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Someone better "diffuse" me before I asplode

Jim Wynne

Staff member
Admin
#1
Headline over a story at Philly.com:

How one Phila. school diffused a recent conflict


Now if you're like me, and I hope to god you're not, this sort of thing sets you to twitching. Other than "f-u-s-e," there is no relationship between "diffuse" and "defuse." They're not spelled the same, they mean different things, and they're pronounced differently.
If a sixth-grader made this mistake, you could understand it, but I'm guessing that Philly.com (and The Philadelphia Inquirer, from whence the story originated) are not staffed by sixth-graders.

The funny thing is, I've never seen the reverse mistake made. No one in the history of the universe has ever written about "defuse" light.
 
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SteelMaiden

Super Moderator
Super Moderator
#2
Ah Jim, you need to read our 3/week newspaper. You would not believe some of the stuff I've seen including my all time pick for worst: balling for bawling. :bonk: :mg:

Should I start sending you my copies after I've spent my 10 minutes reading every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday? You'd do more than asplode.
 

Wes Bucey

Quite Involved in Discussions
#3
I guess the problem of newspapers and webpages containing so many typographical and grammatical errors stems from what I call the "Microsoft Theory of Software Development" wherein the organization no longer hires proofreaders or copyreaders, but instead lets the gibberish go straight from the spelling and grammatically challenged writers to the public, who then send in the corrections.

In the case of newspapers, they then get added publicity when the spelling and grammar police report the misdeeds in other publications and an added bonus of free content when those same spelling and grammar police send in humorous acerbic comments about the errors which the paper then publishes.

Of course, the real issue is the trust people place in spellchecker software which has not yet reached the point of sophistication to tell when folks mean "lose" when they write or type "loose" (or "wurst" for "worst") because in those cases the wrong word for the context is still spelled correctly for the spellchecker.

My solution:
If I consider the writer a friend, I inform him of the mistake privately, not to humiliate him in public. If the writer is not a friend, I smile and go on with my life. If the writer is an enemy or adversary, I smile even more broadly, secure in the knowledge he looks like a fool without my help.
 

Jim Wynne

Staff member
Admin
#4
My solution:
If I consider the writer a friend, I inform him of the mistake privately, not to humiliate him in public. If the writer is not a friend, I smile and go on with my life. If the writer is an enemy or adversary, I smile even more broadly, secure in the knowledge he looks like a fool without my help.
I admire your solution. Now you just need a problem to go along with it.
 

Jen Kirley

Quality and Auditing Expert
Staff member
Admin
#5
I guess the problem of newspapers and webpages containing so many typographical and grammatical errors stems from what I call the "Microsoft Theory of Software Development" wherein the organization no longer hires proofreaders or copyreaders, but instead lets the gibberish go straight from the spelling and grammatically challenged writers to the public, who then send in the corrections.

In the case of newspapers, they then get added publicity when the spelling and grammar police report the misdeeds in other publications and an added bonus of free content when those same spelling and grammar police send in humorous acerbic comments about the errors which the paper then publishes.

Of course, the real issue is the trust people place in spellchecker software which has not yet reached the point of sophistication to tell when folks mean "lose" when they write or type "loose" (or "wurst" for "worst") because in those cases the wrong word for the context is still spelled correctly for the spellchecker.

My solution:
If I consider the writer a friend, I inform him of the mistake privately, not to humiliate him in public. If the writer is not a friend, I smile and go on with my life. If the writer is an enemy or adversary, I smile even more broadly, secure in the knowledge he looks like a fool without my help.
My husband's experience with newspaper reporters hints that your helpful idea is very possibly destined for waste.

My frequent complaining about problems in headlines, bylines, text and in classified ads in our area newspaper was met with a realist's near-shrug. He said (he was one of their IT guys) they blame IT. But I know very well that spell check is only as reliable as the spelling/grammar skills in the programmers; and the editors, who are the ones in charge of headlines, don't take it upon themselves to proof read. It could be different where you are, but that would surprise me.
 

Wes Bucey

Quite Involved in Discussions
#8
In a way,though, by stretching one's credibility, "diffusing the situation" might be what the headline writer had in mind, misinterpreting this definition of diffuse
To pour out and cause to spread, as a fluid; to cause to flow on all sides; to send out, or extend, in all directions; to spread; to circulate; to disseminate; to scatter; as to diffuse information. [1913 Webster]
as meaning to "thin out" and perhaps become less concentrated and thus less intense.

However, in my mind (an often scary place), I'm convinced the writer just screwed up, much as some folks, trying to appear erudite, will write "per say" when they mean "per se" (a Latin phrase meaning "by itself"), because the pronunciation is the same.
 
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