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    A Times Editorial

    Profiles in courageousness


    © St. Petersburg Times
    published May 12, 2002

    The inexorable decline of Western civilization marked another modest milestone Friday. The would-be word courageousness found its way into the pages of the Times.

    The article had to do with the strange new album by rap/soul artist Lauryn Hill, which sounds nothing like her widely acclaimed previous effort. Many critics are questioning her artistic judgment, the article said, though some admire her "courageousness."

    Courageousness can be found in the fine print of most editions of Webster's, but all sorts of dubious words show up in the dictionary. That doesn't mean we have to use them. Courage is a perfectly fine word, but some people feel the need to summon courageousness for occasions when mere courage won't do.

    Honesty compels us to report that every section of the newspaper, including this one, occasionally is guilty of such barbarisms. In all candor, we admit that you'll sometimes see candidness. In all humility, we have even come across humbleness on our pages.

    Such annoying neologisms in the newspaper usually result from the rush to write and edit on deadline. When tenacity or sagacity don't immediately come to mind, tenaciousness or sagaciousness may fill the void.

    Putting out a daily newspaper is an inherently imperfect enterprise. Producing so many words in such a short time inevitably leads to some typos, misspellings, misplaced modifiers, dangling participles and subject/verb disagreements. And don't even get us started on who/whom.

    But we have a responsibility to keep those errors to a minimum. If you catch us making too many small mistakes, you may start questioning our accuracy on more substantial matters. We think we do a pretty good job of avoiding such errors, large and small, but we'll keep trying to do better.

    And we make that pledge to you with the utmost sincereness.

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