Call me a collector. Not of priceless artwork, tragically. Or even, for that matter, of baseball cards or beer cans. Rather, I collect facts. Some of them useful. Some not. And some so arcane few others appreciate their value.
It’s an occupational hazard, a byproduct of working in print journalism for more than 40 years. Newspaper editors have to learn certain facts to do their jobs. The Associated Press wrote the book on the subject in compiling a style manual and what’s essentially a long list of facts editors and reporters use in writing for newspapers and other media outlets.
While a lot of facts become anachronistic, editors seldom forget any. Consequently, our brains become full of them, nearly to the point of bursting like water balloons filled with too much water.
Even if editors can’t use put all those facts to good use on the job, then by God the curmudgeonly ones like myself draw them like a gun to assert our intellectual superiority. Yeah. Right. While I’ve long fantasized about becoming a “Jeopardy” champion, I’m only smart enough to realize the unlikelihood of that occurrence.
For now, though, here are a few of my favorite facts, kind of like my version of raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens.
It’s Canada goose, not Canadian goose. It’s Smokey Bear, not Smokey the Bear. And those big shaggy animals that used to roam the plains are bison, not buffalo. By the way, it’s sneak peek, not peak. It’s free rein, not reign. And you whet an appetite, not wet one.
Books, movies and other works have titles. They’re not entitled to a darned thing. I’ll have words with anyone who suggests otherwise.
Every time I read or hear something’s “totally destroyed,” I wince. Then I want to throttle the offending writer. Something’s either destroyed or it’s not. It’s certainly not destroyed to any greater degree with the addition of an adverb. The same thing holds true for other binary conditions. She’s not completely blind any more than she’s partially pregnant.
I suppose I could go on. And on. And on.
But a good editor knows less is more. In my case, a lot more.