New Yorker Style Book.

Ben Yagoda writes for Lingua Franca about a remarkable find. He describes cleaning out his office because of his retirement from teaching at the University of Delaware and finding a 1996 copy of the New Yorker style manual, 87 pages long, that “appears to have been composed on an IBM Selectric typewriter”:

For one thing, it is a sort of sequential time capsule. That is, one has the sense that it was drafted shortly after the magazine’s founding (more on the next comma in a minute), in 1925, with new entries added over the years, with the effect that, even in 1996, many of them would have no longer been in use, but clearly belonged to particular past decades or periods. […]

Some of the style rules, too, are redolent of the past. The 1996 New Yorker would have its authors write catercornered (instead of the now much more common kitty-corner or catty-corner), legitimatize (instead of legitimize), and sidewise (though the guide notes that “sideways is permissible in fiction”). Others are puzzling. “John D. Rockefeller 3rd,” but “John D. Rockefeller IV.”

And some of the entries are informative or thought-provoking. One reads, “airplane engines (airplanes do not have motors).” Another: “‘Thought to himself’ is redundant. Avoid.” And: “Do not write, ‘He had his throat cut.’ ‘He had his skull fractured.’ This implies nonexistent volition.” […]

The insistence on using of got instead of gotten is one of the eccentricities for which The New Yorker is famous, or should I say notorious. I have long led a lonely campaign to pressure it to accept gotten, as every other American would, in sentences like this one from a recent issue: “… the loving kindness of Petfinder had got in my head.” At this point I have pretty much given up.

In other editorial news, the New York Times with pardonable pride reports on a minor but pleasing triumph by an editor at their Spanish edition:

It is far from clear what errors the Mexican national team might make this week at soccer’s World Cup on the heels of Sunday’s euphoric victory over Germany, but the team addressed one even before the games started. The way it displays players’ names on its jerseys is, finally, correct.

And the team confirmed it was thanks to the keen eye of Paulina Chavira, an editor at The New York Times en Español in the Mexico City bureau. Ms. Chavira noticed last year that the names lacked accent marks, an omission that amounts to a spelling error.

Hernandez was not Hernández, as it should be, and Ms. Chavira vented about it on her Twitter feed, which has become a leading forum for discussion of the Spanish language and its orthography.

It’s worth reading the whole charming account; ignore the confusion of orthography with “grammar,” which is the way we live now.

Comments

  1. AJP Crown L says:

    “John D. Rockefeller V”? That’s nothing: Malcolm X.

  2. AJP Crown says:

    And then there’s the Head of British so-called Intelligence, who’s known as C.

  3. J.W. Brewer says:

    “Man, the (Harlem for cops).” Just wow.

  4. And no discussion of The New Yorker style is complete without some discussion of diereses.

  5. ITYM “diëreses.”

  6. David Marjanović says:

    Gotten is even used in some places in England, and doesn’t seem to be newfangled there.

  7. And when the NYT quoted Ms. Chavira saying “What’s more, “futbol” is one of the most important sports in Mexico,” they omitted an accent on “fútbol”…

  8. Apparently the pronunciation with final stress (and therefore no accent mark) is common in Mexico. There is also a form fúbol, but Wiktionary doesn’t say where it is used. I bet the /t/ is often dropped in pronunciation anyway, as it is not a normal coda consonant (native words have only /n/, /r/, /l/, /s/).

  9. “Legitimatize” is something I cannot read in a non-Homer Simpson voice.

  10. AJP Crown says:

    Although its recent use must be due to American influence and no one said gotten there for ages, Ill-gotten, as in ill-gotten gains, never went out of style in the British Isles for some reason.

  11. marie-lucie says:

    AJP Crown: Ill-gotten, as in ill-gotten gains, never went out of style in the British Isles for some reason.

    This sort of thing is not rare: a word (or form of a word) which goes out of style by itself is preserved when commonly associated with another so that the combination is treated as a single word. Note the difference with ill-fitting, which has a counterpartwell-fitting, so that speakers are conscious of the two components in each compound word, while there is no well-gotten as a counterpart of ill-gotten, so that the latter is treated as one word not two (as also in forgotten).

  12. dainichi says:

    > I bet the /t/ is often dropped in pronunciation anyway, as it is not a normal coda consonant (native words have only /n/, /r/, /l/, /s/).

    And /d/ as in “ciudad”? (And /θ/ if you include non-merged varieties)

    FWIW, all pronunciations here:

    https://forvo.com/word/f%C3%BAtbol/#es

    retain some form of the /t/ (mostly unreleased), although only one of them is by a Mexican.

  13. The final /d/ of “ciudad” is often dropped, if I remember correctly (as is the /x/ of “reloj”).

  14. marie-lucie says:

    the final /d/ of “ciudad” (and of “verdad” and other words in “ad”):

    Final /d/ is not always totally dropped, but greatly weakened, with the tongue tip only barely touching the back of the upper teeth while remaining a stop, or even turning into a very slight fricative otherwise similar to the English “th” in “the”.

    In Spain the name of the capital city Madrid is often pronounced as if written in English as “Mathrith” (the first th voiced, the second often voiceless because of its word-final position).

  15. One reads, “airplane engines (airplanes do not have motors).”

    This is particularly puzzling. There are definitely cases in which you might want to make a distinction between engines and motors – the best-known one would be conventional submarines, which have both. They have a diesel engine, which turns a generator to generate electricity; the electricity powers the electric motors which turn the propellor. (When they’re underwater, of course, the diesel engine is switched off and the submarine runs on batteries.)

    But you can have a motor that isn’t an electric motor. The one in a motor car, for example. An outboard motor on a small boat. And a ship driven by a diesel engine is a motor ship or motor vessel (MS or MV before the name).

    You’d normally talk about an aircraft engine, but calling it a motor is unusual but not wrong in any technical sense… the Ford Trimotor, for example.

  16. In addition, I suspect that words in -dad are semicultismos (that is, borrowings from Latin that have been minimally adapted to Spanish). Etienne?

  17. David Marjanović says:

    Does any other language distinguish engines from motors?

  18. marie-lucie says:

    David M: engines and motors;

    In French there are two words, un engin and un moteur. The first one is quite old, the second one could be an adaptation of the English word (or of the Latin equivalent, meaning ‘sthg that moves sthg, causes a motion’).

    The French words are not synonymous: l’engin is closer to la machine. For instance, when Leonardo da Vinci was looking to be hired by princes and kings, his claim to expertise was not as a painter but as a designer and maker of des engins de guerre ‘war machines’, such as could hurl cannonballs or large rocks over ramparts into an enemy city, among other uses. The word is still used with a more general, modern meaning, especially for a large, complicated object whose utility is not obvious. The earliest computer, which was very large, complex and mysterious, could have been called un engin.

  19. Well, that looks a bit like the difference between German “Maschine” and “Motor”, where “Maschine” is the entire contraption while “Motor” is the part that drives the contraption. But in some cases the “Motor” is traditionally called both “Motor” and “Maschine”, e.g. on ships.

  20. On “engine” – has anyone else come across a pronunciation that is more or less the same as “Injun”? It took me by surprise when I first heard it.

  21. That’s the pin-pen merger, characteristic of the American South, AAVE, bits and bobs of the American West, and the south and southwest of Ireland.

  22. Russian dvigatel’ (engine) and motor are really close, but not exactly the same. For example, rocket engine is called dvigatel’, but never motor. Likewise, trains have only dvigatel’.

  23. marie: same distinction in English; those catapults etc. are commonly known as siege engines. The vehicle the firemen use is a fire engine. And the first computer might have been the Analytical Engine.

    A rocket, on the other hand, has a motor rather than an engine, I would say.

  24. Thinking about it: is this a BrE/AmE split? Do Americans say “outboard motor” or “outboard engine”? What do you call the bit of your (for example) chainsaw or lawnmower that makes it go?

  25. Bathrobe says:

    has anyone else come across a pronunciation that is more or less the same as “Injun”?

    I grew up saying “injun”, and my dialect (Australian English) does not have the pin/pen merger.

    The Chinese borrowed version of ‘engine’ is 引擎 yǐnqíng, which suggests (merely suggests, mind you) that they heard the English word as ‘injun’. Of course, Mandarin does not have a syllable that is pronounced /en/, so that could be why they used yǐn. There is also the possibility that it was borrowed through a different dialect of Chinese, but listen to forvo and it seems like Cantonese can be ruled out.

    For reference, Japanese uses エンジン enjin. However, this could easily be based on the spelling rather than the pronunciation, so this is not conclusive, either.

    (As for other words: ‘motor’ in Chinese is 发动机 fādòngjī ‘produce movement device/machine’ and the borrowed term ‘motor’ is found in 摩托车 mótuō chē literally ‘motuo vehicle’, that is ‘motorbike’. Japanese also has 発動機 hatsudōki ‘produce movement device/machine’ and モーター mōtā ‘motor’.)

  26. I grew up saying “injun”, and my dialect […] does not have the pin/pen merger.

    Same here.

  27. Bathrobe says:

    From Word Reference forum:

    ‘Since we are talking about pronunciation patterns, “injun” is the way a rather large number of native Oregonians (Anglos) pronounce “engine.”‘

    But maybe that’s the pin/pen merger…

  28. marie-lucie says:

    Some time ago a video was shown on the internet, featuring an extraordinary, giant musical engin made of many pieces of wood and metal, ‘played’ by its maker, who started it, then from time to time walked around it to pull or push an element or set of elements somewhere, which effected some change in the sounds, but without producing a continuous tune himself. It was far too big to be called an instrument, and the ‘player’ left it alone for more time than he spent ‘playing’ it. Machine would not be the right word either, because although it certainly did something, it needed human intervention at various stages and its purpose was to produce an artistic rather than a utilitarian result.

  29. Rodger C says:

    There’s a watercourse in East Kentucky that appears on the map as “Engine Creek.” This has to be a surveyor’s misunderstanding.

  30. J.W. Brewer says:

    Old-timey stories about anarchist terrorists of the pre-WW1 variety often had them plotting to use an “infernal engine” (a bomb or the like) to carry out their dastardly deeds, which is perhaps a relic of a broader sense of “engine” parallel to the French word.

  31. A rocket, on the other hand, has a motor rather than an engine, I would say.

    I would reverse that. Rocket engine, jet engine, but not rocket or jet motor. Motor makes me think of a machine with mechanical bits that go round.

    Except that cars can have engines or motors interchangeably, but car engine is more natural to me.

    If there is a technical distinction here I suspect it is overwhelmed by habit and idiom.

  32. AJP Crown says:

    Ajay: it’s not just submarines. Cruise ships nowadays are diesel-electric powered. They can manage a top speed of 22 or 23 knots.

    Norwegian uses motor for a car engine, but they pronounce the vowels clearer than we do. When I was young, cockneys used to call their car a motor as in “I’ve left my motor with its engine running.”

  33. WP says that an engine consumes fuel, changing its chemical composition, whereas a motor provides motion from whatever source of energy: thermal, electrical, mechanical, hydraulic, etc. Rocket motor is called out as a special case used as a technical term in rocketry; rocket engine is used more generally. In earlier use, internal-combustion engines were called motors to distinguish them from steam engines.

  34. The OED lists quite a number of obsolete senses for engine.

    I. Ingenuity, cunning, or disposition.
    1. a. Ingenuity, artfulness; cunning, trickery. Also with modifying word, as evil engine, false engine: evil machination, ill intention; cf. malengine n. a. Obsolete.
    b. Manner of construction; devising, design; craft. Obsolete.
    2. An instance or a product of ingenuity; a contrivance or means. In a bad sense: a plot, a snare, a wile. Obsolete.
    3. a. Inborn talent, intelligence, or wit; genius. Obsolete.
    b. Natural disposition, temperament. Obsolete.
    II. A machine, contraption, or mechanism.
    4. a. A large machine or instrument used in warfare, as a battering ram, catapult, etc. (now hist.). Also: †a smaller weapon, as a bow, sword, or club (obsolete).
    b. An instrument of torture, esp. the rack. Also fig. Obsolete.

    I am not so sure that sense 4.b is really obsolete though. I’m pretty sure I’ve seen engine used to refer to the rack in more recent works than 1816, which is the last cite the OED has for that sense.

  35. WP says that an engine consumes fuel, changing its chemical composition, whereas a motor provides motion from whatever source of energy: thermal, electrical, mechanical, hydraulic, etc.

    So, based on that, the thingy stuck under the wing of an airliner is both an engine and a motor!

    Ajay: it’s not just submarines. Cruise ships nowadays are diesel-electric powered.

    Also railway locomotives, a few cars and buses, and the occasional tank…

  36. I remember when I first realized I didn’t know the difference between an engine and a motor; it was a good illustration of the point that what we really know is how words are used, not what they “mean.” The gostak distims the doshes!

  37. What can the participle of forgot be in BrE? Collins says it’s forgotten, as in AmE, but Tolkien wrote he had forgot them, admittedly in a strict-meter poem where an extra syllable would have killed it.

  38. “Forgotten” for me in normal usage (BrE speaker), but there does seem to be a tradition of older usage of ‘forgot’.

    I have forgot much, Cynara! gone with the wind, (Ernest Dowson).

    This Earl of Oxford, making of his low obeisance to Queen Elizabeth, happened to let a Fart, at which he was so abashed and ashamed that he went to Travel [for] 7 years. On his return the Queen welcomed him home, and said, ‘My Lord, I had forgot the Fart’.
    Anecdote recorded by John Aubrey in Brief Lives (1693).

  39. marie-lucie says:

    There is Auld Lang Syne:

    Should old acquaintance be forgot …

  40. David Marjanović says:

    German divides “engine” between “machine” (Kriegsmaschine “war machine”, Belagerungsmaschine “siege engine”, Dampfmaschine “steam engine”, Höllenmaschine “infernal engine”), something like “propulsion works” (Raketentriebwerk “rocket engine”, Düsentriebwerk or just Triebwerk “jet engine”; I think this list is exhaustive) and “propulsion” (Antrieb) itself if I’m not overlooking some technical distinction.

    Also: Daniel Düsentrieb “Gyro Gearloose”, from Düsenantrieb “jet propulsion”.

    Also railway locomotives

    Not in mainland Europe, where almost all are purely electric and almost all tracks are electrified, i.e. accompanied by overhead lines.

  41. “Not in mainland Europe, where almost all are purely electric and almost all tracks are electrified, i.e. accompanied by overhead lines.”

    Plenty of non-electrified lines in Europe still, mostly in the former USSR and Eastern Bloc. But even in France you’ll find that smaller lines aren’t electrified.

  42. That wouldn’t be cost effective in most of North America, where trains are infrequent and the fixed costs of electrification are large. (There is a joke about a suicidal fellow who lies down on the railroad tracks and dies … of starvation.) However, essentially all diesel locomotives built in the last fifty years have a diesel engine that does not drive the wheels, but rather drives an electric generator (AC or DC) that powers the electric motors that drive the wheels. This is done because internal combustion engines are efficient only when running all-out, whereas electric motors are efficient at almost any speed. Mechanical and hydraulic clutches partly compensate for this in cars and trucks, but trains are too heavy: the clutch would wear out at once. Hybrid cars work similarly, but most of them can drive the wheels from the gasoline engine, the electric motor, or both at the same time. Finally, electrodiesel locomotives are diesel-electric systems that can also run off a third rail or overhead wire (or in a few cases from batteries charged by the diesel engine): they are used in NYC and other cities where local law prohibits diesel operation.

  43. Electric motors are also bidirectional, in a way that combustion engines are not. A typical American train now is pulled by two or three locomotives, which are generally oriented tail-to-tail or head-to-head.

  44. There’s a watercourse in East Kentucky that appears on the map as “Engine Creek.” This has to be a surveyor’s misunderstanding.

    Maybe it was “Injun”, and someone decided that was racist.

  45. Allan from Iowa says:

    As to Ajay’s question, I am an American and it is “outboard motor”.

    I had to think for a few minutes about the lawnmower or chainsaw part. Then I realized that if one of them needs repaired, I would take it to a shop that specializes in small engine (not motor) repair.

  46. Rodger C says:

    @David: I think it more likely that it was “Injun” and the surveyor simply misunderstood, or he’d have written “Indian.”

  47. ktschwarz says:

    @Allan from Iowa if one of them needs repaired: Iowa? I thought it was Pittsburgh that was famous for the “needs washed” construction. Do you have Pennsylvania connections?

  48. Rodger C says:

    @ktschwartz: This has been discussed before somewhere. That construction is a Scotticism found wherever there are Ulster-Americans, i.e. a lot of the middle of the country.

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