On spelling flames

The Jargon Dictionary says:

spelling flame: n.

[Usenet] A posting ostentatiously correcting a previous article’s spelling as a way of casting scorn on the point the article was trying to make, instead of actually responding to that point (compare dictionary flame). Of course, people who are more than usually slovenly spellers are prone to think any correction is a spelling flame. It’s an amusing comment on human nature that spelling flames themselves often contain spelling errors.

I wonder if people realize just how lame they look when they try to score points off a spelling mistake? Which brings us to Tim Blair, who isn’t just lame, but lame squared, because he has not one, but two posts about a spelling mistake that Chris Sheil made, not in a post, but in a comment. He even has an update where he wets his pants with excitement because OMG! Mark Steyn linked to his spelling flame.

And as usually happens with these things one of Blair’s spelling flames contains a mistake itself. Blair’s error is not something superficial like a spelling mistake, but something substantive. Blair claims:

Bush’s polling has spiked impressively following his Fort Bragg speech.

Using an extremely advanced research technique that I call “following the links” it is possible to find out what actually happened to Bush’s polling after the speech:

A CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll of Americans who watched President Bush’s Iraq speech Tuesday night showed that 46 percent had a “very positive” reaction to what they heard.

The poll was taken immediately after the speech, and the 323 adults interviewed were 50 percent Republican, 23 percent Democratic and 27 percent independent. The margin of error was plus or minus 6 percentage points. …

“It’s difficult to tell from these poll results how the speech will affect general U.S. public,” said CNN polling director Keating Holland.

“Many Americans did not watch the speech. Those who did were 2-to-1 Republican, so most were arguably already in the president’s camp.”…

Respondents in Tuesday night’s poll also were asked three follow-up questions to ones put to them June 24-27. …

The president likewise picked up some support on the question of whether he has a clear plan in Iraq — going from a 56 percent positive response before the speech to 63 percent afterward.

The “impressive spike” is just amongst the mostly Bush supporters who watched the speech. How did he go with the general U.S. public? Not so good. Before the speech 37% felt that he had a clear plan on Iraq. After the speech the number was basically unchanged at just 38%. Media matters has another example of erroneous reporting of the poll.

Update: Blair has added a third post on the spelling mistake. Lame cubed.

More Update: Now up to 4,5,6,7,8 posts on the spelling mistake.

Comments

  1. #1 flute
    July 3, 2005

    I have invoked my editorial right, and corrected the mistake.

  2. #2 tim
    July 3, 2005

    You could also have corrected his Margo-ish apostrophe error, Flutey.

  3. #3 cs
    July 3, 2005

    Since when does Margoish require a hyphen tim, stylishly speaking? And while we’re pointing out your mistakes etc, are you going to correct and apologise for your somewhat more serious error, identified here by Tim?

  4. #4 tim
    July 3, 2005

    I’ll take advice on corrections from someone who can spell, Mr Dumber-than-Bush.

    Incidentally, you could use a comma after “tim”. And it’s a proper noun, so throw in a capital T as well, cretin.

  5. #5 cs
    July 3, 2005

    “One must regard the hyphen as a blemish to be avoided wherever possible”

  6. #6 cs
    July 3, 2005

    Said Winston Churchill.

    And I did use a comma after “tim”. Are you blind as well as lame?

  7. #7 cs
    July 3, 2005

    Cretan.

  8. #8 J F Beck
    July 3, 2005

    What’s the deal with cs suggesting Bush is a cretin, anyway? Cretinism is a serious congenital disorder.

    That’s like someone suggesting TL has Asperger’s, no?

  9. #9 tim
    July 3, 2005

    Oh, I am sorry, Chris. I meant a comma before “tim”. Your errors are so manifold as to be, well, blinding.

    You probably meant “stylistically”, too, rather than “stylishly”. When’s your book coming out, by the way? I can’t wait to read it.

  10. #10 Meyrick Kirby
    July 3, 2005

    The mind boggles!

  11. #11 Meyrick Kirby
    July 3, 2005

    It’s one thing to be criticized on a blog for having nothing better to do than criticize other peoples spelling and English in general. It’s a whole other thing to turn up at that blog and start to … err … criticize other peoples spelling and English in general.

    Tim, you really don’t need any enemies!

  12. #12 cs
    July 3, 2005

    Apology accepted tim. Admitting your errors is a start. Try to lift your game in future.

  13. #13 cs
    July 3, 2005

    Oh, I am sorry, Chris. I meant a comma before “tim”.

    Might be time to lay off on the booze tim.

  14. #14 flute
    July 3, 2005

    Tim is just a bit tetchy because he didn’t get his Devine fix yesterday. It cuts his “Miranda says this so it must be troo” section out. Maybe some “Classic Miranda” from the archives would be in order?

    “Trees, they’re green but not gay”
    or
    “Chris Pyne is Cool”

  15. #15 Dominion
    July 3, 2005

    It is absolutely amazing to me how many of you seem to miss the point.

  16. #16 Nabakov
    July 4, 2005

    Why not tell ‘em, little tim, what makes you a premiere belle spelleriste.

  17. #17 Max Power
    July 4, 2005

    What I want to know is how Tim Blair, whose appalling second-rate hackery sets new lows even for the esteemed world of far-right internet blogs, gets to write for the Bulletin.

    We can’t be far off the day he heroically denounces someone’s spelling from his perch on the back page there.

  18. #18 duggie
    July 4, 2005

    wow. just wow

  19. Tim Blair,

    If you sign in as “tim”, people can call you “tim”.

  20. #20 C.L.
    July 4, 2005

    What about a mathematics flame, people?

    Tim L: what’s your authority for claiming lame squared = 2? As ‘lame’ is a word borrowed from nomenclature relating to immobility; as we have two extremities designed to faciltate movement; and as the adjective is applicable to one or both extremities, it could be that lame x lame = 1 or maybe 4. But not 2. It would be more correct to say, for example, that “Tim Lambert’s monomania squared = Tim Lambert’s monomania.”

    Just sayin.

  21. #21 the-open-mind
    July 4, 2005

    Heh, that makes me lame cubed. How many times did I ask you “How do you spell that?” when trying to get your last name at Grogblogging II?

    Has blogging become the new USENET?

  22. #22 david tiley
    July 4, 2005

    A “margoish” is a small object used in an obscure game of Hindu origin. Teams of elephants fire these “margoishee” at the opposing mahouts through their trunks. They are made entirely from compacted rat droppings dried in the noonday sun.

    The fact that many Western spectators have been struck by a spray of rat shit from a disintegrating margoish explains the etymological origin of the term “My Gosh”.

    This is why the hyphen is necessary in relation to Margo.

  23. #23 craigm
    July 5, 2005

    CL

    Maybe because its irrational.

  24. #24 tim
    July 5, 2005

    Make that “in a post as well as in a comment”.

  25. #25 Tim Lambert
    July 5, 2005

    Err, no, two posts about a spelling mistake in a comment. I’ve mentioned your third post in an update.

    Chris has corrected his spelling mistake, but you have not corrected your far more serious factual error about Bush’s polling. How come?

  26. #26 Eli Rabett
    July 5, 2005

    26 good reasons to avoid spelling flame posts.

  27. #27 z
    July 5, 2005

    The amazing part is that the incidence of errors in spelling and grammatical flames is much higher than that in general.

    For instance:

    “tim Says:
    July 4th, 2005 at 2:05 am
    I’ll take advice on corrections from someone who can spell, Mr Dumber-than-Bush.
    Incidentally, you could use a comma after “tim”. And it’s a proper noun, so throw in a capital T as well, cretin,”

    managing not only to confuse before with after, but also the seldom seen feat of castigating his intended victim for capitalizing his name in the exact same manner in which he himself capitalizes it (i.e., not).

  28. #28 tim
    July 5, 2005

    “you have not corrected your far more serious factual error about Bush’s polling. How come?”

    Because it isn’t a factual error; you’re all het up about interpretation, not fact. About which you’d have had much more to say last year regarding Sheil’s poll analyses, if you were consistent.

    One possible “factual error” I’ve been meaning to ask about, incidentally; during your duplication/mirroring/call it what you will of my site earlier this year, you mentioned in someone’s comments (while hiding from my phone calls all day) that an email I mentioned I’d sent you on that matter hadn’t arrived. I think you claimed your server may have been down.

    Question: were you lying? (I’m pretty sure you were; my email listed the note as received.) And if you were aware I’d sent you an email, why didn’t you contact me via another means instead of dodging me all day like a coward?

  29. #29 Tim Lambert
    July 5, 2005

    Bush’s polling did not spike after his speech. That is a fact. You claimed that it did. That is a false claim. I doubt if Sheil has ever screwed up the description of a poll as badly as you did, but point to an error you think he has made and I’ll check it out.

    I did not hide from your phone calls at all. I was teaching that morning so my mobile was turned off. I also answered a phone call from you in the afternoon, so your claim that I hid from you or dodged you all day is untrue.

    When I looked for you email in the morning I didn’t see it. We had been having problems with the mail server that week so I assumed that it was delayed. I found the email later. I’m not sure why you think it would somehow induce me to hide, since all you said was something to the effect of “what are you doing?”. You did not ask me to turn off the proxy or call you.

  30. #30 dave
    July 5, 2005

    I wonder if people realize just how lame they look when they try to score points off a spelling mistake?

    I dunno about that, Tim. If you accept that premise, you can never again laugh at the Morans guy.

  31. #31 dsquared
    July 6, 2005

    Gosh, you have to follow quite a few links to get to the actual poll, but when you get there, it is clear that Tim Blair is in error. The Gallup poll was a poll of people who had watched the speech; a poll of people who have made the decision to watch a George Bush speech is clearly not the sort of thing that Gallup would refer to as “Bush’s polling”. I think that the original error was made by the “Captain’s Quarters” blog, which decided to spin it as an example of media bias because political editors understood the nature of the poll properly. This error was repeated (with spin) by Glenn Reynolds. Tim Blair then repeated it again (gosh, there is a bit of an echo chamber effect at work here), preserving the main error but omitting the additional error that the poll had been unreported because of liberal media bias. I don’t know whether Tim Blair (note capitalization) removed the second error out of concern for accuracy or simple laziness. However, the first error remains and it is clearly one of fact, not interpretation; the poll Tim Blair is referring to is not correctly described as “Bush’s polling”, because that phrase without qualification would normally refer to a representative sample. lah de dah.

  32. #32 tim
    July 6, 2005

    “Bush’s polling did not spike after his speech.”

    At the poll I linked to, it did. Strange that you get so worked up about a matter of interpretation (what is impressive to me is, almost by definition, unimpressive to you) but when people repeatedly write about plastic turkeys you couldn’t care less. In fact, you’d prefer that those errors not be pointed out.

    “I did not hide from your phone calls at all.”

    You didn’t answer several made throughout the day, or messages passed to you via your supervisor.

    “I was teaching that morning so my mobile was turned off.”

    Please. You still had time to read several sites and comment at them.

    “I also answered a phone call from you in the afternoon, so your claim that I hid from you or dodged you all day is untrue.”

    That was perhaps my fifth or sixth call, and it was late-ish in the day. When, exactly, were you planning to get back to me? Once your shame had evaporated? No, wait; the premise of that is flawed. Once you’d enjoyed your glee-filled day of geekish prankery?

    “I found the email later.”

    Sure you did. And you didn’t answer it even then.

    “I’m not sure why you think it would somehow induce me to hide … “

    I never suggested it did. Rather, you were hiding out of general gutlessness.

    “All you said was something to the effect of ‘what are you doing?'”.

    A reasonable enough question, I’d have thought, given that you’d done something so stupid.

    “You did not ask me to turn off the proxy or call you.”

    No, I only did that in all the phone calls and messages via your boss. None of which you returned. And you call me lame …

  33. #33 dsquared
    July 6, 2005

    Tim, (may I call you “tim”?) this won’t do. You’re now saying:

    At the poll I linked to, it did

    This is just wrong, on two counts. First, you didn’t link to a poll. You linked to the Instapundit site, which linked to a blog called “Captain’s Quarters”, which linked to a poll. Second, it’s wrong (and this is not a question of interpretation, it’s just wrong) to describe a single poll as “Bush’s polling” unless you have some reason to believe that this single poll is representative of polls in general. Since in fact the Gallup poll was not representative (it was a sample of people who had tuned in to watch a Bush speech), this was a mistake.

    I think the most likely explanation here is that you didn’t actually follow the link to Gallup; you just saw the poll referred to on the Instapundit site and followed the link to “Captain’s Quarters” for the (misleading) detail. Am I right?

  34. #34 snuh
    July 6, 2005

    tim sez:

    “but when people repeatedly write about plastic turkeys you couldn’t care less”

    Well, I expected someone to mention plastic turkeys, given that it is another manifestation of what we’re dealing with here: tim Blair’s bizarre obsession with the inconsequential.

    But that tim would blithely volunteer the best example of his own pathology is, frankly, odd.

  35. #35 frankis
    July 6, 2005

    Well I don’t see why, TimB, you’d be calling “gutless” Tim’s lack of alacrity in getting back to you on the phone for a chat when on the evidence you’re continually presenting, it’d have to have been likely you’d only been wanting to berate him over plastic turkeys or to tax him with your rudimentary grasp of the workings of this Internet thingy.

    On the strength of his performance at this blog I’m confident Tim would’ve felt he had more pressing, better and more interesting things to do with his time that day than hurry to return those calls. Seriously.

  36. #36 David Heidelberg
    July 7, 2005

    tim blair – It’s nice to have the opportunity to debate issues, isn’t it?

    It’s a shame that there are people out there who are so gutless, they can’t allow debate on their own sites?

  37. #37 Fanny Flanders
    July 7, 2005

    Comment 33 should be disemvowelled.

    Shorter tim: “Lambert didn’t return my calls. Boo hoo.”

  38. #38 zoot
    July 7, 2005

    I think little tim needs a hug

  39. #39 Tim Lambert
    July 8, 2005

    Dear tim,

    It is interesting to see you offer a defence (claiming it’s a “matter of interpretation”), that I don’t think you would accept for a fake turkey story. Let’s see: if someone who wrote that the turkey was fake defended himself by writing that it was a matter of interpretation about what he meant and that what he meant by “fake turkey”
    was that it was a decoration rather than food, how would you respond?

    I do not prefer that you not write about plastic turkey. In fact, I prefer that you do, since it amuses me. I’d be happy to write a post about how the turkey wasn’t plastic if in return you write a post about how DDT is not banned.

    I finished my lecture that day at 2pm. When I got back to my office there was a message for me to contact Professor Compton. It was only when I talked to him that I found out that you had tried to phone me and that you wanted me to turn off the proxy. I got your number so I could call you back. Before I did so I had another look for your email and found it. I was in the middle of replying to it when you called me. This would have been about 2:30pm. Hope that clears things up for you.

  40. #40 Gary
    August 17, 2005

    “tim blair – It’s nice to have the opportunity to debate issues, isn’t it?

    It’s a shame that there are people out there who are so gutless, they can’t allow debate on their own sites?
    “–David( I am Muslim) Heidelberg

    Says the Pot to the kettle.

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