Magazine article Communication World

Did You Hear the One about the Male Cow? Is That an Oxymoron?

Magazine article Communication World

Did You Hear the One about the Male Cow? Is That an Oxymoron?

Article excerpt

If you're going to pull a quote, pay attention.

The pullquote in a Boston Globe story about wastewater from a pulp and paper company said, "A Maine mill is the flashpoint in debate over the environmental cost of making paper its whitest." But the fourth-graph lead sentence read "The threatened eagles on the upper Penobscot (River) have become a flash-point in the national debate over the environmental cost of making paper its whitest."

The quote-puller can't have it two ways; he or she should adhere to the writer's wording to preclude knocking the reader off track in the most important part of the story. Also note that the writer describes the threatened eagles as a flash-point while the quote-puller says the mill is the flashpoint. How many flashpoints are we looking at?

I am once again reminded of the enduring advice given me by clearly remembered editor Fred Rushton at the Worcester (Mass.) Sunday Telegram: "Always try to do the right thing, Alden; this will amaze and gratify your readers."

Speaking of editors, would you lay your crayon on anything in this AP item? - "MENDENHALL, Miss. - A man sentenced to 40 years behind bars yesterday apparently wrestled away a gun and killed two sheriff's deputies as they were driving him to prison."

That skinny little I makes quite a difference: American Heritage Dictionary III says wrestle means "1. To contend by grappling and attempting to throw or immobilize one's opponent, especially under contest rules...." The meaning at wrest is "1. To obtain by or as if by pulling with violent twisting movements...."

(While pawing pages in search of those definitions I happened upon the enchanting and new-to-me noun yashmak, which identifies the veil worn by Moslem women to cover the face in public.)

* Here is a Reuters dispatch datelined Houston: "A rampaging heifer ran through a group of school children.... The young female cow broke loose while its student handler was leading it out of a trailer...."

Sometimes called the "The Great Cow Flap," this barnyard solecism is guaranteed to recrudesce whenever a city-slicker writer is obliged to report on a matter involving cows, bulls, steers, heifers, calves, or maybe oxen. In this case the writer provides a fine IPO with heifer being used to describe a "young cow, especially one that has not yet given birth to a calf." (AHD III.) Right on. But the lack of a Levi's gene quickly surfaces in the next sentence: "The young female cow broke loose...."

What if the perpetrator had been a male? Would he be termed a male cow? …

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