Dispersed? No Way

From the Style section of The New York Times, March 3, 2013:

“[The] premise of this latest weight-loss regimen … is intermittent fasting: …five days of eating and drinking whatever you want, dispersed with two days of fasting.”

Uh-oh: That should be “interspersed with two days of fasting.” The prefix dis- most often signifies “opposite of,” “absence of,” “deprive of,” or “remove.” And never ever should dispersed assume to share the definition of intersperse: “to place something at, in, or among intervals.” Paging a copyeditor! Any copyeditor!

A Vanishing Breed?

As the print medium undergoes a sea change – and, we can only hope, keeps its white-haired head above water – copyeditors are among the casualties of hard times at the Times and virtually every other print publication. It’s gotten to the point that wrong word choices and similar editorial lapses crop up so frequently they barely raise the public’s collective eyebrow.

Where, oh where, did all the copyeditors go? Rumor has it that the best of the lot retreated to a commune in Vermont, where they bemoan the demise of their noble trade and correct one another’s speech. (Bad joke!! This is no laughing matter). The truth, let’s hope: Despite their dwindling numbers, plenty of top-notch copyeditors still plug away to replace the wrong word with the right one, unkink sentences, and make writing of all sorts the best it can be. We can also pray that those in the eagle-eyed diaspora who, for whatever reason, no longer practice their craft will eventually find their way back home.

3 Responses to Dispersed? No Way

  • Erik Kowal says:

    Another word with which dispersed often gets confused is disbursed, meaning (of cash) ‘paid out’.

    It’s understandable, since there is considerable overlap in meaning, but still…

    • Fred DuBose says:

      True, an dispersed and disbursed are the kind of sound-alikes I disucss in the Harxardous Homonymns post.

    • Fred DuBose says:

      True, and disperse and disburse are the sort of sound-alikes I discuss in the Harxardous Homonymns post in the Spellcheck category.

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