Rantings of a sub-editor

August 21, 2010

My week in words

Filed under: born/borne,loathe/loath — substuff @ 9:53 am
Tags: , , , ,

Londoners warned of divebombing by seagulls

My linguistic week began when Richard Dixon, @Linguagroover, replied to an email I had sent him in which I had said I was “suffering from itchy feet borne of watching my friends come back from holiday with tattoos and suntans while I work six days a week”. He responded to my whining kindly, before adding at the end, with his customary delicacy, that I had meant “born”. The shame!

So here, for any other born/borne miscreants, is the definition:

the past participle of bear in the sense of give birth to

the past participle of bear in the sense of carry, support, accept responsibility for, tolerate, endure

When I tweeted this, @almostidealist  responded that she had recently confirmed her long-held suspicion about the difference between loath and loathe. I challenged her to define the difference in 140 characters or less – and she did. “You can be loath to do something or you can loathe doing it. C’est tout.” Super.

Oh, and while we’re at it, does anyone else have a blind spot with gauge? I missed a guage and was picked up on it by another sub. Having consulted the dictionary, I can assure anyone else who thinks they both look wrong that yes, indeed, it should be gauge, for both the noun and the verb, when you are talking about measuring or determining. Guage doesn’t exist (although there is a paint called guache). And it’s gouge for when you gouge someone’s eyes out. Please excuse the example.

Then on Tuesday evening, lounging outside a pub, I was ambushed by “sartorial”. A friend and I were admiring another drinker’s dress when from stage right appeared a lady in a baggy playsuit. We were less impressed with this outfit. When our gentleman escort returned from the bar and asked what we were talking about, my companion replied that we were having a sartorial discussion. It’s a word that I read occasionally and have never until now had cause to write – yet I have always assumed, as I am wont to do, that I know what it means. Something along the lines of “witty” or “ironic”, perhaps related to “sarcastic”. NOPE! As she uttered the words, I realised I had no idea what it meant. I owned up, and was informed that it related to fashion in some way. The next morning, to the dictionary I went.

of or relating to a tailor or tailoring (from the Latin sartor, meaning tailor or patcher)

My favourite Which?ism of the week was the following: “the home phone is the domestic workhorse”. Don’t worry, it won’t be appearing in the magazine!

My favourite headline of the week (or was it a standfirst?) was spotted by our production editor. The Evening Standard treated us to: “Londoners warned of divebombing by seagulls”. Damn considerate of those seagulls, I say. In response, @jowadsworth provided the picture that graces this blog post.

On Wednesday, my blog passed the 10,000-hit mark. Hurrah! Who knew there were so many word nerds in the world? Not me, that’s for sure. I was pretty certain when I started out that this blog would only be read by my mother (under duress) and my boss (then the lovely Kit Davies). So thank you everyone for reading.

On Friday, I had a little train-related trouble. Well, to be specific, the trouble began the night before when, through no fault or action of my own, I got caught up in a Stella and drug-fuelled bottle-wielding fight on the train. I am beginning to really hate taking that train late at night. As a result, I was a bit shaken up and couldn’t sleep. But OH, I could sleep the next morning alright! Zzzzzz all the way from Brighton to… St Albans – which, considering that I work in Marylebone, was not where I wanted to be.

When I eventually got to work, following my detour and extended nap, I got stuck in to the party conference brochure I’m currently pegging my way through. I reached the section on the iPad and stared. The iPad can register 11 simultaneous touches. What? Now I have no reason to believe that this is not true. In fact I am confident that it is true. But… why? We only have 10 fingers, right? Now if I still worked at The Grocer and Vince was sitting there chortling away, I might make some cheeky comment about the 11th digit. But I don’t and he isn’t and I can only innocently throw the question wide open. Why the 11th touch?

I leave you with this, a little comment I overheard last night on the train, which has been making me chortle ever since. Man earnestly reassuring his friend that he is doing a good job at work (and very well and nicely, I should add): “Look mate, you don’t have to fit into a round hole just because you’re a square peg.”



  1. “Stella- and drug-fuelled” and “Look, mate”

    Comment by Pete — August 21, 2010 @ 10:19 am | Reply

    • In formal writing, when adhering to a style guide, okay. On my own blog, in my own style, I shall politely decline. The former is ugly and the latter not strictly necessary.

      And (are you going to complain about that ‘And’, too?) if you’re going to comment, do please try not to be a boring, nit-picking ass – after all, we wouldn’t want to give sub-editors a bad name…

      Comment by substuff — August 21, 2010 @ 10:30 am | Reply

  2. All right, two words, please, unless it’s The Kids are Alright, by The Who.

    All right?

    Comment by Alan Blunt — August 21, 2010 @ 10:27 am | Reply

    • I’ve had this discussion before. Firstly, the OED classes it as a valid variant spelling. Secondly, I prefer it – it reads better, it sounds better. Thirdly, this is my blog and my writing. In my various jobs, I follow various style guides. In my own time, I’ll choose my own style, if you don’t mind (and even if you do).

      Comment by substuff — August 21, 2010 @ 10:33 am | Reply

  3. Oh, come on! Surely a subbing blog is the best place to nit-pick? Anyway, are you sure the vocative comma is dispensible?

    Comment by Pete — August 21, 2010 @ 2:19 pm | Reply

  4. “Why the 11th touch?”

    We’ll soon hear from Fawcett and the Guardian that it gives men an unfair advantage in world of mobile computing.

    I think I’ve heard loath pronounced with a soft th. In a working class environment, you pronounce it “loathed” anyway, to fit it.

    Fighting on the train. Actual violence and criminality has a different flavour to the way it’s represented in films and games. It’s worse when you’re a man because people start telling you about “what they would have done”.

    re: criminal scum. I think that I’m beginning to lean towards a Nietzschian/Platonic system of acknowledging a clear division between scum and non-scum. We’re not born into either cast but join one group or the other through our actions. What could be fairer and more democratic than that?

    Remember, the superior cast (“divine overlords”, if you will) need the scum to operate machinery. You can’t say that they don’t have a good life as, as far as I can see, they have every possible material privilege heaped up on them at every opportunity. They also have football, reality TV, lots of sexual intercourse and immunity from any sense of accountability.

    Better than any advice you’ll get from your mates at the Guardian as they’ll all sympathise with the scum. Look, I’m not going to tell you to get little gun and start weeding out the worthless, but I’m not going to tell you not to.

    I intend to use the word “coxcomb” at some point. I like it.

    Comment by Michael Reed — August 21, 2010 @ 5:18 pm | Reply

    • Well if I ever see a man using the iPad in such a manner as to give his gender an advantage, I shall be the first to complain. So far, however, I have only observed iPad owners (of either gender) holding them awkwardly in an effort to a) show off that they have one, b) not have it stolen and c) find a position in which it is actually comfortable to hold.

      So far as scum and divine overlords go, I can’t agree that it’s as simple as you suggest. These were young men, between 18-20. Well fed (by their mummies, one assumes) and well dressed, with enough money for beer and drugs. Well spoken, until it erupted in violence – violence that was taken out on an altogether more down-at-heel chap, also very drunk, who had told them off for throwing a bottle cap at me.

      I suspect that in the morning, these two boys went back to their ‘divine overlord-in-training’ lives, while the guy they beat up went back to jobseeking (not conjecture – he said he’d been sacked from his agency job). They’ll be bankers or accountants in a few years time. He’ll still be getting beaten up on the train.

      Oh, and as for all those guys who tell you what they would have done? This is what they did: three of them got up and moved to the next carriage, and the other two remained sitting in the carriage but pretended they couldn’t see what was happening. After the two boys had had their fun and decided to scarper, the only person who acknowledged what had happened was a lady of around 60 years old. She checked I was okay, and then looked after the chap who’d been hurt until we got to Brighton. Everyone else continued to act as if they hadn’t seen any of it.

      Comment by substuff — August 21, 2010 @ 6:14 pm | Reply

    • Michael Reed: Shurely that’s “caste”, not “cast”.

      My blind spot is “Guardian/guardian”, which I always spell incorrectly (I did even then) and have to return to several times before I decide which is right. Sometimes I even have to consult the dictionary, which is ridiculous when you think that I read the paper for a decade…

      Comment by Freelance Unbound — August 24, 2010 @ 2:40 pm | Reply

      • That’s funny! But at least guardian sounds as if it should have some funny vowel business in it – gauge doesn’t. I do love this inconsistent language of ours!

        Comment by substuff — August 25, 2010 @ 7:52 pm | Reply

  5. I’m sorry if I made it seem like I was making light of what happened to you. As I said, it’s very different when you get that, “Am I dreaming?” feeling when confronted by actual violence and criminality.

    Anyway, I hope you’re getting over it a bit now. It does seem to get better as you get back into a normal routine.

    I’m stuck in a real chavtown, and I’ve no doubt that it influences my view on things. Once, I stood up to a gang of lads who who threw something at me. They backed down and apologized, and you know what? I felt even more ineffectual and useless than when I ignore them. I wasn’t doing it to protect myself or someone else, and I reflected that I’d taken a daft risk, for nothing.

    My (half-joking) theory of scum transcends social and economic class. When I said machinery, I meant the mechanisms of society. I don’t see anything wrong with categorizing people into groups of scum and non-scum according to their behaviour, seems fair to me.

    Comment by Michael Reed — August 21, 2010 @ 7:59 pm | Reply

    • Not at all, I didn’t think you were making light of it. I just think people are harder to categorise than that – if I’d met these two five hours earlier or five hours later, for example, they’d probably have seemed perfectly pleasant. (“C’est la vie” say the old folks, it goes to show you never can tell.)

      Comment by substuff — August 22, 2010 @ 1:05 pm | Reply

  6. Your brain wasn’t completely off about what sartorial meant: sardonic was the one it was aiming at.

    Comment by Tom Freeman — August 24, 2010 @ 9:27 am | Reply

    • Hmmm… but I know what sardonic means… strange, these little blind spots in my brain.

      Comment by substuff — August 25, 2010 @ 7:48 pm | Reply

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