Thursday, February 28, 2008

The Illinois Senator and the New York Senator

Barack Obama, Illinois senator? Well, he was, but now he's a U.S. senator! OK, OK, OK -- this is a story about pedantry and the all-sorts-of-different lines that can be drawn in its name, and I'm just telling you where I stand. I try to avoid "Illinois senator" and "New York senator" in references to Obama and Hillary Clinton. There, I said it, though I grant that I would never use "Illinois senator" or "New York senator" alone to refer to a state senator. Call it a nicety, one of those let's-be-absolutely-clear gestures that only a copy editor would make. Of course, the natural alternative -- "senator from Illinois" -- has its own problems if you're a true pedant. Obama isn't from Illinois (but Clinton is). Still, I say OK to the latter idiom but not, except under duress, to the former idiom. Such is the delicate balance a copy editor must strike.


Tahoe Editor said...

I think "from New York" can be clearly understood as "sent to the U.S. Senate by voters from New York."

Tahoe Editor said...

"The Illinois senator who could become America's first black president had attended Wright's Chicago church since 1992."