Flouting the usual thinking
An Aug. 9 story reported on a Garden Grove resident who, wanting to save water, installed an artificial lawn, only to discover that the city bans artificial turf.
The headline in print was: "Yards of fake grass flaunt lawn and order: Five cities in Orange County review bans on faux turf during state's current drought."
Several readers who didn't leave names did leave annoyed phone messages, along the lines of this one: "The article uses the word 'flaunt,' which means to show off. The word you want is 'flout.' Look it up in the dictionary."
Confronted by a summary of the readers' comments, Mark McGonigle, senior copy chief, responded that yes, the usual expression would be "flout law and order." And yes, that would have worked too. However, defending the headline but conceding the point, he said, "I think 'flaunt' works too, because she's making a display of her lawn and the fact that it stays green and orderly. I think it would have been better to say 'flout,' though, just so as not to raise the question in readers' minds."
Here's the Times stylebook entry on the two words in question:
flaunt, flout: To flaunt means to make an ostentatious, conspicuous or defiant display. To flout is to mock, to ignore, to show scorn or contempt for: He flouted good manners by flaunting his new wealth.
Photo: Jean Orban relaxes on her (fake) front yard. Credit: Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times