Thursday, April 23, 2009

Consit* (for Constitution*, Constituen*, Consist*)

Bernie Madoff is a con man who currently sits in prison—hence the shadowy shot to the right—but I'd really like to talk about something else today. The new Resource Description & Access "Constituency Review" begins: "Below and available for comment are Chapters and Appendices in PDF format comprising the November 2008 full draft of RDA." This is a misuse of the word comprising and yet an extremely common one. However, once you learn its true meaning, you too can play a game I've now become quite adept at (spotting incorrect uses of comprise, which often seem to occur more frequently than correct ones), although please understand it won't make you any friends. In a nutshell: the whole comprises the parts; the parts compose the whole. Or, even easier, simply remember that comprise means "consist of." So to say, for example, that X is "comprised of" Y is to say that X is "consisted of of" Y. Which doesn't make any sense. There are 138 instances of Consit* in OhioLINK, but most appear to be typos for constitution* or, to a lesser degree, constituen*. A search on Consit* + Consist* brings up three records. This result comprises bibliographic records containing the following typos: "consitently"; "consitency"; and "consits."

(Bernie Madoff at the Federal Courthouse in lower Manhattan, posted by Red Carlisle to Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

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