Why I love my job, part II
That's not all the style guides in the house. That's nowhere near all the style guides in the house. But it is all the AP Stylebooks (1960-2009) I can put together, and it isn't a bad collection if you want to look at how the rules of news language evolve. Specifically, I'm interested in the "official" version of how the Middle East looks and how it's changed over the years.
Note the second deck**** shown here: Why would anybody writing heds for a newspaper in Illinois in 2010 begin a headline with a lowercase letter? Because ... um, Arabic! Everybody knows they're scary and devious and -- well, they lowercase everything, so we should too, isn't it?
Actually, no. Style doesn't (at least, it shouldn't) tell you to do something silly. But apparently it's suggesting that you do something contrary to common sense, and contrary to what you already know as an English-speaker. And that's the fun part of the project: Why do people make decisions like this, and what do they expect to do the next time?
* Which is a pretty good proxy for how I spent most Saturday nights from 1978 through 2003, if you're scoring along at home.
** Bernie. Woodchuck has called it a night.
*** Canadian hockey in the background. I'm still getting used to the lifestyle up here.
**** The second closed ballot box ("square bullet") in the example. We had a really good reading from the early 1940s the other night about ways of assigning importance to newspaper stories. I was OK with the terminology, in the way I can usually stagger through "whan that aprille" and all that, but I can see how it would mess with somebody born in 1987,