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Columbia Missourian

DEAR READER: 'Dooziewhoppers' create havoc for copy editors

By Maggie Walter
December 11, 2012 | 12:00 p.m. CST

COLUMBIA — Sometimes, when copy editors cluster around the desk, we find solid reasons to roll our eyes, exchange knowing glances and emit groans of dismay.

A poorly written sentence, an illogical sequence of cause and effect, missing facts and incorrectly spelled names are the triggers.


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During one such recent editing session, when yet another editor was trying to differentiate fact from fiction in a confusing passage, a new word was born: "dooziewhopper." It just popped out of my mouth as a perfect way to describe those sticky situations — it's as silly as the situation, fun to say and easy to remember. In announcing to the newsroom via the daily overnight note, I wrote, "Enjoy and feel free to use it in a sentence." And I invite you to join in, too.

Use of dooziewhopper is slowly — quite slowly — gaining momentum, but I think it will take off soon. Realistically, it will be a long time before it catches up with Merriam-Webster's most looked-up words of 2012.

According to an article by Leanne Italie for The Associated Press, the presidential election drove folks to online dictionaries. Socialism and capitalism were the paired winners.

Italie quoted editor at large, Peter Sokolowski, as saying, "They're words that sort of encapsulate the zeitgeist. They're words that are in the national conversation. The thing about an election year is it generates a huge amount of very specific interest."

The best word from the political season, to me, is malarkey. I've always appreciated its springy rhythm and humorous quality. Saying malarkey is kind of like saying, "You can't be serious" or "That's a dooziewhopper."

The AP reported that look-ups of malarkey on the dictionary's website was the "largest spike of a single word by percentage, at 3,000 percent, in a single 24-hour period this year."

Readers share pet peeves

The October Show Me the Errors column, DEAR READER: 'Its' tops the list of endangered words, stirred some readers to share their pet peeves about misused language.

Dan Viets wrote that he "often see(s) people who should know better using 'they' or 'their' when the proper phrase is 'his or her.' Quite often this misuse of the English language occurs because people do not want to use the sexist term 'he' or 'his' when referring to people of both genders or undetermined gender. ... For instance, 'Each person should hang their coat on a hook.'  Many people have an apparent aversion to using the term “his or her,” but this does not excuse coupling a plural pronoun or possessive with a singular subject."

Viets also shared his "pet peeve" when newscasters and reporters use the misbegotten phrase, “one of the only.”  He wrote: "There is no context in which that phrase is ever proper. The thing may be the only one or it may be one of the few, but it is never one of the only. If it is the only, there are no others.  If it is one of, there must be others and therefore, it is not the only."

Doug Crews, executive director of the Missouri Press Association, joined in with a complaint about the misuse of "myself" and "me," especially on radio broadcasts. "Can't people on the radio get the word 'me' into their vocabulary? Too often I hear 'my friend and myself' when the correct usage should be 'my friend and me.'

I receive emails, even letters, with sentences that begin, 'Myself and the committee members. ...'

"Ouch.  It drives ME (not myself) crazy."

And, in a comment posted on the column, Michael Williams wrote: "Personally, I'm willing to get rid of know what I mean. And I want to know WHO was the MORON that thought up the spelling for the word: " give up. Deep-six it. ..."

"Personally, my language cross-to-bear is the splitting of infinitives. To effectively write, I'm often troubled by my ability to badly split infinitives when I sit down to properly write.

"I like semi-colons, tho."

And, I appreciate readers who share their thoughts about word usage, grammar, punctuation and other such issues in the world of copy editing.

And the winner is ...

For the November Show Me the Errors contest, there were 12 entrants with 18 submissions. Jim Terry, a steady participant, led the pack with six suggestions.

Justin Willett is the winner of the contest drawing. He'll be receiving a Missourian T-shirt and a copy of "The Professor and The Madman" by Simon Winchester. Willett submitted one correction to let us know that in a photo caption describing the process of completing the airport interchange, straw was misidentified as hay. In a state with a strong agricultural base, that's a dooziewhopper.

Maggie Walter is an associate professor at the Missouri School of Journalism and an interactive news editor at She recommends that grammar-lovers check out on Facebook for a little humor, including this gem: What do you call Santa's elves? Answer: Subordinate clauses.