News Guys Talk About Sex and Grammar

Courthouse News editor Robert Kahn and Houston reporter Cameron Langford have struggled for years to improve daily news reporting on the internet. Here is a lightly edited version of their exchanges.

Bob: Cammy, me lad, let’s do some forward pre-planning on this and see if we can get the staff to salute. Not trying to roll it up into one big ball of wax — shoot it down if you get the itch — but let’s try to be really impactful with this campaign, for the kids and God and all.

Cameron: Well, jefe, just spit-balling here, we could do an incremental phase-in, conceptualizing and implementing each paragraph to ensure it results in a big one-finger salute to the impacted staff.

News guys hard at work.

Bob: I like your style, but which finger are you referencing?

Cameron: I thought you told me never to use “reference” as a verb.

Bob: Mine boy, there’s “never” and then there’s never. As I recall, I also told you, in your trenchant story about the unlawful exchange of doughnuts in Spring, Texas, that “impact” is a noun, not a verb. Therefore, “impacted,” in your penultimate email, is a false noun masquerading as a participle, i.e., an adjective. How many times must I tell you …

Cameron: Whoa, chief! Hold your horses! Dictate me no diktats, less’n y’all follow them your ownself.

Bob: Why, you whippersnapper, I could …

Cameron: No you can’t, cause you so damn old. Or would you say chronologically challenged?

Bob: OK, Cameron, let’s back up here. In my “Notes on writing for Courthouse News reporters©,” did I or did I not say that “one word is better than two, if it conveys the same information”?

Cameron: Yes, you did.

Bob: Well, then?

Cameron: you

Bob: Danke (1 word), meine freunde. (2=2)

Cameron: What about “police canine”?

Bob: Grrrr …

Cameron: What about “female” vs. “woman”?

Bob: I’ve told you and told you, “female” is a preterite dysjunction; “woman” is an abstract noun — sometimes concrete, though not actually made of concrete, except on my dates.

Cameron: What do you know about it?

Bob: Plenty, pal.

Cameron: What do you know about the honorific “Mx.”?

Bob: The what?

Cameron: What do you know about it?

Bob: About what?

Cameron: Wait … Let me check my notes.

Bob: (Turns on Dylan’s “Cold Iron Bounds” on YouTube. Waits quite happily, on the clock …)

Cameron: OK, here it is, from my notes: “What do you know about the difference between females and women?”

Bob: Get the fuck outahere.

Cameron: Let’s get on to diseases. You’ve told me that diseases are not capitalized, no matter how many million people they kill, though each human person, he or she, gets one or more names, all of which are capitalized? Is that true, Mr. Kahn?

Bob: Yeah, so what?

Cameron: What about The Great Plague?

Bob: Which one?

(The News Guys acknowledge that there is no sex in this column. We put it in the headline to get you to read it. In loving memory of Dave Barry’s “Mr. Grammar Person.”)

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