Sunday, December 6, 2009

Grammar Detective

As Sheyna Fehr mentioned in her Grammar Detective blog post, the local newspaper seems to be a breeding ground for grammatical errors.Some days it can be a little hard to digest that those people who are responsible for relaying the day’s headlines to the public aren’t exactly communicating it correctly. However, I can empathize with newspaper journalists somewhat. It’s not like they’re given a few days to write up articles; most of the headlines are the product of only a few hours leeway. For example, the article I put under scrutiny was published at 1:49 pm this afternoon, and the events took place just 9 hours earlier at 4:00 am. The daily newspaper aims to be as current as possible, and in some cases time doesn’t seem to be an option, so of course there will be a few lose ends left untied.

That said I was able to look past the poor use of capitalization and reoccurring comma splices in the article. There were a few offensive mistakes made in the article that I felt shouldn’t have been missed. First of all, the title of the article read, “Edmonton cabbie assaulted by passenger.” Let’s forget the fact that the title is clearly missing a was or has been, because we all know that newspaper titles are rarely grammatically correct and function only to relay the message to readers with as few words as possible. What I was more concerned with was the liberal use of the word cabbie. I know this word has become common slang to most, but since when is a formal publication like the Edmonton Journal allowed to use an informal, somewhat biased, slang job description such as cabbie? The Edmonton Police Service was clearly defined as their formal title through the whole article. There was no mention of the word cops, the fuzz or any other street slang title for them anywhere. Shouldn’t the cab drivers of Edmonton have the same privilege? If that isn’t the least bit offensive, perhaps the double meaning of the word cabbie is. Urban Dictionary has defined the word as, not only the driver of a cab, but a blunt with cocaine sprinkled on it. I don’t think the city’s cab driver’s would like to be getting their profession confused with a highly illegal narcotic, would they?
Similarly to the misuse of cabbie, the article contains yet another confusing slang reference. The man accused of attacking the cab driver is described in one word; native. The article reads, “Edmonton Police say the taxi driver picked up a native man …” Native to where? While the picture accompanying the article clearly indicates he is a Native American, there is nowhere in the article that states it. Without the picture the man could just have easily been a native Scotsman or a native Russian instead of Aboriginal descent. Formal titles should be used; otherwise the newspaper is just reinforcing bias and slang terminology.

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