Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Hou and cry

Maybe it's just me. 

What passes for clever these days when trying to give something a "hip, marketable nickname" is nothing more than shortening the thing and leaving it at that.  Creativity, especially in Houston, seems to be on a severe downswing especially where professional word-smiths are concerned.  Take the recent editorial by the Apple Dumpling Gang as an example: Embraceable 'Hou'


Why not Bayou City, or H-town?  Why not the increasingly inaccurate Space City?  Or why not, in keeping with what most Houstonians call it: Houston?

I realize that, in Houston especially, there's a thought that copying New York gives the place a metropolitan feel, that somehow calling the East End "EaDo" puts us on equal footing with SoHo and everyone will be impressed with how modern and urban we are.  We're not some back-water, slack-jawed hick town with bad roads and no public transportation to speak of, we're urban dammit, just look at our nicknames. I also understand that this is a take on a song by George Gershwin, so just leave it there.  What I'm referring to is a trend larger than one editorial.

I saw, over the weekend, on Twitter where Austin's aging relic of a music industry festival, South by Southwest, is now being called "South by" by all of the 'in-the-know' Caucasian hipsters.  Given that the festival is almost solely attended by Caucasian hipsters I'm not surprised.  These are people who's greatest contribution to modern society is drinking a terrible beer and referring to it as PBR so the idea of culture and creative linguistics is lost on them.  If you have any doubt, try to make it through some of the stories in The Texas Tribune. Not only is Evan Smith and John Thornton's little excellence in journalism shop banging the "we need a full time legislature" drum loudly, but they're doing in ways that are increasingly unreadable. Give a try at reading today's primer on Medicare Expansion by Becca Aaronson without having to go back and re-read frequently to keep up with the narrative.  It's damn-near impossible.

Now, granted, judging by her Twitter stream Aaronson spent most of the weekend attending various South by Southwest workshops on removing beer stains from natural fibers or something along those lines, but the fact is what she produced in her paying job is dodgy and difficult to read, much less comprehend and walk away feeling you're got a better grasp on the issue. (And really, isn't that what good journalism should do?)

I'm not trying to pick on Ms. Aaronson here.  That's just one example of many that you can point to.  If you're not visiting the Pinboard account of PubliusTX (referred to here via hattip quite often) then you're missing one of the best run-downs of journalistic malpractice in TX there is.  It's not just the Trib or ChronBlog either.  Kevin found an apostrophe error the other day in the New York Times.  These types of things used to never happen.

It's for these reasons that I blame our current lack of creative linguistics on Texas Lock Step Political Media.  The decline has been with us for a while, I'm thinking back to the late Molly Ivins who started by calling Republicans evil, advanced to calling former Texas Governor and United States President George W. Bush "Shrub" (because, you know, it was kinda, sorta like bush spelled backwards) and left it at that.  What followed was the inevitable decline into George Bushitler and Dumbocrats and Repuglicants and even worse.  The reign of the wordsmith in public discourse has come to an end.  We're seemingly stuck in a land where adding "-gate" to the end of every scandal is enough to get you elected to the least-common denominator hall of fame and in the running for a Pulitzer.

Furthermore there doesn't seem to be much, if any, hope for escaping the downward cycle.  As text speak starts to infiltrate real writing it's going to get much worse before it gets better.  What this means is that, pretty soon, we're going to find ourselves living in a Hou where EaDo is perpetually on the cusp of being the next big thing while Disco Green tries to figure out what to do about the problem of dog bombs.

Can someone at South by..... please do a workshop on this?


  1. "Reporters need to be better at proofreading!" wrote the blogger who makes a grammatical mistake in his second sentence.

    1. Of course, again, you're wrong. I didn't say they need to do a better job of proofreading, I implied that the paid editors need to do a better job editing.

      This little blog relies on its readers to perform editing when needed, on the occasions that I miss something in my once-over. Unfortunately, it is an unpaid position currently due to reductions in the staff budget of zero.

      Of course, I get what I pay for from my commenters as well I guess. I don't pay you to read so I shouldn't be surprised that, yet again, you just don't get it.

      FWIW: You pointed out a typo, not a grammatical error. Why am I surprised you didn't even get THAT right?

      Thanks again for the free editing.


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