Sweating the Small Stuff

June 5, 2009

05rive600 I found it rather endearing when Nicholas Kristof apologized yesterday on Facebook for a grammatical error in his column for Wednesday’s New York Times. My question, though, was: Shouldn’t it be the editors apologizing rather than the madly globe-trotting and cause-championing prolific writer?

So, while Kristof is removing the mote from his eye, I want to complain about the mote (admittedly not quite a beam) in a Times caption-writer’s eye. For some time now, I have been startled to see in that influential paper captions for photos of classical musicians that employ such locutions as “Krystian Zimerman on the piano.” The use of on there I take to be acceptable and idiomatic pop or jazz slang. The hitherto-customary “Krystian Zimerman at the piano” or, perhaps better, “Krystian Zimerman playing the piano” seems to me to represent usage worth maintaining — if only because portraying a much more artistically-healthy relationship between interpreter and instrument.

Today’s edition includes a review of Tim Fain (whom I knew as Timothy but notice that his own Web site now calls him Tim — which I think is fine, a fact that I hope indicates that I’m not just being a prig about classical-music conventions) and the Riverside Symphony. The photo has this caption: “George Rothman leading the Riverside Symphony, with Tim Fain on violin, on Wednesday, in their last program of the season.” Please.

(If you think I’m being just silly about this, feel free to say so, giving me your reason why. I’m willing — even eager — to be talked out of these irritating situations.)

One Response to “Sweating the Small Stuff”

  1. rogerevans said

    Most of the responses that I get to these postings are via private e-mail (the professional network that i inhabit being habituated to that medium). My favorite response to this one came from a leading editor:

    ‘If you expect an argument you came to the wrong person. I have conniption fits when I read “too much of a problem”, not to mention “hopefully they will arrive…” You are absolutely correct in your objection and I don’t think it’s priggish, pedantic, or pretentious.’

    Well, that’s a relief. And, in fact, I got no objections to my objection.

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