From the Dec. 8, 1908, edition of the New York Times:

“Blacks can’t rule, Taft tells south”

That’s a pretty big leap to make in just a century … sometimes, I’m right proud of our country.

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… reports the Times Machine:

The Lighter Side of the Convention

“The National Convention of 1908,” said Perry Heath, formerly Assistant Postmaster General, “will be known undoubtedly as the whiskerless convention.”

Mr. Heath was right. Looking over the convention, one was surprised to find so few men with hirsute adornment.

In the whole National Committee there were only five, and they affected, with one exception, not the full beard, but a sort of goatee growth, that they smoothed with a lingering fondness.

The story continues, with a ribald anecdote about jaundice. My point being: If this kind of witty reportage persisted, if we had more mustache news, more often, maybe the Tribune’s Zell & Co. wouldn’t be so close to the brink of defaulting.

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From the New York Times: “A Women’s Mariachi Band Sings Its Way Across Traditional Male Turf.

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Snag this snazzy T — from which I stole my post title — at One Horse Shy for a cool $22.

Lots of language stuff going on right now — and not only in relation to my unending quest to update a certain stylebook that shall remain nameless, but in the mainstream media, too! Huzzah.

When I’m not getting my kicks reading insta-classics like Lapsing Into a Comma (Bill Walsh) and Woe is I (Patricia T. O’Connor),  I’m trawling through a pile of newspapers and magazines. Generally, they’re a fertile field from which to harvest examples of the uses (and misuses) of modern language; occasionally, they cross the line into explicitly surfacing issues of punctuation, style, and usage — as the Times did today in a story about the inclusion of a semicolon in the MTA’s latest public service ads about throwing away newspapers. It’s quite mawkish, not to mention obnoxiously high-handed, but I’m always secretly pleased that someone somewhere is still pondering the importance of clarity, concision, and coherence in writing.

Elsewhere: Mike Clark of the Greensboro News-Record recently took on the colon; the Daily Freeman reported on schoolchildren protesting a restaurant’s use of capitalization; and the Sydney Morning Herald also ran a (somewhat confounding) glossary of new words that already seem a bit dated — I mean, tanorexia? How Rachel Zoe, circa 2006.

If reading isn’t your thing (which … umm … would be nonsensical, as this text-heavy post is all about word nerdery….but I digress …), you can fake it until you make it with buy grammarrelated T-shirts!)   

Maybe it’s a fluke — or perhaps all this language lovin’ is in anticipation of National Grammar Day on March 4.  The Web site devoted to the holiday has some great links, and its creators even offer a recipe for a Grammartini. See, we’re only selectively curmudgeonly!

1. “Actor Mammootty slaps fan,” Times of India, pointing to the below YouTube video as evidence of the arrogance of the Malayalam film star:

(OK, video won’t embed, so follow this link. And enjoy the rocking music.)

2. “MLAs see ‘vaastu dosh’ in MP Assembly,” The Indian Express — following the death of a local minister, legislators in the state of Madhya Pradesh are calling for vaastu experts to study the building and address any anomalies (vaastu shastra, for those of you not in the know, is vaguely reminiscent of feng shui in that it is an ancient science for determining the appropriate layout of towns and buildings — another contested space in the battle between tradition and modernity, “backward” and developed)

3. “After 14 years, dead railway employee’s kin yet to get compensation,” Times of India — ah, bureaucracy, isn’t it grand?

4. “Bird flu may kill badminton grand prix,” Times of India — I know I shouldn’t joke about the bird flu, but really, the first two grafs of this story struck me as absolutely absurd:

The bird flu outbreak may now cost India its first grand prix badminton tournament. In a formal letter sent to the Badminton Association of India this week, the International Badminton Federation (IBF) has threatened to cancel the India Open, thanks to the acute shortage of shuttlecocks in the country.Bird flu outbreaks in China had made India ban import of all premium goose feathers of Chinese origin to manufacture shuttlecocks.

5. “Lalu shifts three over bad food,” Times of India — again, the lead says it all:

Upset with a slew of events during his hectic visit to Karnataka on Monday, railway minister Lalu Prasad transferred two senior officials after giving them a dressing down.  The two officials … were punished because the minister was not satisfied with the food served on a special train from Tumkur to Bangalore.

An interesting piece about the human toll of sourcing products from low-cost countries: “In Chinese Factories, Lost Fingers and Low Pay” (David Barboza, NY Times). I think this passage should send shivers down the spine of anyone buying cheap toys from Wal-Mart:

“I work on the plastic molding machine from 6 in the morning to 6 at night,” said Xu Wenquan, a tiny, baby-faced 16-year-old whose hands were covered with blisters. Asked what had happened to his hands, he replied, the machines are “quite hot, so I’ve burned my hands.”

Equally if not more resonant was J. Adam Huggins’ documentation of Indian steelforgers contracted to make manhole covers for Con Edison. Barefoot and sweating so we can save some dollars … it just doesn’t seem quite fair.

(Password/logins may be required; I used BugMeNot to bypass it.)