Bye the way…

Here’s something a tad irritating (at least to me). Some weeks ago I became aware of the fact that RTE on its website kept referring to forthcoming (or not) ‘bye-elections’. Of course there is no such thing as a ‘bye-election’ (though there are ‘by-elections’ or byelections’), and as it was a slow day I sent an email to RTE pointing that out – very politely, I should emphasise. I got back a response telling me that this is how the government officially spells it, and that it was RTE policy to follow the government lead.

Of course the prefix ‘by’ refers to the subordinate or secondary nature of (in this case) the election. Another example would be ‘by-product’, which is definitely not ‘bye-product’. If there were such a thing as a ‘bye-election’, it would be a ‘good-bye election’ (not a phenomenon we have yet). I think my correspondent in RTE agreed with me, by the way (or should that be ‘bye the way’), but felt bound by existing practice.

Maybe I’m just being pedantic, but I can’t help feeling our official terminology should be less illiterate.

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9 Comments on “Bye the way…”

  1. brianmc Says:

    Dublin Bus also have official notices containing the term “bye-law”.

    Although some of them undoubtedly refer to the passenger being ejected from a bus, so maybe it’s appropriate in those instances. 🙂

  2. Conor Says:

    It could be bye as used in sport: “progressing automatically to the next round of a playoff tournament without playing”. Or is that only when the progeny of the incumbent is running..

  3. kevin denny Says:

    Lets hope the Typo Vigilantes, or Typo Eradication Advancement League to give them their proper name, make it their business to take on the Government & RTE:

  4. Al Says:

    Maybe it is a carry over from gaegle/irish?

  5. Taking the general election of 2007 as a point of reference perhaps buy-elections would be more apposite.

  6. Ros Says:

    I knew you’d retired too soon!!

  7. Anne Says:

    All Fine Gael’s election literature (at least in Dublin) consistently made the same mistake at the last local and European elections, particularly concerning the by-election which was then taking place in Dublin Central. And I’ve noticed it on their political literature since then too. I also noticed the leaflets of some other candidates had the same error. I agree, it does look terribly illiterate; in my experience, political propaganda provides excellent evidence for the claim that poor spelling, punctuation and grammar are signs of incoherent, vacuous thought.

  8. Clare Says:

    That’s been *really* bugging me too!

  9. kevin denny Says:

    Go to the Department of Environment’s web site and search for “by-election” and you will come across exactly one document (below) written by Richard Sinnott et al. So the academics can be bothered to spell correctly. Search for “bye-election” and there are lots more documents, so apparently the civil servants can’t be bothered or didn’t go to school long enough to learn the difference.

    Click to access FileDownLoad,19472,en.pdf

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