Thursday, September 20, 2007

Speaking of the End

In July the New York Times published this correction:

“An article on Thursday about the arraignment of three men in the shooting of two New York police officers, one of whom died, misstated the schedule set by a judge for a trial in the case. The trial is expected to begin by February, not by ‘Feb. 30.’ The error occurred when an editor saw the symbol ‘--30--’ typed at the bottom of the reporter’s article and combined it with the last word, ‘February.’ It is actually a notation that journalists have used through the years to denote the end of an article. Although many no longer use it or even know what it means, some journalists continue to debate its origin. A popular theory is that it was a sign-off code developed by telegraph operators. Another tale is that reporters began signing their articles with ‘30’ to demand a living wage of $30 per week. Most dictionaries still include the symbol in the definition of thirty, noting that it means ‘conclusion’ or ‘end of a news story.’”

Yeah, well, it also ends something else. When a copy editor for the New York Times doesn’t know what “--30--” means, as well as thinks there has ever been or ever will be a Feb. 30, something else has gone by the boards too. Sure hope somebody regrets the error.

—from Charles Stough’s BONG newsletter

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