A Small Victory for Proper Capitalization

So I see the following headline in the Birmingham News:

IPad Released Today

Ah, yes! That's the way. In the first place, I've never understood why newspapers and other print media feel obliged to follow the stylizations of a company logo. This subject was covered in detail, and with more authority, by Washington Post copy editor Bill Walsh on his blog. While this sort of thing is bad enough, it's even worse when the logo style is followed even when it should be trumped by basic rules of grammar and composition. In this case, I imagine the pull to lowercase that initial I was strong. What would web people think of IPad? Are we giving up our street cred? After all, this is the same newspaper that has a regular feature that's nothing more than list of links to "interesting" web sites, even some that that the author of the piece himself admits no interest in. If that's not surrender, then I don't know what is.

So, a small round of applause for the News for letting common sense rule for one more day. If they really want to set things right, though, they should start writing I-pad.

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A Comic Strip That Will Live in Infamy

So I'm reading the comic strip "Frazz" today, and a teacher at the school where Frazz works is asking for the difference between famous and infamous. Right away, this seems a little odd, because the words aren't similar. It's like asking for the difference between heinous and popular. Frazz says he can demonstrate using a quote from George Carlin, and the teacher recoils, thinking, I guess, that the quote will use some salty language or something like that. Frazz says that's the point; the teacher knows who George Carlin is because Carlin is famous, but is worried about the quote, because Carlin is infamous.

Let's just set the record straight right here: George Carlin is not infamous, not by a country mile. Carlin was a comedian who sometimes created controversy with his act. That's all.

Other things that are not infamous:

  • the "wardrobe malfunction" at the Super Bowl with Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake
  • the Neil Young album Trans
  • George Lucas's decision to edit Star Wars so that Greedo shoots first

Infamy, properly used, is a very heavy label. To gain some perspective, remember the words of Franklin Delano Roosevelt after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor: "this is a day which will live in infamy." That's the standard. Infamy is not merely being famous in a controversial way. It's not properly applied to an act merely because it is famous for stupidity, silliness, bad taste, or offensiveness.

Of course, words like infamous are misused all the time in the haste of ordinary speech, and no great harm is caused. But is it too much to ask that Frazz take a little more care when directly asked for a definition?

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