Two Things

The Chicago Manual of Style Online Q&A made me smile today:

Q. Hello, I saw Barack Obama speak and he seemed to make a grammar error. I was wondering if I was missing something. He said, “President and Mrs. Bush invited Michelle and I to come to the White House.” Another time he said, “It was for Michelle and I.” Shouldn’t it be “Michelle and me”? My husband thinks I’m crazy to spend my time thinking about things like this, but it bothers me.

A. You’re right—I’ve heard Obama say that myself. But you have to feel for the guy. I’d wager my job that he knows the correct grammar. But he knows that hardly anyone uses it and that if he does, he’ll sound either incorrect or “elitist.” What’s a pol to do?

Q. Consider the following situation. A woman is wearing a sweater which has black-and-white stripes, and the underlying color is blue (base color), and a short skirt with a tartan plaid pattern involving the following colors: red, black, white. Is the correct way to describe this person as follows: “She is wearing a black-and-white-striped blue sweater and a short plaid skirt (red, black, and white tartan)”? Or “She is wearing a black-and-white-striped, blue sweater and a short, red-black-and-white-plaid skirt (tartan)”?

A. At last—a serious style question. I would go with version 1, but change the sweater to black cashmere.

Q. I am writing a novel. How do I write a title of a song in the body of the work (caps, bold, underline, italics, etc.)? Example: The Zombies’ “She’s Not There” looped in his head.

A. Noooo! Now that song is looping in my head (“but it’s too late to say you’re sorry . . .”). Use quotation marks. Thanks a lot.

Q. We are editing a scientific book. We have to follow UK spelling. Per the dictionary, sulfur is the US spelling and sulphur is the UK spelling. But in one chapter the author has used sulfur and in another chapter sulphur. Since we are following UK spelling, can we change sulfur to sulphur? Or, per CMOS, since the IUPAC recommended spelling is sulfur irrespective of UK or US spelling, can we change sulphur to sulfur?

A. Good grief. You can’t lose—just pick one.

It’s nice to read that other crazy people grammar police folks out there notice and care about this stuff. And that editing can sort of be funny.


Is there anything so melancholy as taking down the Christmas tree? After feeling somewhat revived this morning from yesterday’s horrible stomach virus/purgatorial day in bed, I finally got around to packing up all the holiday decorations. What was once festive and sparkling now seemed frowzy. But I still felt a pang of sadness putting everything away.

On the bright side, we can now reclaim our living room, and in place of the nativity, our nature table now features a serene setting of crystals and pine cones. Despite the warmth and joy of the holidays, there something equally nice about clearing it all away and starting afresh with Less Stuff.

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Filed under editing, holidays, Nature tables, Silliness and Mayhem

14 responses to “Two Things

  1. I love getting out the Christmas stuff each year, but I’m with you on feeling that it’s a wonderful thing to put it back away and enjoy clean, uncluttered spaces.
    I didn’t know about that online Q&A space for grammar questions. That would have been nice to have had when I was in college.

  2. Oh, I love cleaning the stuff out. My 5 year old sat there and sobbed though. The tree he loves should never never ever get mulched. SOBBING. No tree next year? 😉

  3. The Q and A was great … especially the second one. Personally, I think the correct way to describe that woman would have been simply “colorblind.”

    The first one threw me into a five-minute solo ranting fit about subject and object pronouns. It drives me insane when people screw them up. Absolutely insane. Crazy insane. Hence the ranting fit … although after the curiosities of Bush’s speech patterns, Obama’s possible confusion is really pretty mild.

    Sorry to hear that you had the purgatorial virus. I hope it’s not going around your family, which will have a purgative effect just generally speaking. That is, actually, my idea of purgatory … an endless series of noroviruses. No, I take that back. That’s my idea of Hell.

  4. I followed the link to the CMOS Q & A, and spent a pleasant ten minutes laughing. I want to have lunch with the person who writes the answers. What a delicious deadpan sense of humor.

    I don’t know whether you saw the truly hilarious exchange from the December examples, about the proper treatment of “disease” — but it’s classic. Almost as good as the crack about the lady’s ugly sweater.

  5. Alida

    Those Q & A’s were funny. Number two can be described in one word, “disaster.” I love setting up for Christmas, but once all the gifts are opened, I think the whole scene looks terrible sad. I’d love to take it all down on the 26th. This rarely though, as I get sad puppy eyes from my kids. Tomorrow…it’s all getting put away tomorrow.

  6. My daughter is really into correcting my grammar and has earned the title of “grammar police” around here, she would be quite dangerous if she new about a place on-line for grammar questions (I am in trouble enough already!).

    Our Christmas tree goes down today even though Christmas is not actually over for us yet (tomorrow is the last day of Chrismas), but we just need to get back to the rhythm of everyday life again. I think there will be quite an empty feeling when it goes away. Maybe a nature table decorated with fairy lights will help ease the transition.

  7. Oh I’m sorry you had the nasties. I hope you recover soon! Thanks for sharing the funnies, I’m still trying to get my head around what the clothing disaster actually would look like….

    As we speak my children have taken the Christmas tree outside (with Daddy’s help), chopped off about half of the branches from the bottom, sawed the trunk short, and hoisted the whole shortened tree up into their tree house. They are currently in the process of making ornaments from anything they find in the yard. This is my favorite kind of child’s play. Methinks they’ll sleep soundly tonight…

  8. You know what bugged me more? When Michelle said, “Now he’ll be home all the time, working in the White House, and we can stop by and see him whenever we want.” Is she crazy? Hasn’t she watched West Wing? Seriously… he’ll be occupied.

    The worst part of Christmas is New Year’s. I would rather take down 10 trees than deal with New Year’s.

    This year I left up the tiny artificial tree in my kitchen and basement. Thought it would cheer me up; instead, I can’t stand looking at it anymore. How does that happen?

  9. Oi! The q&a!!! Too much time on the hands!!!!!
    We usually wind up keeping our x-mas stuff up well into January, so by that time I’m TOTALLY ready to get the decs packed up and in the basement! Our livingroom/kitchen grows THREE sizes that day! 😉

  10. Editing is always funny business, usually after the fact, when tempers are done flaring. But it’s also inherently funny–it’s an absurd pastime to get paid for. That didn’t stop me from cashing the checks, however.

  11. Dawn: It’s a great resource in addition to being amusing!

    Denise: I was afraid we’d have some kid upsets, but they weren’t too put out. I wonder how kids feel about fake trees — “Don’t worry honey, you’ll see it again next year”??

    David: Anthropapa and I were discussing this issue the other day. We agreed that there is a big difference between spoken and written language in terms of what is acceptable (spoken language being much more fluid and informal). So subject/object agreement is one of those things that seems to be less strict in spoken language, whereas in writing (in my opinion) it needs to be correct. But then, what’s “correct” anyway? Does anyone really say “It is I” instead of “It’s me”, even though the former is correct? Language changes over time, but when is the cutoff point when something fully transitions?

    Alida: That feeling of just wanting to put away all the holiday stuff was much stronger this year. I don’t know why!

    Lisa Anne: I recall being very harsh on my dad’s grammar and pronunciation when I was a young miss. It’s par for the course in the early teens, I think.

    Kirsten: I know, it’s hard to actually form a mental picture of such an awful ensemble! I love your kids’ repurposing of the Christmas tree.

    SusieJ: Yeah, that’s not gonna happen. In New York we lived about 50 yards from Anthropapa’s office, and we still couldn’t just drop by whenever. And he’s not even the president! 🙂

    RunninL8: Luckily all of our holiday decorations fit into a single storage crate, so packing it up doesn’t take long! Some day, when we have a regular-sized house, I might branch out into two, or possibly even three crates’ worth 🙂

    Papa B: Oh no, editing is deadly serious. At least it is to the authors whose precious words we evil, heartless and petty editors are carving up with our horrible red pens. No, really.

  12. Nana

    the woman with the obnoxious sweater / skirt combination: Ugly Betty’s bff

  13. sarah

    You got me to stop lurking with this post. I adore the Q&A. If you don’t already subscribe, you should. Then you’ll get nifty email alerts to let you know when they’ve posted their new monthly set of questions with hilarious answers.

    PS: Did you see the fun write-up — ?

    PPS: Thanks for the Austen FB link. I forwarded it to all of my friends.

  14. Sarah: Welcome! I do subscribe, and use the online manual itself almost every day. That was a fun link, thanks!

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