Did a subbie do it?

I find the content of this morning’s editorial in The Australian absurd; the writer argues in support of Kevin Rudd talking to the pope that:

Religion has also served the nation well, especially in education and health services, and continues to do so. Whatever the different interpretations, the ideals of personal responsibility, a good work ethic, and treating others as as we would like to be treated ourselves, are inherent to most religions. They make solid values on which to bring up children and build communities and a nation.

Whatever. Good protestant ideals I suppose. Shame if you’re not white, male, middle-class, able-bodied and straight. As any first-year ethics student can point out, the childish command to treat others as you would like to be treated yourself is just not such a good ideal when it comes to recognising and accommodating difference. Or trivially, sado-masochists.

However what fascinates me is the heading on the editorial.

square

Religion’s place in the public square

Public square?

I thought the term for the social realm of public discourse and activity was “the public sphere.”

Wiki thinks this too. It has an entry on the Public Sphere, and an entry on Public Square. The former is:

an area in social life where people can get together and freely discuss and identify societal problems, and through that discussion influence political action.

The latter is a square in Cleveland, Ohio, and also a mall in Watertown, New York.

Is this an eggcorn perpetrated by a not so well-lettered subbie.?

Possibly. Though the term is repeated in the editorial itself, suggesting that the editorial writer is not so learned either. Or perhaps the subbie got to the editorial too.

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4 responses to “Did a subbie do it?

  1. Or the subbie is taking the piss out of the editorial?

  2. My long and sad experience of being subbed tells me that yes, a subbie probably did do it, possibly as a sin of omission; perhaps the original ‘sphere’ had a typo in it and the spell-checker ‘corrected’ it to ‘square’. It’s amazing how many people don’t bother to check the check. I once used the word ‘interiority’ in a book review and I’m sure it was the spell-checker that ‘corrected’ it to ‘inferiority’, which alas did make a kind of sense and so was left, thereby utterly changing the meaning of the sentence.

    On the other hand, perhaps the subbie was indeed taking the piss out of Kevin’s own unfortunate habit of mangling his colloquialisms.

  3. You know your mention of sado-masochists had me a bit confused as to what form of ‘subbie’ you were talking about for a moment there.

  4. Although I’m a temperamental pedant, I’m not sure there’s much wrong with ‘public square.’ It works ok as a figure of speech. I suppose it’s more or less the same as saying that religious views should be heard in the ‘public arena’ or ‘public forum.’

    If you google the phrase, it seems to have earned a toehold in the lexicon by what Scots law calls ‘consuetude’ (i.e. everyone’s been doing it).

    By the way, MSWord is so flustered by consuetude it doesn’t even dare to suggest an alternative spelling.