Veteran reporter discovers his own Waterloo of wordsmithing

When I first started with The Citizen, then-editor Andy Warfield couldn’t spell “Cornelius.”

It wasn’t that Andy didn’t know how. He knew Cornelius inside and out. It was his primary beat and he knew the people, the politics and the projects about as well as anyone.

But when it came time to crank out copy, he couldn’t get his fingers and the keyboard to coordinate properly when it came time to create “Cornelius.”

Often, he’d get the “r” and “n” reversed – something I had a hard time detecting without glasses – and sometimes the “e” would simply go missing, but usually it was a collection of the correct letters in the wrong order. Typographical monsters like “Cornleius,” “Cornelsius” and the rare “Cornelisu” were things the rest of us caught almost all the time when proofreading, but plenty of times the goofs still seeped into print.

At first I thought it was an in-office joke, or maybe a test to see if we really edited his articles. But then-Sports Editor Justin Parker confirmed it had evolved into a journalistic version of the “Yips,” a term usually applied when proven athletes develop a mental tic that prevents them from doing some of their sport’s simplest tasks.

Andy was aware of it and, like when professional golfers begin dreading short putts or Major League infielders can’t make a throw to first base, I think that made things worse.

We’d joke in the office about alternative ways to refer to Cornelius, like maybe “The place between Davidson and Huntersville” or – playing off an amazing emailed complaint we received when the Exit 28 makeover was in progress –  “The place with the suspension bridge over the Interstate.” All designed to get Andy to relax and breeze through the terror of, yet again, bungling the spelling, but none of it completely successful.

I mention this not because I sometimes have to go back and add the “s” to “Hunterville,” but because I had discovered my own Waterloo of wordsmithing: “Discrimination.”

I know it when I see it, and I understand it’s a big part of current conversations at the local, county, state and federal levels, but when I attempt to spell it, the “de” in me overcomes the “di.” I know the right way, but I can’t get my mind and fingers to distinguish between the opening letters. It’s simultaneously discombobulating, disappointing and disgusting when I see the wrong spelling survive into print – like it did again last week – but I also know my co-workers have rescued me countless times before, like we used to do with Andy.

I can’t figure out the mind fog that derails me, unless it’s the “sc” combo generating the discord between my head and hands. Description, descendant and descramble are in my thoughts, I guess, but I don’t know why they would carry more weight than discreet, discussion, discover, discard and discount.

However, I know I need to be more disciplined because constantly having to disclose the same error is discouraging.


Scouts to the rescue

On a much brighter note, kudos to all candidates for keeping this year’s municipal campaign season civil. While I’m sure there have been some social media site slings and arrows, the tone in each town has, at least on the surface, seemed to stay focused on topics and platforms, not personalities.

And there’s also a rare and absolute “win win” related to this year’s election – one that hopefully becomes a tradition.

In Huntersville, BSA Troop 19, sponsored by Huntersville Prebyterian Church, is conducting a community service project that doesn’t appear to have a down side. The Scouts – as Commissioner Dan Boone has reported multiple times at town board sessions – have committed to collecting all campaign signs in town after the election.

The signs will be picked up Friday, Nov. 5, and will be available for candidates or representatives to reclaim Nov. 6 at town hall.

Campaigns will be asked to provide a $1 donation to Troop 19 for each sign.

All signs and candidates will be treated equally, with absolutely no des … dang it, discrimination.

Lee Sullivan is senior editor at Lake Norman Media Group.

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