Letters 11-23-2015

Cheering From Petoskey While red-eyed rats boil fanatically up from the ancient sewers of Paris to feast on pools of French blood, at the G20 meeting the farcical pied piper of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue thrusts a bony finger at the president of the Russian Federation and yells: “liberté, égalité, fraternité, Clinton, Kerry--Obamaism!”

The Other Mothers And Fathers Regarding the very nice recent article on “The First Lady of Yoga,” I have taken many classes with Sandy Carden, and I consider her to be a great teacher. However, I feel the article is remiss to not even give acknowledgement to other very important yoga influences in northern Michigan...

Drop The Blue Angels The last time I went to the National Cherry Festival, I picked the wrong day. The Blue Angels were forcing everyone to duck and cover from the earsplitting cacophony overhead...

Real Advice For The Sick In the Nov. 16 article “Flu Fighters,” author Kristi Kates fails to mention the most basic tool in our arsenal during Influenza season... the flu vaccine! I understand you might be afraid of being the victim of Jenny McCarthyism, but the science is there...

Keeping Traverse City in the Dark Our environment is our greatest asset. It sustains our lives; it drives our economy. We ignore it at our peril. Northern Michigan Environmental Action Council (NMEAC) has submitted letters of concern to both the city commission and planning commission regarding the proposed 9-story buildings on Pine Street. We have requested an independent environmental assessment with clear answers before a land use permit is granted...

All About Them Another cartoon by Jen Sorensen that brings out the truth! Most of her cartoons are too slanted in a Socialist manner, but when she gets it correct, she hits the nail on the target! “Arizona is the first state to put a 12-month lifetime limit on welfare benefits.” That quote is in the opening panel... 

Unfair To County Employees It appears that the commissioners of Grand Traverse County will seek to remedy a shortfall in the 2016 budget by instituting cuts in expenditures, the most notable the reduction of contributions to various insurance benefits in place for county employees. As one example, the county’s contributions to health insurance premiums will decrease from ten to six percent in 2016. What this means, of course, is that if a county employee wishes to maintain coverage at the current level next year, the employee will have to come up with the difference...

Up, Not Out I would like to congratulate the Traverse City Planning Commission on their decision to approve the River West development. Traverse City will either grow up or grow out. For countless reasons, up is better than out. Or do we enjoy such things as traffic congestion and replacing wooded hillsides with hideous spectacles like the one behind Tom’s West Bay. At least that one is on the edge of town as opposed to in the formerly beautiful rolling meadows of Acme Township...

Lessons In Winning War I am saddened to hear the response of so many of legislators tasked with keeping our country safe. I listen and wonder if they know what “winning” this kind of conflict requires or even means? Did we win in Korea? Did we win in Vietnam? Are we winning in Afghanistan? How is Israel winning against the Palestinians? Will they “take out” Hezbollah...

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May I have a word with you?

Robert Downes - August 2nd, 2007
May I have a word with you?
Some of you who are regular readers of our Letters to the Editor page probably scratched your heads last week at the letter, “No cherry for the slice of pie I’m holding,” from Don Swan, who has a penchant for Capitalizing many Words without any Rhyme Or reason, much In the Style of the German Language.
I happen to know Don -- a local musician who heads up a band called The Company. I ran into him a few days before we ran his letter and said, “You know, Don, you might want to clean up the grammar in your letter because it’s not proper to have all of those capitalized letters.”
“But that’s how I type,” Don protested. “I capitalize every other word or however it comes out.”
So we ran his letter pretty much verbatim to capture a sense of his personality.
Editing letters is a ticklish business. Most of you write pretty darned good letters which require little or no editing. But some letters are such a disaster that they need a line-by-line revision. These tend to get sent back, because I don‘t want “your“ letter to become “my“ letter. The massive editing of these letters would mean gutting the personality and intentions of the writer.
Personally, I prefer more of an “unfiltered” approach to journalism, which has attracted the wrath of a proper grammarians through the years. Periodically, I’m taken to task for allowing haywire letters to sneak past our editorial checkpoint.
But to quote Winston Churchill, who was once upbraided for ending a sentence with a preposition, this is the sort of pedantic nonsense up with which I will not put.
I believe in “keeping it real” when it comes to the content of the Express -- and this unvarnished quality is what people like about the paper. A good model for this is talk radio or television, both of which offer an “unfiltered” quality that tends to get cleaned up in the print media.
When you listen to talk radio, you get clued in to the speaker’s background by the quality of his or her voice and grammar. You can sort of tell who’s a high school dropout, a jailbird, a fanatic or an egghead from subtle clues in their voice. You can often deduce the race of the speaker, or even if he or she is from Africa or India. On TV or talk radio there’s no editor standing over the speaker, correcting his grammar the way there is in the pages of a newspaper.
Bad language, poor logic and improper grammar are indicators of the writer’s state of mind. If a letter is a mess, then that helps the reader understand that its writer may be something of a mess as well.
Typically, newspapers clean up letters or quotes to make writers look “better“ than they might come across in person. That’s dishonest. It‘s a whitewash. Often, you have to read “between the lines“ in a newspaper to intuit that a letter writer is a callow youth, an old coot, or some flavor of crackpot. Personally, I’d rather have that information up-front with some good old-fashioned bad grammar.
Ironically, few letters are duller than those which come from over-educated Ph.D types bent on showboating their intellects. Often, letters from folks who insist on having a string of initials after their names are so full of academic jargonese and empty adjectives that they are practically unreadable. They may use impeccable grammar, but they‘ve lost the ability to write in plain English.
Grammarians like to imagine that there is a “proper” form of written communication, but this is patently untrue. In Britain, you will often find the “quote” marks inside the period at the end of a sentence, rather than outside of the period, which is the case in America. If you read the New York Times, you will read dates abbreviated as the 80s’, whereas in the Associated Press, it’s always the ‘80s. Then there’s the German language, which capitalizes all nouns.
If the New York Times, the AP, Der Spiegel and the London Times can’t agree on punctuation and grammar, what hope is there for the rest of us?
What is correct in language? In the end, only the fact that it will change. Language is a churning river in a constant state of flux. Shakespeare and Chaucer made up words as they went along, while the grammarians of his day blew gaskets over Mark Twain’s characters speaking in the vernacular. And 2day’s Internet society is doing much the same 4u, with nu ways of IMing :).
What counts in the end is whether you get the message, or just some pale shade of it.
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