New York Times’ Sloppy Diction

December 6, 2015

Update (December 7th, 2015):  Trying to be more-pretentious-than-thou is a pretty pretentious thing to do; so it’s fitting that I was in turn also (half) incorrect.  A friend points out to me that Sciences Po actually is a place—“the nickname for a prestigious French University that focuses on the social sciences,” as my friend puts it.  (Arguably I should still get half credit—the arch-formal Times refers by a nickname to a school not otherwise introduced in the text of the article?)  Anyway my point about “veered”/”verged” stands—and the Times apparently agrees, having since belatedly corrected the word in the online version of the article (without leaving any indication that they were wrong or made any change).

Original post begins:

While I haven’t been on the same page as the New York Times politically for a long time, I’ve actually always admired their stubborn, increasingly countercultural (what John Derbyshire might call “cussedness”) insistence on some of the old manners—referring to all the people in their articles as “Mr.”, for example, and all the rest of their genteel, old-school aesthetic, expressed in everything from their word choice to the typefaces of the headlines.

Of course, that self-consciously heightened tone can also come across as condescending and full of themselves.  So I can’t resist pointing out that they’re slipping.

In this recent article, they (the writer, but also the editors, by letting it go out) say, “Ms. Le Pen and her party have thrived on an anti-immigration message that has veered on anti-Muslim,” a mistake for “verged on”.


They also quote “Bruno Cautrès, a political analyst and public opinion specialist at the Center for Political Research at Sciences Po.”  I’m not familiar with the center, but that can’t be the right translation—it’s saying, in effect, “at the Center for Political Research at political sciences.”  Unless there’s a city or place in France whose actual name is “Sciences Po”, it appears that either more or less of the name needed to be translated.

Oh, also actually read the article, it’s interesting.  Apparently there’s a storm a-brewin’ in France, with the immigration-restrictionist Front national political party on a long-term trajectory to gain a lot of ground—as even the liberal New York Times is reporting.

Agree? Disagree? Thoughts?

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