30 March 2007

Vows and covenants II

I now understand my grammarian streak as something I abhor in my father, namely, his desire always to know where his hammer and screwdriver are, and to have his electrical cord, the one that attaches to the Weed Wacker, rewound perfectly after each use and returned to its home behind the extension ladder.

His lust is for the placement of objects; mine is for punctuation. Until recently, I didn't realize they are essentially the same thing. It was an unhappy discovery.

But, hey, if the giddy nihilism of your twenties isn't followed by sad realizations, then you're not really dying, which means that you weren't really alive.

Caring about grammar and keeping a tidy workbench are both moral, of course—something goes here, not there, for no reason other than that it should, and the pursuit is driven by a fear that the world would unhinge if people didn't care about these things.

All of this, gentle reader, is preamble to my point. I went to a lecture last night with Trois Heures. We heard a woman speak about Iran. Interesting talk, blah blah blah, then thoughtful questions and one denunciation from an intense bearded man.

All night the speaker—Deborah Campbell, a writer and UBC prof of literary nonfiction—used "media" as a singular noun. The media is growing in influence. The media is censored.

To my ear, it's ugly in the same way as "There's three chairs over there"—forgivably, avoidably, uglily. Then there's the question What does 'media' actually mean?

Here's what the experts say:
American Heritage: Maybe "media" refers just to the press and broadcasters...
Dictionary.com: The singular use is now common in mass communications and advertising.
OED: "Media" is the plural of "medium."
In this fractured and fizzing information landscape, can we really get away with thinking of the media as a monolith?

Next, we tackle he, she, they, ze, and, gulp, hir—unassigned singulars. Let's wait till we're drinking wine.

By the way, have you seen the Phillips-head? It should be in the cupboard in the garage.

(Illustration: The shield of St. Jude, the patron saint of lost causes. Is that a pen?)

3 comments:

vdawg said...

I lust for the placement of, well, nothing. I'm a pig. You and dad used it all up in the family. Actually, Em lusts for the placement of hands on her laptop. I am still a pig.

JJB said...

Who are you?

Anonymous said...

You wish you could forget.