6/12/2008

A tactful look at a sign of the Times

It's tough being The New York Times. Make even a tiny slip and the world is hurling insults. It's like when Mr. Rewrite, in a fit of masochism, spent two years producing a snarky blog with "grammar" in the title. It was death by a thousand nits picked by surly amateur grammarians. Good thing Mr. Rewrite isn't bitter.

Putting all that aside, Mr. Rewrite must register his disappointment at seeing this today by a Times columnist. The parentheses are Mr. Rewrite's:
Just as Bill and Hillary did the ''Pssst! He's black!'' thing on Barry (Barack Obama), now the Republicans will use the same tact on the strong and opinionated Michelle (Obama).
It could be that the columnist, just as she uses "Barry" as an informal reference to Obama, is using "tact" as a breezy substitution for tactic. Mr. Rewrite strongly doubts that. It appears that the columnist meant to say "the same tack."

As noted by Paul Brians, who now rates a "cue angelic chorus" from Mr. Rewrite, such phrases come from sailing, not tact. They also aren't drawn from tactic, a mistake Mr. Rewrite sees frequently.

Tack in this context refers to a course of action, especially one differing from a previous strategy.

Here's more tact/tack confusion, this in a Huffington Post post:
(The Republican National Committee) had tried the same tact in Louisiana<,> where Democrat Don Cazayoux was also successful in taking a seat that had been in Republican hands for 3 decades.
Mr. Rewrite also notes where this HuffPoster should have used a comma.

Here's all of the tact/tack carnage, courtesy of Google News:
Tact prevents Mr. Rewrite from making a snarky comment to end this post.

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