Thursday, September 23, 2004

American Lawyers?

References to U.S. attorneys, meaning federal prosecutors who hold that title, are fine when the context is clear, but use federal prosecutors when U.S. attorneys could be read to mean American lawyers. Your readers don't necessarily know that you scrupulously observe the distinction between lawyer and attorney.

Yes, capping U.S. Attorney would solve that problem, but it would be too drastic a break with the style principle that titles are not capped in isolation. Just as President Bush and Pope John Paul II are the president and the pope, U.S. Attorney Mary Jo White is the U.S. attorney.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

From Abu Ghraib to the Eye of the Hurricane

Abuse means abuse. Ten people get abused? It's still just abuse. "Abuses" are instances of people taking improper advantage of a rule or a law or a situation.

Damage means damage. Ten things get damaged? It's still just damage. "Damages" means money sought in a lawsuit.

The s is not a toy.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

Hey, You Guys!

Forgive the foray into spoken English, but I must address yet another example (scroll to the end) of someone going out of her way to be offended by the use of "you guys" to refer to mixed company. This is a staple of amateur restaurant criticism.

Point No. 1: There's plenty of better stuff to complain about when it comes to restaurant service.

Point No. 2: I've said it before, and I'll say it again -- "you guys" is to the more vanilla regions of these United States what "y'all" and "you all" are to the South, what "youze" is to New York and New Jersey, what "yuz" is to Appalachia. English uses the same word for second person plural and second person singular, and sometimes it just doesn't satisfy.

(And, yes, that was me. For the record, I've never met Mr. Sietsema.)

Monday, September 06, 2004

Look It Up

Our friend Barbara Wallraff fills in for William Safire this week with a useful and surprising (at least if you haven't read her latest book or heard her speak on the topic) discussion of how some of the things we take for granted about "the dictionary" aren't sure things at all.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Space Mountain Isn't Rocket Science

Disney was a man. Disney is a company. Disney is not a place. You can't "go to Disney." You can go to Disneyland, or you can go to Walt Disney World.