Tower of Babble

Abraham Lincoln rarely gave a speech that wasn’t laced with quotes from, and references to, the Bible. His listeners, as best we can tell, pretty much always got them. But times have changed; today’s reporters and editors don’t appear to have the same familiarity with scripture.
From today’s New York Times corrections section:

A report in The Caucus column on Friday about President Obama’s remarks to lawmakers and religious leaders at the National Prayer Breakfast on Thursday rendered incorrectly part of a quotation by Mr. Obama about the current political debate. In noting that “we become absorbed with our abstract arguments, our ideological disputes, our contests for power,” he went on to say, “And in this Tower of Babel, we lose the sound of God’s voice.” He did not say “this tower of babble.”

This reminds me of a time, years ago, when an account of a Twins game in the Minneapolis Star Tribune described the home team’s lineup “spraying line drives like vintage olives.” It was obvious what had happened: the sportswriter referred to “vintage Olivas,” and must have been outraged when his editor, apparently never having heard of Tony O. despite living in Minnesota, “corrected” his spelling to the entirely meaningless “vintage olives.” In this case, though, it appears that neither the reporter nor the editor had heard of the Tower of Babel. Time for some remedial Sunday School.


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