Our story begins unhappily with a fire that destroyed an entire city block in Alamosa, Colorado. In describing the incident, a reporter from the town’s Valley Courier told of a firefighter who was injured:
“…when he became entangled in the wrung of a ladder…”
The story was picked up by the Associated Press, who repeated the error verbatim. The Gazette in Colorado Springs used the AP report in its version of the story, and also allowed the error to slip through. The Denver Post then joined in the game, with the identical error appearing in its brief coverage of the fire.
It’s like a journalistic version of Groundhog Day.
We all know why this one reporter’s boo-boo spread (dare I say like wildfire?!) to contaminate an unknown number of other accounts of this fire. Newspapers and magazines have laid off staff and now rely on electronic sources for stories to fill their pages and web sites. But you’d think that someone somewhere along the way would read the stuff being published, and correct obvious errors such as a ladder’s “wrung.”
For the record, wrung is the past tense of wring, which means to “squeeze, press, twist, or compress” (among other similar definitions – see my previous post) according to my Webster’s dictionary. Both fire ladders and regular ladders have rungs, which are the horizontal supports where you place your feet when climbing the ladder.