WQTS 10

WQTS is ten posts old! To commemorate this milestone–one post per finger (for most of us)–I’ve got an unusually large selection of items for us to shake our heads in despair over.

13-1
Looks like a fairly standard calendar page, doesn’t it? Take a closer look at the middle of the month. Maybe I’m an old fogy, not up on the latest* in matters calendrical, but I still prefer my dates to follow the pattern “18, 19, 20”.

* OK, almost the latest; this is actually a calendar from 2015.

It’s easy to see how this happened, though I would have expected dates to be computer-generated, rather than hand-keyed. But how did nobody notice before the company printed and shipped thousands of these? I’m guessing that a “boundary” test went awry: somebody confirmed that the first was a Wednesday, the thirty-first was a Friday, and assumed that meant all of the dates in between had to be correct. In short, an incorrect choice of tests.

13-2
No, I’m not talking about “remodelation” or the lack of capitalization. This is one where QA was lacking in the development of the specifications. Another pair of eyes might have caught the omission of any indication of what name to look for on Facebook. I checked: it’s not the name of the restaurant.

13-3
“Code hoping”? Ouch! This is from the packaging for a device that’s supposed to let you start your car remotely if you were too cheap to buy the manufacturer’s remote-start option. Let’s hope that the QA folks who tested the security features that ensure nobody can start your car without the fob are not the same ones who reviewed the package copy.

Oh, who am I trying to kid? Chances are neither the package nor the code were QAed. After all, that’s what advertising writers and software developers are for, right?

13-4
Ignore the fact that it’s a pretzel covered in some chocolate-like substance (bleah!). Ignore the fact that nobody at Olivier’s Candies Ltd. can spell “chocolatey,” since my dictionary swears this is an accepted variant* and more importantly, what they meant was “chocolate-” (yes, with a hyphen). But didn’t anybody realize that since these are inanimate objects, they cannot be patriots? Please, people, use your adjectives! “Patriotic Chocolate-Covered Pretzel” Oh, and you might want to add an “s” at the end, since I can clearly see there are at least six per package.

* At least they didn’t spell it “chocolatty”.

Again, a case where there clearly wasn’t any QA done at all. Guys, “copywriter” and “copy editor” are NOT synonyms!

13-5
One more case where a copy editor should have been engaged. Not just for “bakering,” though there is that. But “eaten out of hand” does not mean what the sign-maker thought. Clearly, she* thought it meant to eat something you’re holding. But “out of hand” is actually an idiomatic** expression meaning “out of control” or “immediately, without thinking.”

* Pronoun chosen by coin flip.

** An expression that doesn’t mean what a literal interpretation of the individual words would suggest.

I’ve cropped the picture, so you can’t see the apples, but they’re sitting very peacefully in the bin, hence, not out of control. They also look ripe, but not overripe, so eating them immediately doesn’t seem warranted. Perhaps the intention was to suggest that they should be eaten thoughtlessly. But thoughtless eating is generally the province of less nutritious fare–Patriot Chocolaty Covered Pretzels, perhaps.

Well, whatever. Just remember: No matter what happens,
13-6

Who’s On First?

Baseball has its own version of English. That’s not unusual; what is out of the ordinary is how much of that “Baseballish” has become part of the common language.

Well-known quotes include Satchel Paige’s famous line “Don’t look back. Something might be gaining on you.” and Casey Stengel’s “The trick is growing up without growing old.”

One could write an entire blog (not a post, a whole blog) made of nothing but quips and quotes from Yogi Berra. Come to think of it, somebody probably has written that blog already.

People who never follow baseball use baseball terms without even thinking about it. How often have you heard that a business meeting has gone into extra innings? When was the last time your boss reminded you to cover all your bases or come up with a ballpark figure? Heard a rumor that someone got to second or even third base after a few drinks at last weekend’s party?

Then there are those parts of Baseballish that haven’t made it into common English.

In 1969, Dick Schaap and Paul Zimmerman pointed out that sportscasters habitually omit the word “base” as if it was an obscenity: players don’t “reach base on an error,” they “reach on an error;” they don’t “play second base,” they “man second;” and you’ll never hear “the bases are loaded,” it’ll be “they’re loaded up,” or “they’re juiced”.

Certain phrases are mandatory. Most notably, the infield fly rule is always invoked. Always. I think that’s documented in MLB’s rules of the game. Almost as common is calling an intentional walk an “intentional pass”. I’m not sure what’s behind that; maybe they’re saving the word “walk” for something else?.


What’s really fascinating to me are the phrases that didn’t make it, the phrases that shouldn’t have made it, and sportscasters’ just plain stupid remarks.

What didn’t make it? How about the “walk-off walk”? A walk-off hit is one that scores the winning run for the home team in the last inning. Since there isn’t a possibility for the visiting team to counter, the game is over as soon as the run scores, so both teams walk off the field. “Walk-off hit” and variations such as “walk-off single” and “walk-off grand slam” are common. Suddenly, a couple of years ago, there was a fad for calling a bases-loaded walk that scored the winning run a “walk-off walk”. Every sportscaster used it most of the season, and then it vanished. Why? I suspect it just sounded too cute. Or maybe it just acted as a kind of mental speed bump with the double “walk” bouncing the listeners’ brains off the inside of their skulls.

How about expressions that shouldn’t have made it? My least favorite is “That’s a big out”? Sorry, they’re all big outs. Getting the third out of an inning with nobody on base ends the inning just as well as if the bases are loaded. Getting the second out with a runner on third doesn’t reduce the risk of giving up a run by that much. Please, sportscasters, lose that one.

Almost as bad: “It’s a whole new ballgame.” This one gets trotted out every time the score gets tied. I’ll grind my teeth but ignore it when it’s still early in the game. If I hear it after the third inning, I start to scream and throw things. It’s not a whole new ballgame unless the umpires are going to throw out all of the action that’s already occurred*. A 3-3 tie in the top of the sixth isn’t a new game, it’s a smidgeon more than a third of a game. And the less said about using the expression when the home team ties the game in the bottom of the ninth, the better. Sure, we’re going to extra innings, but the number of games that run to eighteen innings is miniscule. (Even worse, more often than not, a ninth inning tie will also induce an announcer to proclaim “Looks like we get free baseball.” Since when? Attendance is a flat rate. I don’t get a refund if the game gets shortened by rain, and as far as I know, there’s never been a serious attempt to charge extra for extra innings.)

* This will never happen. There’s no provision in the rules for it.

Moving on.

Let’s wrap this up with a selection of my favorite mental lapses by sportscasters. I know they’re under a lot of pressure to fill air time–heaven forbid that the viewers might fill dead air with their own thoughts–but some of the comments are so egregious that they really should get on-air apologies.

I’m going to keep these anonymous, mostly because I was too flabbergasted to take notes about the culprits. Rest assured that they are not limited to any particular team’s announcers. I’ve collected these from radio and TV broadcasts all over MLB.

  • A pitcher has just given up his second hit of the game, and the announcer says “He’s only given up two hits…and the six walks haven’t really hurt him yet.” Say what? Then where did those four runs on the scoreboard come from?
  • The catcher stands up behind home and holds his glove out to the side. That’s the universal signal for giving the batter an intentional walk. Says the announcer, “Let’s see if they give him an intentional pass.”
  • At the start of a night game, the announcer portentiously intones “It’s a brand new day in Houston.” Sorry, buddy. It’s 7 PM there and the sun is about to set. If you’re trying to do some metaphorical thing, you need to establish the metaphor by talking about the previous dark days. You can’t just jump into the middle like that.
  • Finally, from this year’s All-Star Game: “This is the first time the American and National League teams have worn a cap specially designed for the 2014 All-Star Game.” Really? I could have sworn that both teams wore 2014 All-Star Game caps in 1962, 1999, and 2004. It could have been worse, I suppose. At least he didn’t try to tell us that the winning league would get the home field advantage in the 2003 World Series.