The parts of AP

by Michael S. Kaplan, published on 2006/01/28 17:59 -05:00, original URI:

There is an old joke you have probably heard some version of:

One day a blonde decided that she was sick of all the "Dumb Blonde" jokes people were telling. She decided she would show everyone that blondes really were smart and set out to learn the capitol of each state in the USA. A few days later, she overheard the folks at the watercooler, again telling blonde jokes. Having had her fill of it all, our blonde hero interrupted the group and advised she could prove to them that all blondes were not dumb. She said she could give the capitol of any state, and taken aback by her confidence, a gentleman asked her to name the capitol of the State of Ohio. She thought for a moment, then proudly proclaimed "O"!

After reading Geoffrey K. Pullum's post The parts of speech on Language Log, I find myself feeling the same sense of frustration that Associated Press could get such a fundamental fact wrong.

I mean, didn't any of them go to elementary school and learn enough about grammar to know that the parts of speech hardly require a lifetime of study? Or if they had not been paying attention, hadn't they ever seen Schoolhouse Rock?

So I guess AP gets to be a step below our blonde heroine, who made an honest mistake between capitols and capitals. And at least she put a bit of effort into her blunder.

Addendum 5:00pm: I was seeding in a mistake above for the sake of a post I was doing to do next week about word choices, but someone found it fast enough that I need to rethink the theory. Capitols are indeed in Capitals. :-)

But to use words stupidly in an obit for a linguist? Now that is chutzpah.

I won't say what part Associated Press was showing off this time, because it's one of those "words you aren't supposed to say in public" parts. If you know what I mean. :-)

# robdoyle on 28 Jan 2006 7:11 PM:

w.r.t. your previous post on (British) localisation - over here we consider both 'O' and Columbus to be capitals :)

Anyway, isn't the 'capitol' actually an administrative building, not a town or city?

# Michael S. Kaplan on 28 Jan 2006 7:20 PM:

It is, and we look at it the same way (except when there is a spelling error, though apparently you can get high school students to make this mistake often!).

I was going to see if no one noticed and use the info for different post. Though I think you found it quickly enough to kill my theory. :-)

# Sebastian Redl on 29 Jan 2006 6:58 AM:

Ah, good. You nearly tricked me into thinking that American English uses "Capitol". You can't be sure about these things if you learned British English in school. (And German at home.)

# Michael S. Kaplan on 29 Jan 2006 1:52 PM:

Hi Sebastian,

That is the other reason I decided to rethink my plans -- I csnnot "prove" that people don't always distinguish if they do distinguish but assume it might be different somewhere else.

Maybe it's worth a post to describe the failed experiment in full! :-)

# Michael Dunn_ on 30 Jan 2006 2:06 AM:

Oh man, that Language Log post was quite a shock, I hadn't heard that Ladefoged had died. :(

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2007/03/31 If you think speaking with an accent is a challenge, try doing it over a wire service....

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