Sunday, February 13, 2005

A nagging question (or two)

Henry Copeland asks,

Why does the Times persist in using "web log" an unrecognizable neologism for a phenomena that is commonly refered to everywhere as "blog." NYT usage varies, but seems to be swinging against popular opinion. Does the NYT really have no style guide?

A man after my own heart!

But about the Times' style guide: yes they have one. I don't have a current copy, but I have the 1976 edition (I used to collect stylebooks). When we compare another (then) controversial term, I think we see a pattern: obsessive conservatism.

The term is "Ms." By 1976 it was widely used, but the Times was a holdout. Here's what the entry says:

Ms. As an honorific, use it only in quoted matter, in letters to the editor, and in news articles, in passages discussing the term itself.

Interestingly, there was an even more extreme position. I have a yellowed scrap of paper folded in this stylebook reporting that The Times of London "has seen all it wants of the feminist-inspired title 'ms.' and has banned it from its pages. 'It is artificial, ugly, silly, means nothing and is rotten English,' sniffed one of its columnists."

And speaking of women, ae points out the dramatic gender imbalance of yesterday's conference. Anybody want to theorize about that?

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