Friday, May 09, 2014

Love's throbbing deadline

Let's say there are a couple of ways you could talk about a $400 million-plus deal in which the print wing of the Murdoch empire agrees to buy a really smart and diverse multilingual publishing house. You could, for example, be interested in what the old fox is up to, or in the general state of media consolidation in the US and Canada. Or you could, you know, be all writerly:
Even a brutal year in the love department hasn't shaken Rupert Murdoch's belief in romance. (LA Times)

For Harlequin Enterprises Ltd, the romance novel publisher that News Corp agreed to buy for $415 million, the title of one of its latest offerings, "My Fair Billionaire," could well refer to Rupert Murdoch. (Reuter)

When News Corporation announced on Friday that it was buying the romance-novel publisher Harlequin Enterprises, cheap jokes inevitably started to fly. It was, needless to say, a bodice-ripper of an acquisition. Would News Corporation’s Wall Street Journal be replacing its stock tables with serialized novels like “Stolen Kiss From a Prince”? Was the company’s newly single chairman, Rupert Murdoch, suddenly in the mood for love? (NYT)

I bring this pattern up because it raised the hackles of a correspondent and regular reader, Barbara from Pennsylvania (to whom thanks for the link to Smart Bitches, Trashy Books). Her question is rather a good one, should you be a copy editor and thus interested in things that get the attention of copy editors: "I wonder when all of the coverage of businesses that cater to women and women in business will actually be just like the coverage of businesses that cater to men and men in business."

I'm not sure when that might happen, but it does seem worth talking about: What is it that makes writers insist on talking about some stuff in tediously predictable ways? (In the bargain, what suggests to copy editors that they should just let some particular categories of tedium go by and move on to something else where their attention might be rewarded?)

We might conclude, say, that there's nothing gender-specific about the matter at hand: We're talking about a content area, and writers need to exercise their creativity, and that's all ye know in life and all ye need to know, so go away. That's not a very good answer. Your audience might not find you quite as patronizing, but the alternative is an endless stream of 'TIS THE SEASON and CHRISTMAS CAME EARLY and whatever else seems like the sort of thing everybody else would be saying.

I also rather like Barbara's concluding point: Pet peeve or not, attending to the social impact of language does seem "more constructive than obsessing over the use of 'more than' and 'over.'"



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