Guy Who Made 47K Wikipedia Corrections Is Wrong

Crusade against 'comprised of' is unfair: newspaper editor
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 6, 2015 6:40 PM CST
People work at the Wikipedia Foundation in San Francisco, Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2012.    (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

(Newser) – David Shariatmadari just can't go along with the grammar guy who's correcting everyone on Wikipedia. As a newspaper editor, Shariatmadari admits to having "grammatical bugbears," but the crusade by software engineer Bryan Henderson to eliminate every "comprised of" on Wikipedia is way over the top. In the Guardian, Shariatmadari even calls Henderson "a super-pedant" engaging in a "one-man war." Plus he's wrong:

  • In his 6,000-word essay, Henderson argues that "'to comprise’ means to include, as in ‘the 9th district comprises all of Centerville and parts of Easton and Weston. And thus, ‘the 9th district is comprised of ...’ is gibberish." Well, says Shariatmadari, the Oxford English Dictionary disagrees.
  • Henderson: "'Comprised of' is unnecessary because there are many other ways to say the same thing." Shariatmadari calls that "a bizarre argument" that "could be made against all synonyms or near-synonyms."
  • Henderson: "It's illogical for a word to mean two opposite things." Shariatmadari: "If you want logic, speak Vulcan." Other words "mean their own opposite," like cleave ("join together or to separate") and dust ("to add dust—think crops—or to remove dust").
  • Henderson: "It's new. ... barely ever used before 1970." Shariatmadari: It actually dates back to the 1800s, but anyway, "So what? Since when has 'newness' meant something is incorrect?"

The debate goes on, but Shariatmadari puts it this way: "If super-pedants were to admit to themselves that it’s just a question of individual taste, they’d probably leave the rest of us alone." Click for his full piece.

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