Honolulu Lite

by Charles Memminger

Friday, October 1, 1999

Editors catch all the
gnus unfit to print

WITH apologies to Julio Iglesias: "To all the editors I've loved before, who saved my butt, unmixed my metaphor ... when my writing went astray, you were there to save the day, cut words that lawyers oft sue for ..."

OK. It doesn't quite track. But newspaper writers, including columnists, should invent a little prayer of thanks honoring the editors who have saved their behinds over the years.

This came to mind as I was emptying out file drawers that have not been explored for years. I came across an old speech I gave somewhere listing all the bloopers city desk editors caught over the years. The best bloopers or examples of weird writing were put in a special file and I, as assistant city editor at the time, apparently gathered some of them for whatever speech that was.

Seeing them again reminded me why editors are many times the unsung heroes of a newspaper.

Here are some strange and mangled sentences caught before they got into the paper:

Bullet "His brown hair is matted in coils and his straight, white teeth jump out of a tanned face."

Bullet "Because of this project, it is doubtful that any other major development will again occur in Hawaii."

Bullet "The girl was 18 months pregnant when she and her mother went to see Dr. E."

Bullet "He was the father of nine children and 23 grandchildren, many of whom live in Kahuku ..."

Bullet "His family was too poor to send him to colleagues, so he spent four years working as a stevedore."

Bullet "The scientists encourage captive breeding for conversation purposes."

Bullet "Withholding parole could lead to inmate explosions, endangering the prison community."

Bullet "He boasts that he uses an outhouse, which he considers a status symbol, and stretches his 6,000 gallons over four months."

Bullet "After five years of grumbling, the last of the pay toilets was removed at the Honolulu Airport ..."

Bullet "The 15-year-old suspect was part of a group that confronted the woman in the upstairs restroom of the restaurant, where she was having dinner with her family."

Bullet "However, commission personnel shall avoid any and all appearances of propriety," the code states.

Bullet "Owen put down his broom, grabbed his paycheck and let out a gleeful grunt to his boss."

Bullet "They broke the jealousies and came out."

Bullet "The garbage problem is astronomical ... everyone is waiting for the good ferry to come along and solve it for us."

Bullet "It was like that before, when Kauai was smaller and people knew each other," Texeira said with a glint of anger in one eye.

Of course, not all odd statements are the fault of the reporter. Here are a few actual quotes from interviewees:

Bullet "Guys like that are not going to change their feathers ... but at least they won't be in our hair."

Bullet "It really puts some teeth into our bark."

Bullet "The kitchen pipe burst and nobody can use the bathroom unless they fill a bucket of water and throw it into the stool to make it flush."

Bullet "We ought to have more women administrators. But I will not compromise quality for sex."

And neither will eye. I mean, I. God bless editors.

Charles Memminger, winner of
National Society of Newspaper Columnists
awards in 1994 and 1992, writes "Honolulu Lite"
Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
Write to him at the Honolulu Star-Bulletin,
P.O. Box 3080, Honolulu, 96802
or send E-mail to or

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