At the risk of irredeemably exposing my intractable pedantic nature, I have to take five minutes to admonish a gaggle of news reporters for their flawed word choice.
I just read a news item, published by the American network ABC, which discusses the movement of honey bees into California’s almond groves. As usual with major news networks, factual errors creep in when inexperienced staff members are forced to cover farm stories. That’s expected. When an enterprise which you know well (e.g., beekeeping) is examined by someone whose next assignment may be men’s swimwear or kite competitions, we shouldn’t have high hopes for an accurate rendering. But, since the main tool of a journalist is language, we should at least anticipate correct usage of vocabulary.
The 626-word ABC article, Growing California almonds takes more than half of US honeybees, has a four person byline: Ginger Zee, David Miller, Kelly Harold and Andrea Miller. I’m guessing that all four had read the article before it went live. Or, each of the four was responsible for 157 words apiece and some NYC-based editor read their submissions, edited the drafts, and amalgamated them, though that’s not the way it usually works. Anyway, I’m about to get to my point.
Midway through an otherwise OK piece, we encounter this line:
Kutik [a beekeeper] loads his bees on flatbed trucks that hold 112 palates of beehives and sends them on a multi-day, cross-country journey.
112 palates of bees? That’s tastefully expressed. I hope that most readers of this bee blog know that beehives are loaded on wooden platforms called pallets, not on mouth parts called palates. Nor do hives fit well on painters’ palettes, though pallets could be manufactured from wooden pellets or ground up from pallet to pellet when they’ve fulfilled their duties – potentially cycling from pellet to pallet to pellet.
I’ve printed some gaffes that can be described as serious howlers and I appreciate that readers have pointed these out to me. I try to remedy my linguistic deficiencies as quickly as possible. In defence of my occasional disgracing of our common language, I can offer that English was not my parents’ first language. I grew up with a slightly restricted vocabulary and a grammar that was influenced by some interesting European idiosyncrasies. Nevertheless, after decades of adulthood, I’ve had ample opportunities to rectify any minor disadvantages. However, I neither earn my living by writing nor do I focus my principal interest in life on publishing news articles. But I assume that people employed by ABC News do.
We expect more from national news organizations where communication and proper word choice are the tools of trade. By the way, I have sent a note to ABC, informing them of their blunder and providing them a link to an on-line dictionary. Their unpalatable use of palates was published in January 2018. Let’s see how long it takes them to correct it.