Saturday, February 03, 2007

So Much Pedantry It Would Shatter Your Spine

Josh writes:

Oh dear, The Herald, I am very disappointed in you. From today's editorial:

Maori have reminded the bridge managers that they readily hoisted the Team NZ petard during the America's Cup.
No they didn't.

A petard is a bomb used in mediaeval warfare to blow open walls or gates. I'm pretty sure Team NZ doesn't own one, and if they did, I doubt that it would have been dangled off the top of the Harbour Bridge.

The confusion comes, of course, from the expression "hoist by his own petard," which most people have heard of, but bugger all know the meaning of. People don't know what a petard is, but they do know what "hoist" means, so figure a petard must be some sort of structure you hoist things up on (in this case of the Herald, the meaning seems to have mutated further into a thing which gets hoisted up like a flag). Unfortunately, in this context, "hoist" is an old-fashioned word (Shakespearean, in fact -- the expression is a line from Hamlet) meaning "thrown into the air". A person who is "hoist by his own petard" (note "by", not "on") is metaphorically blown up by his own bomb.

Tune in next time, when I explain what a dangling participle is. (Hint: Despite what you may have read elsewhere, this article doesn't contain one.)


Jack Yan said...

I am so glad I found this blog!
   I am one of those oddballs who would even go so far as to italicize America—the Cup was not named for the continent(s), but for the boat. Oh, and macronize Māori. You’d think that that was automatically programmed into the Herald computers.

Paul said...

Josh, at times like these we need pedantry. Apart from errors like this one, Herald editorials are becoming increasingly pompous and ill-informed. But then we would think that, because 95% of bloggers are "fly by night, gutless wonders who prefer to spit venom under inarticulate pseudonyms." I know that because I read it in the Herald.

As for poor Adolf's contribution, you might notice that he has filed it under "grammer."

Josh said...

Yeah, I did notice that. Too easy.

And Jack, I dunno that I'd italicize "America" myself -- in this context, it's the name of the Cup, not the boat. The fact that the former was named after the latter is just an interesting tidbit.

Rick said...

..most people have heard of, but bugger all know the meaning of.

I knew this.
And I'm telling you for the sake of your own sanity.
Good bloggin'

Jack Yan said...

You’re probably right, Josh, given the usage of America in that context. I think, possibly, only The Atlantic and I italicize. I wonder what the OUP would prefer.

Jack Yan said...

Paul: I love the quotation. I wonder if that would apply to any Herald journalists who have their own blog. Let’s hope so.

phats said...