August 17, 2004

Journalist uses multiple logical operators correctly

From the San Jose Mercury News' Action Line for 8/16/2004:

Q: I want add my two cents and give thanks to all those police officers who ticket cars parked over sidewalks.

I have three small boys, and let me tell you, it is hard enough to get out on a walk without having to struggle to get the double stroller around poorly parked cars.

A: Far too many people still do not realize that parking over the sidewalk is illegal, dangerous and inconsiderate.

If Koko or N'kisi or Rico had said this, just imagine the excitement. I expect there'd be cover stories in Science, Nature, Newsweek, the Atlantic and People magazine. The amazing critter would probably get a gig on Letterman and be asked to host Saturday Night Live.

But Dennis Rockstroh, toiling away in the Action Line department at the SJMN, produces sentences like this all the time. Does anyone notice how deftly he manages the intricate interaction of far too many and still do not? No. Does he get his picture on any magazine covers? Not a chance. TV interviews? Nary a one.

Then one day, enervated by the constant toil of sorting through questions about city noise ordinances and minimum-stay requirements at state park campgrounds, he expresses frustration at some law about how gift certificates have be either replaced or redeemed in cash, except they they don't have to be redeemed in cash, and he unwisely substitutes nothing for any in paraphrasing a 34-word legal phrase already crammed with four lexical negations, two modals, one not and a generous sprinkling of quantifiers. Whak! Snik! Ka-choom! Geoff Pullum and Bill Poser are on him like Spiderman on Kraven the Hunter.

It's not easy, being human.


Posted by Mark Liberman at August 17, 2004 12:30 PM