2012.11.21 Hard to be a modern speller

Written by David Green.

By DAVID GREEN

Every week I receive an e-mail with details about the Observer's website...darn, stop right there. 

Web site, web site (lower case), website. Do you have a preference? I've used website for years, but I’ve noticed another spelling in a magazine that I read: Web site. It preserves the Web from World Wide Web.

I've read that journalistically conservative publications such as the New York Times are still stuck in the 1990s with Web site. In Europe, there's practically nothing but website. Those of you who recoil at the thought of being like those European people better start showing your true standing and go with Web site.

It's definitely not web site. That just doesn't work. I've been trying out Web site on the Observer's Facebook page when I list new obituaries, but I never really enjoy the feel of it, so I'm going to continue with the more relaxed website. 

And just to be annoying, I'm going to continue using the umlaut because it's a great word and it's mildly amusing to produce. So remember that in the Observer, some people are reëlected and some rules are reëstablished. And some editors are just dorks.

With that out of the way, let me tell you about my weekly Google Analytics report of website activity. A recent summary showed there were several searches for "hickory nuts for sale." That seemed like an odd reason to visit my website, until I discovered it was in reference to a story that I wrote in 2005 about nut cracker extraordinaire Judy Kunkle who lives west of Harrison Lake. It all became clear after I received an e-mail...whoa, wait a minute. E-mail or email? 

OK, I'm what the Grammarist website calls "editorially conservative," which will come as a surprise to many readers. Tell that to the letter writer on page 2. I would probably go with the word "stodgy." I just can't leave out that hyphen like "the rest of the English-speaking world" does. It hurts me to do it. 

This reminds me of a recent conversation with an English teacher about the use of the word "dialogue" as a verb. The students will dialogue before beginning the assignment. Trust me, dear reader, you will never see that in the Observer. They might have a dialogue, but they won't dialogue. The teacher told me to get with the program.

The e-mail I mentioned earlier was from a name I didn't recognize, but she wanted to buy hickory nuts from Judy and the phone number listed in the story didn't work. Probably another case of a person disappearing through the switch to a cell phone, or maybe you prefer cellular phone. This has become a difficult tale to tell.

I asked a few people in Fayette who gave me suggestions for contacting Judy and I passed them along to the letter writer. She wrote back later to report that Judy isn't in the hickory nut business anymore.

The episode made me wonder about other website search terms so I looked through the list for the last two years. Leading the way is the expected array of "state line observer" and "stateline observer" and "morenci observer" and "newspaper morenci," but then comes another Kunkle. This time it's Fayette native Wendy Kunkle, the author.

A few places ahead of "hickory nuts" is "rorick school seneca mi," which I find puzzling because I thought that was one of the stories that I never got around to writing. There's a list of those and it must be very annoying and puzzling to the people who suggest them. Why won't he just sit down and read that old family history book I brought in? Why won't he pick up the phone and call Fred Wegner and hear about how his cow got stuck in the mud? I don't have a good answer. I tried to look up Fred at the bus garage but he wasn't there and I just never got back to it.

There have been many searches for information about the Skelton brothers and there have been many about Scott Clark, Bob Green, Lanny Simpkins and Bradley Whetro.

Soon comes the first reference to what has become the most-read article on the Observer website: Stinkhorns: the Devil's Fungus. That's been read more than 5,800 times, finally surpassing the story about Craig Pillow and Replay baseball. The story about motivational speaker Blaise Winter and the one about liquid manure researcher Frank Gibbs don't have any chance to catch up. They're top five material, but they will never surpass the devil's fungus.

You can see it in the search terms: orange stinkhorn fungus; orange stinkhorn mushroom; finger fungus; finger fungus orange; Devil's stinkhorn. Those things were growing in Rosie Hoadley's back yard in September 2006 (no, it’s not backyard) and now everybody knows about it, at least everyone with access to the internet to reach the World Wide Web, with its many websites and possibilities for e-mail.

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