adverb before a compound verb instead of nestling it between auxiliary and main verb, where it prefers to be in idiomatic English. 


**You will have to trust me that there are places more remote than Elizaville. 

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