Accuracy versus consistency

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Let me reveal to you a fiddly and rather strange detail about my latest piece on Lingua Franca, which concerns the misquotation "shaken but not stirred". In the post I crucially needed to quote a phrase from an obituary in The Economist where James Bond's favorite aperitif was mentioned. The Economist called it a Martini. But it is New York Times style to call the drink in question a martini, not a Martini, and The Chronicle of Higher Education follows New York Times style, and they own the Lingua Franca blog, and there are other occurrences of martini in my post. So a question arose between me and the editors of The Chronicle: whether to be accurate and quote the word as The Economist actually typeset it under their style, making it look as if I've been inconsistent within my post (because the Times-compliant occurrences in the text would look different), or to quote The Economist inaccurately by coercing them into Times style, making it look as if I can't even type stuff out from a magazine accurately. Talk about being between a rock and a hard place!

Well, I made my choice, and I chose accuracy of quoting The Economist's prose over consistency of appearance in my prose: I wanted to keep the quotation from The Economist the way they had it. But I was told sternly by my editor that it is Times style to alter quotations from print to make them match house style. I must admit that this seems crazy to me. They don't do it with the grammar of quotations from speech; they would rather paraphrase than alter the words of a spoken utterance (popping "whom" into the mouth of a working-class citizen who never uses that form, or something of that sort). That would be outright untruthfulness (not just the usual sloppiness with quotations from speech, of which Mark Liberman has written here several times). So why do it with capitalization in quotations from printed text? I don't follow the rationale. Quotations are quotations, my text is my text.

But I was given no choice. My editor didn't want a debate about it. I was told I had to quote The Economist inaccurately. A bitter pill indeed for a meticulous and thoughtful grammarian such as I. [By the way, that "I" on the end there is just a grammarian joke. It's not correct. It's completely ungrammatical even in formal style.]

I just hope I don't get commenters over there criticizing me for failing to render my quotations accurately. I might have to hunt commenters down and kill them if that happens; I've had to do it before. And I also hope that Martini & Rossi, the company that owns the vermouth brand name Martini, do not come after me for diluting their brand name by decapitalizing it (the Xerox and Hoover and Google corporations hate to read about xeroxing and hoovering and googling). That would be an irony more bitter than I could bear, given that I'm only following orders. It's hard, this blogging life.


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