Mystery score

Mystery score

Friday, February 20, 2009

How the Mighty Have Fallen

Found in a New Yorker article:
My dad would stand there grimly tapping in his PIN number while I hung onto his arm and begged him to stop.

13 comments:

rootlesscosmo said...

Don't get me started. John McPhee's recent mash note to fact-checking repeated his claim that the air brakes on a train release from the middle toward both ends. This is nonsense--not even plausible nonsense--yet it got past the New Yorker's celebrated checkers twice. I suspect McPhee and the magazine both have been coasting on their reputation for years; that article was by way of a pre-emptive strike against doubters.

Elaine Fine said...

In a rather witty article about the childhood fear of ATM machines, the sentence does make sense. Perhaps a glance at it in context will help you get it, rootlesscosmo.

Lisa Hirsch said...

rootlesscosmo's comment is entirely on point. First, the quotation is from an anecdote in a review of Lords of Finance, which is about the central bankers who were in office in the first four decades of the 20th century. Second, my point is the redundancy of the phrase "PIN number," hence rootlesscosmo's rant about the declining quality of fact checkers at TNY, which is parallel to my complaint about the evident decline in copy-editing.

Tim said...

Um, I don't think "PIN number" is a redundancy. That's what it's called by banks and such. Also, in common speech. It has become a lingustic norm.

Lisa Hirsch said...

Uh...how is "Personal Identification Number number" not redundant?

Anonymous said...

Well, one doesn't say "Personal Identification Number", one says "PIN", and a PIN is a type of number. Using the acronym is not 100% identical to using the phrase it represents.

Lisa Hirsch said...

One should stop at PIN.

Tim said...

I heard Brian Williams on The Daily Show say "PIN number." I thought of you, Iron Tongue.

Lisa Hirsch said...

Haha!

Anonymous said...

The previous Anonymous's view is the more sensible one than the one from pedant's corner. Some acronyms become words in their own right and thus it seems natural in informal speech to say things like "pin number" or "ay-tee-em machine". Of course, I agree that a publication such as The New Yorker should be much more rigorous. On the other hand, the context is a childhood recollection. So perhaps the redundancy was intentional for the purposes of authenticity and maybe even folksiness.

Lisa Hirsch said...

Or maybe it's a decline in the quality of TNY's editing!

Tim said...

Lisa, Have you seen any other examples? I have to admit I haven't noticed any and I read it every week. But maybe I don't have your eagle eye.

Lisa Hirsch said...

No other examples I can wave, but then I don't read it every week...