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A Brief Note

I've noticed a whole bunch of posts on minor rightwing websites making an argument of the form "Matthew Yglesias claims to be 'reality-based' but I can provide the following three examples where he mixed up 'right' and 'write' or 'there' and 'their' or some such thing." In response, let me note that those of us who've been using the "reality-based" label do so as an ironic commentary on a Bush administration official who, according to Ron Suskind, derisively labeled Suskind and his ilk "reality-based." In other words, it is the Bush administration that has bestowed this label on its critics, not the critics who've bestowed it upon ourselves. As for the homonym mixups, it's not immediately apparent to me what the relevance is to the reality-based issue, but I apologize. I put out a lot of content here, don't have an editor, and that sort of thing isn't my strong suit. I think you'll see if you look around that a large portion of my generation (i.e., those of us who learned to write after the dawn of the spell checker but before the dawn of the grammar checker) have this problem.

November 13, 2004 | Permalink


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» Fun with Homonyms from Political Animal
FUN WITH HOMONYMS....Matt Yglesias, whose homonym misspellings are indeed legendary, offers up this explanation:I think you'll see if you look around that a large portion of my generation (i.e., those of us who learned to write after the dawn of... [Read More]

Tracked on Nov 13, 2004 1:47:20 PM

» Matt Yglesias: youngster. from Wax Banks
The little bastard's only something like 23 years old, do you realize this? Of course he went to Harvard, which makes his credentials as an intellectual even more dubious - but here he points out something sharp about his 'generation': [Read More]

Tracked on Nov 14, 2004 1:06:55 PM

» Reality-Based Community from A Sea of Flowers
I began to see bloggers identifying themselves as part of the Reality-Based Community in the last couple of days. I have been wondering if I should join. It's an ironic response to a remark by a White House staff member who dismissed the the Reality-ba... [Read More]

Tracked on Nov 17, 2004 2:24:40 PM

» Spelling Errors No One Should Ever Make Again from Backwards City
Somebody needs to do an empirical study of these types of homophone and phonetic errors, and then provide elementary school teachers with a list of commonly misused words whose correct spelling and usage they shall beat into their students' minds. [Read More]

Tracked on Nov 17, 2004 10:46:05 PM

» Enrich Your Word Power from Crooked Timber
I’m writing about reading right now; a response to an essay Mark Bauerlein has written about the NEA’s Reading At Risk survey. I’ll quote a bit from Mark: These findings [steep decline across the board, especially among the young] won... [Read More]

Tracked on Nov 19, 2004 11:45:43 AM

» Enrich Your Word Power from Crooked Timber
I’m writing about reading right now; a response to an essay Mark Bauerlein has written about the NEA’s Reading At Risk survey. I’ll quote a bit from Mark: These findings [steep decline across the board, especially among the young] won... [Read More]

Tracked on Nov 19, 2004 11:51:19 AM


I had always assumed that you dictated your posts.

Posted by: Dave M | Nov 13, 2004 2:52:35 AM

Ooh, damn. They shore tole ju.

Posted by: praktike | Nov 13, 2004 3:02:12 AM

Proud member of the “subtantance”, "Due Check" AND “Intept Based” Community.

Posted by: Modern Crusader | Nov 13, 2004 3:05:06 AM

You also make grammatical errors, leave out words, fall for logical fallacies and often fail to post frequently. Consider yourself chastised.

You write surpassingly well, though, which is why everyone reads you.

As for the nitpickers, like all of us, they're their own worst enemies. So there.

Posted by: bad Jim | Nov 13, 2004 3:09:24 AM

Wouldn't ya know the Wingers would jump on spelling faults - grrrrr - just like 'em; martinets, and achtung, baby.
It's not that I don't notice copy editing errors, it's that in the heat of the blogging moment, they don't seem, to me, to be that crucial. A sense of proportion all around would be welcome. Spell checkers are great, but they won't catch the wrong word if it's already properly spelled. Happens to all of us. Moreover, there are brilliant minds out there who can't spell for shit - that's why they have professional helpers to keep them from embarrassing themselves in cold print. Blogs are a hotter and more improvisatory form. Nitpicking spelling and grammar is quite beside the point, if characteristic of the little tyrants who want us all now to behave, or they'll deny us our juice and cookie.
I say fuck 'em.

Posted by: grishaxxx | Nov 13, 2004 3:48:17 AM

Matthew Yglesias claims to be reality-based, but I've never seen him eating eel at Japonica.

Posted by: Petey | Nov 13, 2004 3:52:25 AM

Matthew Glazier claims to be reality-based but in fact there is no real evidence for the dreaded Mujaheddin -e-Khalq/Al-Qaeda prisoner swamps

Posted by: Andrew | Nov 13, 2004 4:17:23 AM

I noticed those spelling realities too, but I would never bring them up. But since you did ... I've also noticed that you frequently use try and where try to would be better. The How To Say It style guide by Maggio says Careful writers will avoid the ungrammatical 'try and' which is sometimes heard in informal speech. I think Drum also uses try and, which shows how common its usage is. So try to write try to, OK?

And Matt, why not try to use pre-post volunteer editors? I would try to contribute, if there was a way.

Posted by: poputonian | Nov 13, 2004 6:21:38 AM

Critiques of your writing based on misspellings, homonymic or not, are silly- a lot of us write so many lines of text a day, delivered either instantaneously, or with liitle time for reflection or revision, that there is no way we are going to avoid even the grossest mistakes, all of the time.

If you're going to make fun of misspellings, these days (and I agree that homonymic misspellings are the most fertile ground for this, as they tend to indicate a lack of knowledge of the roots of words) it's best to wait till you've seen the same mistake a few times from the same person.

It is particularly annoying that these commentators took you to task over a typo or two- it gives you great cover in asserting that everyone who challenges your facile use of that quote is an idiot.

Just to reiterate:

"...And while you're studying that reality -- judiciously, as you will -- we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors..."

This is actually a subtle argument- in fact it may be the most interesting statement we've heard from either party in the last few years. It's certainly about as honest as a presidential advisor can get- punish that! Correct and honest... can't have it...

It is, factually, impeccably true (and would be regardless of the party in power), and in context it leaves the "reality-based" looking rather unsophisticated and not at all nuanced. Dynamics beat statics every day of the week.

Thing is that the _full_ quote raises some very important questions about our role in the world- questions that a serious commentator would address- well, if we had serious commentators anymore.

Instead we get endless repetition of "reality-based". One sure way to prove that you are anything but reality-based is to reference that phrase without acknowledging its surrounding context, to pretend that one thing was meant when something else entirely was clearly said. Isn't that the sort of thing you tend to (not necessarily wrongly, I'll add) accuse Republican operatives of? With a great deal of contempt?

But anything for the party, I guess... Tally-Ho, Heisenblimp straight ahead...

Posted by: Tagore Smith | Nov 13, 2004 6:47:33 AM

What kind of a douche thinks that it's a coup to catch Matt in a spelling error?

Posted by: things fall apart | Nov 13, 2004 7:39:50 AM

Effective writing has little to do with spelling and everything to do with the turn of one’s mind, the quality of one’s thoughts.

In Matthew’s case, I suspect that the editing errors mentioned above are the result of haste and being overly tired.

Even though Missy Mod Cru might spell everything correctly, who in their right minds would care about the mutterings of this unfortunate and obviously deranged young woman?

Frankly, her stuff reads like overly wrought parody.

Posted by: Blue Iris | Nov 13, 2004 7:44:11 AM

Well, I think that the wingers have paid you a great compliment, Matthew. After all, complaining about your spelling/grammar seems a tacit admission that they had nothing BETTER (er, bettre) to complain about!!!!

Posted by: Jim G | Nov 13, 2004 7:56:12 AM

Matt - I think you have a eager crew of anal-retentives here who will copy-edit you to within an inch of your lovely life! You got STAFF, man!

Posted by: grishaxxx | Nov 13, 2004 9:01:35 AM

I see the sinister paw of our Crusader Rabbit here behind this rapidly-proliferating meme. It's only a matter of time before Bob Novak or George Will picks it up.

I agree with Tagore Smith. Nothing wrong with shallow jabs at the enemy, but the dynamic-vs-static problem is something that Democrats have to understand better.

Posted by: Zizka | Nov 13, 2004 9:02:37 AM

Well, sure, if you just want to hack out a rough job, and hope your readers are as unfazed by the misspellings as you are...maybe this is the origin of the journalistic usage of "hack".

There are a lot of ways to explain this but for someone in Matt's position the easiest might be pride. With prestigious academic credentials, is he going to let those schools down by producing sloppy work?

Or should the rest of us just conclude that those schools aren't all they're cracked up to be?

Posted by: serial catowner | Nov 13, 2004 9:23:39 AM

I do get a kick out of the descriptions of everybody talking so fast they don't have time to figure out what they're saying. Like the old advice for feeling comfortable speaking in public- "Just don't think about what you're saying".

I must be getting old- I can't listen as fast as everybody is talking.

Posted by: serial catowner | Nov 13, 2004 9:28:58 AM

I'd like to address Zizka's point (which is far more interesting than anything about some wingnuts play gotcha with a dictionary).

Dynamism of this sort can work if the mover and shaker has a deeper insight than the carping critics nattering inside their conventionalized boxes. However, the administration's signature move to create bold new facts on the ground (Iraq) is less the product of deep vision than it is the playing out of a harebrained ideologue's scheme to attempt something (planting a libertarian ultra-capitalist democracy in arabia) at complete variance to the history and cultural geography of the place. Decidedly not reality-based, and also a crashing failure.

Maybe you don't have to be reality-based. But you do need to be right.

Domestic policy is another kettle of fish, of course. There, however, it looks to me less like implementing a bold new vision than like the old con man's game of fleecing the rubes and making them like it.

Posted by: jimBOB | Nov 13, 2004 10:06:55 AM

Funny how all of W's mangled syntax, mis-pronunciations, made-up words, and generally embarassing ignorance and inarticulateness (which should be shocking and worrisome for an MBA and a President of the US) are seen as favorable traits, showing his "plain-spoken man of the people" character.

Your winger critics are assholes.......ignore them. The smell of Bush's ass has overcome their thinking skills.

Posted by: marty | Nov 13, 2004 10:10:03 AM

$500 to anyone who can explain the lose/loose phenomenon. Until the dawn of the internet, I was unaware these two words were ever confused. Suddenly, 50% of the population uses them interchangeably.

Any theories?

Posted by: space | Nov 13, 2004 10:11:50 AM

Lose loose drives me nuts too. They aren't pronounced the same.

When I'm typing fast I frequently use "and" for "an" before a vowel, e.g. "I have and idea".

Posted by: Zizka | Nov 13, 2004 10:23:13 AM

Actually pretty simple- in modern times you lose anything you don't hold tightly. In ye olde times you could leave a bicycle unlocked for a few minutes- now that's a 'loser'- if it's loose you lose.

Lucky for us we're cybernauts and don't need material stuff. Or should that be 'cybernots'?

Posted by: serial catowner | Nov 13, 2004 10:27:33 AM

And while you're studying that reality -- judiciously, as you will -- we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors

It is an interesting and subtle quote... there does exist, however, a large body of work studying the attitude it represents, which explore it in detail and tease out its consequences. Much of the classical drama regarding "hubris" springs to mind fairly quickly, for instance.

On another level spending time and energy analyzing a quote the substance of which is to score points off people who waste time and energy analyzing quotes seems kind of self-defeating.

Posted by: The Eradicator! | Nov 13, 2004 10:30:16 AM

Isn't that quote almost textbook fascism?

Zizka, I'm not quite sure what you're getting at.

Posted by: Walt Pohl | Nov 13, 2004 10:41:05 AM

fuck em'...

Posted by: Carleton | Nov 13, 2004 10:52:39 AM

Over at Brad DeLong's place I put up "adobt" and also "desparation". And for the love of God "privitization". And none of them looked right at the time. But I hit 'Post' anyway. And I wince when I revisit to gather replies.

But what I didn't do is pull shit out of my ass and post it as truth. Wingnuts have there write to be speling fazists. After all fascism is what they do best. If only their truthcheck was up to their spellcheck.

Posted by: Bruce Webb | Nov 13, 2004 11:24:23 AM

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