Monday, April 30, 2012

Of petite men and low-pitched voices

An attractive, petite woman with what might be called a high-pitched voice, she testified that she tried at least once to leave the inside-the-beltway politics into which her husband, Andrew, pulled their family when John Edwards was a U.S. senator from North Carolina.

Just a few questions, Your Honor:

1) What might it be called if you didn't call it a high-pitched voice?
2) If you're not confident in your ability to judge the comparative pitch of her voice, why are you confident in your judgment of her attractiveness and waist size?
3) What sorts of adjectival delights will we be treated to when the menfolk testify? A glowering, swarthy ruin of an Adonis with a voice like John Duffey pleasuring an F/A-18 ...

Given the brave new world of the editing hub, I'm inclined to chalk this one up as another casualty of the War on Editing. Geographic proximity isn't the only concern; if the story has two parallel streets intersecting, the editor who catches the fault is likely to be the one who looks at a map, whether that editor is across the room or in Charlotte or in Mumbai. I'm worried about cultural proximity:* whether anyone at the hub is invested enough in the product to pick up the phone and suggest that, whichever paper this one's going in, it isn't what that paper does.

There is, of course, dessert:

Some of these questions may be answered in the days ahead as Cheri Young explains what many people, especially women, want to know about her motives.

AP style is, by any account, traditionally laggard in the whole inclusive-language thing, but its advice under "women" (OK, it might be better placed under "sexism" or "sensitivity in language" or "antediluvian moron, don't be an") kind of cuts through the clutter:

Use the same standards for men and women in deciding whether to include specific mention of personal appearance or marital and family situation.
You'd think that, here in the broad, sunny uplands of 2012, we'd no longer have to spell that out in the stylebook. Apparently you'd be wrong.

* Private Eye discussed the issue in a comment quoted in this long-ago post, which -- along with the sort of conspiracy rant for which the Intarwebs were invented -- attracted one of my favorite comments from a designer: "... and the terrible reign of Photoshop began."

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