I have a weird problem. (Well, lots of them, actually, but you don't need to hear about cats who pick the exact worst time to plunk down on a sleeping person's full bladder or how I never tasted a Zima.)
Since 2002, I've been writing a column on grammar and usage for a couple of little newspapers, including the Burbank (Calif.) Leader supplement to the L.A. Times. And, every week for seven years, I experience the same unfounded panic: Oh, crap. I have no idea what I'm going to write about this week. I'm all out of topics. I'm all out of ideas. I'm going to blow deadline then I'll lose the column then I'll no longer be able to afford to indulge my penchant for dental floss and store-brand cola.
Of course, if that were a valid fear, I wouldn't be in my seventh year of writing the dang column. Yet every week, the same stupid fear. It's like Pavlov's dogs continuing to salivate long after they learn that bell ring is only going to get them a bonk on the head.
Anyway, I was just starting to stress over this week's column when I saw NY Times website today. There's a piece by a Times staffer about little language issues that perplex writers and editors at the paper. Not very interesting issues, as far as I'm concerned, but whatever.
However, the comments left by readers are pure gold. They include an assertion that you can't use "like" to mean "such as" (you can), a rant about "one of the only" (sticklers insist it should be "one of the few"), overstated complaints about the Times style of putting apostrophes in numerically designated decades like "1930's" (a bad but nonetheless defensible choice on the Times' part) and unfounded peeves against stuff like "in the hopes that" and "iconic."
Houston, we have a column ...