Yes, I pick nits too, and the other day I criticized a New York Times science piece by Douglas Quenqua on okapis because it claimed that “Okapis are the only known relative of the giraffe, but with the silhouette of an antelope.” What he meant was that okapis are the closest living relative of the giraffe, but of course okapis have many “known relatives,” including, say, every other species on Earth.
As a total pedant, I asked one of my friends who works at the NYT to convey this to Quenqua. I assumed he’d admit the sloppiness and correct his piece. No dice: while he responded to me by email, he’s digging in his heels. From his email:
I see from your blog post that you already know that okapi and giraffes are the only two species in the mammal family Giraffidae. It was in that respect that we classified the okapi as the only living relative of the giraffe.
“In that respect”? Thers’s no respect in which it’s okay to make an inaccurate statement about evolutionary relatedness.
I’ll be watching Quenqua for recidivism.