April 20, 2017

New CMOS in the Works

University of Chicago Press has announced that a new version of The Chicago Manual of Style, the 17th, will be published in September. (You can read the announcement here, though the page will likely change or disappear after publication.) CMOS has been my preferred style guide since I was a University of Chicago undergraduate.

Dust cover of CMOS, 17th. ed.
I always anticipate a new version of CMOS with mixed emotions. On the plus side, I hope that the new volume will offer reasonable resolutions to problems that have cropped up since the current version was released. Such problems could be caused by evolving social conventions, new technologies, or changes in the language. One the negative side, I fear that recommendations I feel are “right” might be thrown overboard.

The aforementioned announcement inspires serious trepidation. Apparently, “e-mail” is to be replaced by “email.” The new form violates normal spelling conventions. Why shouldn’t “email” be pronounced “em-ail” or hyphenated as such over a line break? Will “e-book”—the current rendering advocated by CMOS—become “ebook”? I hope not. In any case, hyphens will be retained in both cases in my own writing.

Additionally, “Internet” is to lose its initial capital. But surely this is a proper name, deserving of capitalization. I wonder if “World Wide Web” is to become “world wide web.” I have already lost license for use of “Web” as a standalone noun and for “Web site,” rather than “website.” Should I give in to common usage or fight a (probably losing) rear-guard action? Frankly, this liberal tends toward conservativism in things grammatical.

I sincerely hope that the 17th edition will not go the way of The Associated Press Stylebook and advocate losing the serial (Oxford) comma. That would be too much to bear.

The other downside of having a new CMOS published, of course, is the necessity of buying one to replace my 16th edition. The new book will cost $70. It is available on-line by subscription—most would write “online”—but apparently not as an e-book (or even an ebook).

I will, of course, get out my credit card and order the new volume, hoping for the best.

April 2, 2017

Let’s Not Whitewash the Flynn Firing

On the whole, mainstream media seem to be doing a good job covering the Trump administration. (Coverage of the presidential campaign is another story, of course.) I am gratified that Trump or his surrogates are. with some frequency, accused of lying. Use of the actual words “lie“ or “lying” is becoming increasingly common. I have been disappointed on one front, however. Stories about General Michael Flynn often identify him as having been fired “for lying to the Vice President,“ or words to that effect. This is bad reporting that overlooks the uncertainty concerning Flynn’s dismissal.

Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn
Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn
Defense Intelligence Agency photograph
We don’t know the real reason Flynn was fired. We do know that the administration asserted that it was because he was untruthful in his dealings with Vice President Pence, who proceeded to make false public statements based on Flynn’s representations.

Acting attorney general Sally Q. Yates warned the White House weeks before the Flynn firing that the general could be blackmailed because he had discussed sanctions on Russia with the Russian ambassador, but he had publicly denied categorically having done so. The real question is not why Flynn was fired but why he was not fired after the Trump team was told that he was compromised. Only after Yates’s damaging information became public was Flynn dismissed. It is possible, though uncertain, that Pence knew the truth when he defended Flynn in a television interview.

In any case, it is far from established fact that Flynn was fired for lying to Pence. Media outlets know this and should report accordingly. When Flynn is identified in news reports, I want to hear locutions like “Flynn, who allegedly was fired for lying to Pence” or “Flynn, who was ostensibly fired for lying to Pence,” or “Flynn, who reputedly was fired for lying to Pence.” Perhaps it would be even better to say “Flynn, who was fired weeks after Sally Yates told the Trump administration that he had lied about his communications with the Russian ambassador.”

The public should not be allowed to forget that Flynn was likely sacked not because he lied but because he was caught lying. It is ironic that the administration has lied about Flynn’s lying. Unfortunately, the same personnel policy that ended Flynn’s government career is not being applied to his former boss.

April 1, 2017

National Poetry Month 2017

Once again, National Poetry Month is here. This year’s poster for the celebration is below. (Click on the image for a PDF version.)

I am something of a poet, but I haven’t written much poetry since the 2016 National Poetry Month. In fact, I have written only a single set of haiku, titled “Trump Haiku.” Some of these poems aren’t too bad, but they don’t qualify me as the next Walt Whitman. Here is a sample poem:

Wall

Tremendous idea:
A wall to keep out rapists,
Avocados, too.
The poetry section of my Web site can be found here. If you have any good ideas for new poems, send me e-mail. If you want to read the poetry of others, try this site.