The D.C. Manual of Style and Usage.

As a copyeditor by profession, I love style manuals, especially when they’re not too hidebound and show their own sense of style. Submitted for your consideration, the D.C. Manual of Style and Usage of Washington City Paper; some of my favorite entries:

D.C.
Respect the periods! However, many organizations and campaigns don’t use the periods. Respect proper nouns!

Gray, Vince
Not Vincent C. Gray, as the Post styles him, because we asked him when he was elected whether he wanted to be known as Vince or Vincent.

jont, junt, jount
Can be substituted for any (nonhuman) noun in the English language. Spelling is interchangeable, but be consistent.

Politico
Never all-uppercase. Ugh.

Saint Elizabeths Hospital
Former psychiatric hospital near Congress Heights, the site of which is slated for redevelopment. Its lack of an apostrophe is a result of inconsistent usage in the 17th century, when the tract of land upon which it was built was named; Congress didn’t include an apostrophe when it officially renamed the facility from its original moniker, the Government Hospital for the Insane, in 1916. Copy editors have been confounded ever since.

states
After a city, use the old AP style abbreviations (e.g. Madison, Wis., and Ocean City, Md.). Ignore the AP’s oafish new policy of spelling out state names. For cities in the immediate D.C. area, states are generally not needed; our readers know that McLean is in Virginia and Potomac is in Maryland, even if they justifiably find both locations a little frightening.

theater
Not theatre, except as part of a proper noun. We don’t know how the obsession with French spelling arose, but we’re not playing along. Studio Theatre, you’re doing it wrong. Howard Theatre, WTF? Signature Theatre, just stop. You’re making our spellcheck misfire and our copy editors gnash their already worn-down teeth. Take a hint from our star pupil, Arena Stage’s Mead Center for American Theater, or we may start calling you thee-AT-ruhs.

Wi-Fi
This is how the AP does it, though it’s probably the least elegant possible way to write it; we haven’t adopted a better style yet, but we will.

“We haven’t adopted a better style yet, but we will”: style is not set in stone! You go, City Paper! And I am glad to learn new words, like jont/junt/jount (above) and bama. What’s a bama? A mook. What’s a mook?

Comments

  1. David Marjanović says:

    What, indeed is a mook – complete with etymology from 木.

  2. Love, love, love it. And can’t wait to get it. So for now, I’ll just point out — in the hope that other more interesting aspects of the guide may then be focused upon instead — that this has nothing at all to do with prescriptivism: the belief that some forms of language are ALWAYS better than others. Implicit in the tongue-in-cheek outrage and hauteur of this guide, and explicit in many of the entries, is the appreciation of context and sense of contingency necessary for all linguistic advice to be sensible, i.e., not prescriptivist.

  3. These are great!

    At the college where I work there’s a theatre, and a department of same, but you can imagine how often people spell it otherwise. More galling: we have a course catalogue and a library catalog, frequently juxtaposed in lists of important resources. Spellcheck can only make things worse.

  4. Not theatre, except as part of a proper noun. We don’t know how the obsession with French spelling arose, but we’re not playing along.

    Is the proximate source the French spelling (which is actually théâtre) or the British?

  5. Not so sure I agree with this:

    acronyms
    No need to put them in parentheses after a spelled-out title; our readers probably realize the “District Department of Transportation” they saw in the first paragraph is the “DDOT” in the fourth.

    Personally, I find it helpful to have the acronym spelt out after the first mention because it makes it easier to go back and check if you forget what it means. (This especially applies to long articles.)

  6. can’t wait to get it

    Er, explore it, that is.

  7. AJP Crown says:

    Bathtub: Personally, I find it helpful to have the acronym spelt out after the first mention because it makes it easier to go back and check if you forget what it means. (This especially applies to long articles.)

    Yes, I couldn’t agree more. It probably means we’re getting old, Bathrobe. I’ve also found that googling the acronym nearly always gives it up.

    Is the proximate source the French spelling (which is actually théâtre) or the British?
    I expect the latter, and the US version comes from Webster, as if spelling weren’t difficult enough without people messing about with it for their own purposes. But isn’t a new adjective is required for “British”? Most of the time it’s the English of everywhere except the US.

  8. AJP Crown says:

    “Original” English is too much of a can of worms. “Non-buggered-about-with” English would be my choice, but it’s a bit long.

  9. As far as I know, the Scots are still in the Union, so ‘British’ can stay. At any rate, I’m sure they didn’t get it from the Australians.

  10. des von bladet says:

    I think AJP is suggesting that “British” is a weaksauce way of saying “British, Indian, Australian, New Zealandish and probably Canananadian at least sometimes”.

    “Commonwealthian” would be a better term and I prescribe it for everyone, starting now, go!

  11. Thank you, Des. Commonwealthian it is!

  12. Is Söffrika in the Commonwealth?

  13. Is the proximate source the French spelling (which is actually théâtre) or the British?

    British of course. It is an unfortunate cliche of American humor that “French” is used to signal pretension, affectation, effeminacy, deviousness, etc.

  14. des von bladet says:

    Currently, yes. (Rejoined 1994.) But it still won’t do: Ireland wouldn’t like it.

  15. While readers probably can work out that “DDOT” means “District Department of Transportation”, they may resent the effort required to do so. Good editing reduces the effort required of the reader. Placing “(DDOT)” straight after the long form does this in two ways: it warns that the abbreviation will be used further down, and it is a visual anchor to search back for upon reaching the subsequent reference. The anchors help not only when the piece is long but also when the number of distinct initialisms is large; maybe this is rarely the case in the Washington City Paper. (The particular example “DDOT” is actually harder than most to work out, since including an “O” for “of” is unusual. I presume it serves to distinguish the DDOT from dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane.)

  16. Well, I’m fine with ganging up on the U.S., but I’m afraid that all the non-U.S.ians put together will still come to maybe half of the U.S.

  17. While readers probably can work out that “DDOT” means “District Department of Transportation”, they may resent the effort required to do so.

    I suspect the editors are pretty sure that their readers are extremely familiar with “DDOT” (as they are, say, with “DMV”) and won’t need any particular effort; I further suspect they would not use the same policy for more obscure (regionally) abbreviations.

  18. J. W. Brewer says:

    I am interested to learn of the drift/expansion of the semantic scope of “bama.” My impression when I lived in the DC area 25+ years ago is that at least then it was still racially marked and predominantly carried its original core meaning of “[necessarily black] greenhorn, bumpkin, recent arrival from the rural South” as contrasted to the supposedly more urbane, sophisticated “city-mouse” life-long (or at least longstanding) black residents, some of whom viewed the former category with condescension. I will have to investigate “bounce beat,” which may or may not prove to be to my taste but is at least a sign that go-go has survived long enough to spawn offspring subgenres.

  19. Stephen Bruce says:

    I enjoyed “Uber: If you use it as a verb, you can Uber yourself to employment at another publication.”

    As for theatre the obsession with French spelling arose soon after the Norman Conquest, so if the D.C. Manual editors don’t want to “play along,” they’d better revert to Old English (though I also dislike theatre in American texts).

  20. J. W. Brewer says:

    Re “Commonwealthian,” it strikes me that maybe the anti-Commonwealth de Valera government in Dublin missed a chance to create symbolic distance from the Brits by adopting Webster’s “go to hell with your -re’s and -our’s, we’re independent now” alternative spelling conventions as the preferred Republican orthography. They could no doubt have gotten funding from people in the U.S. Irish diaspora who were habituated to AmEng spelling to handle the necessary changeover in school textbooks etc.

  21. In my junior high school (early 2000s), one of the days in our “Spirit Week” was bama day (maybe spelled bamma day), where we were encouraged to dress like a bama. It was the first time I had heard the word, but clearly what was meant by “bama” was basically like this description from the article: “Say you got a suit on but you got some sandals and socks,” he says—that’s ’Bama. So is “wearing T-shirts that come down to your ankles.”

    Somehow, some folks in Alabama found out about this and protested to our student council. Everyone at our school claimed that they were ignorant of the etymology and that calling someone a bama had nothing to do with Alabama, and I think they were being sincere. From what J.W. Brewer says, it seems clear that the derivation bama < Alabama is correct, but I guess the distinction between recent arrivals and lifelong residents was completely obsolete for people in my generation so the connection between the two words had been forgotten.

    I don't think I ever heard a white person call anyone a bama, but I also never had the sense that it was a word that could only be applied to a black person.

  22. J. W. Brewer says:

    Ah, but Vanya, Britishness (at least the “posh” variety) is *also* viewed by red-blooded Americans as stereotypically pretentious, affected, effeminate, devious, etc. And if you are deliberately using a non-AmEng spelling to signal poshness (whether by calling your place-for-staging-shows the such-and-such Theatre or by calling your shopping-mall/sports-arena the such-and-such Centre) you are, in fact, being pretentious and affected as a descriptive matter per AmEng sociolinguistics. It may of course well be a rational move because there is a subset of potential customers that are favorably (favourably?) impressed by that sort of thing and may be persuaded to part with their money via that sort of signalling. It seems plausible that the sort of sucker who is favorably impressed by that signal would be impressed by both Briticisms and Gallicisms, so it almost doesn’t matter which it is (or which the sucker thinks it might be). If the promoter thought it would be viewed as a Canadianism, it would presumably not be done, because affecting Canadianisms is not a typical way of signaling faux-sophistication. NTTAWW how Canadians spell in a Canadian context.

  23. Is “jont” really DC-only slang? I just hear it as a variation of “joint” which is already an all-purpose word.

    There’s also young/yung, which I was surprised to learn is DC-only.

  24. I agree with J. W. Brewer. British or French doesn’t matter; it’s pretentious.

  25. J. W. Brewer says:

    As to “bama,” I don’t think I ever heard it used “in the wild” back in my DC days in the late ’80’s, so I picked up my knowledge of it probably via some written account by some perhaps-white journalist who might already have been a bit out of date. The massive migration of American blacks out of the rural South into large cities (both northern cities that prior to the 20th century had had little if any black population and expanding southern/border-state cities like Memphis/Atlanta/DC/Baltimore that had always had some) was mostly over by circa 1970, so the demographic contrast/divide within urban black communities between the fully-citified old-timers and the recently-arrived hayseeds would have rapidly become less salient after that.

  26. Is “jont” really DC-only slang? I just hear it as a variation of “joint” which is already an all-purpose word.

    It doubtless is, but the variants they give are not obvious forms of “joint” and may well be limited to DC.

  27. Bathrobe:

    Well, I’m fine with ganging up on the U.S., but I’m afraid that all the non-U.S.ians put together will still come to maybe half of the U.S.

    According to Wikipedia U.S. has ~53% of all native English speakers.

  28. J. W. Brewer says:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_English-speaking_population#List_in_order_of_native_speakers has the U.S. with a lot closer to 2/3 of the world’s population of L1 Anglophones, but perhaps wikipedia is not internally consistent. And you can’t completely ignore countries with very few L1 Anglophones but quite a lot of highly fluent L2 Anglophones (e.g. India and the Philippines), but there’s no non-arbitrary way to decide exactly how much to take them into account (and it might vary by context and the purpose of the analysis).

  29. But what’s theater without pretension?

  30. “I further suspect they would not use the same policy for more obscure (regionally) abbreviations.”

    That’s not how I read their acronyms section. There’s a case for skipping the expansion altogether, but they seem to allow this only for bounce bands.

    “maybe the anti-Commonwealth de Valera government in Dublin missed a chance to create symbolic distance from the Brits by adopting Webster’s … alternative spelling conventions”

    De Valera wanted to replace English with Irish, not tweak its spelling. On the other hand he was deliberately ambiguous about the Commonwealth; Google “external association”

  31. “Bama” according to Urban Dictionary:

    Originated from Black youth in Washington DC.
    1. Original meaning was “cant dress well” or “fashion misfit”

    2. Now the word has a more general use meaning “person”, as how Whites use “Dude”

    1. That bama wearing a coat in the summer

    2. Tell bama to meet me at the store.

  32. Re: who speaks English. I looked at the English Language entry in Wikipedia, but didn’t look into more detailed entries. It seems that the main difference is in “Other” section, which after further inspection includes L2 speakers as well.

  33. Or maybe not. It’s very confusing down there.

  34. J. W. Brewer says:

    I will admit to having used de Valera not as an individual but as a synecdoche for a whole generation or two of nationalist politicians who no doubt differed somewhat from each other on the finer points of language policy. Any romantic Irish-nationalist desire to get people to stop speaking English has been a catastrophic failure and the attempt to popularize Irish even as an L2 alternative (is there any other nation-state in the world where a language that everyone must nominally study in school is voluntarily spoken with fluency by a smaller percentage of the adult population?) not much better considering the resources devoted to it; perhaps (although this obviously may be 20/20 hindsight) making IrEng even more distinctively/symbolically distinctive from that used in the remaining bits of the U.K. (while still remaining comprehensible in the wider Anglophone world) could have been a more successful strategy.

  35. It’s not so unusual in American usage: consider DOD/DOT/DOE for Department of Defense, Transportation, Energy, etc.

    In the U.S., “theatre” is fairly common in the legitimate theatre, and in the names of its organizations. But we always write “movie theater”, “theater of war”, etc. etc, unlike Non-American Anglophonia.

    Frankly, I always think it’s bizarre when a style sheet instructs writers to use a name for an organization that isn’t the name it uses for itself. Either the Economist or the Guardian (I forget which) refuses to write “California (State) Legislature” and insists on “the Californian legislature”, which is downright bizarre. “Department of Defence” is I suppose tolerable, although I note that the Australian Labor Party (which was co-founded by an American) seems to be always so spelled, even in the UK.

  36. @John Cowan: I remember a discussion on Language Log a few years ago about how different varieties of English can have quite different standards for what alternate names for a particular entity may be acceptable. The topic arose in a discussion of college and university names. In Britain, folk are not likely to see any difference between “Oxford University” and the “University of Oxford”; in contrast, “Washington University” and the “University of Washington” are completely different institutions, and “Oregon University” simply doesn’t exist. Since “the Scottish Parliament” sounds fine, I can understand editors at a British publication not appreciating how wrong “the Californian legislature” sounds. (If it’s The Economist that writes that though, they have no excuse, since their magazine has a large American circulation and a fair number of American writers.)

  37. John Cowan,

    “In the U.S., “theatre” is fairly common in the legitimate theatre, and in the names of its organizations. But we always write “movie theater”, “theater of war”, etc. etc, unlike Non-American Anglophonia.”

    Analogous to the non-US differentiation of “metre” and “meter”?

  38. Essentially, except that there are people who write theater in all applications, and the further they are from show business, the more likely that is.

  39. Athel Cornish-Bowden says:

    Wouldn’t “Commonwealthian” also include people like Mr Hat who live in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts?

  40. Athel Cornish-Bowden says:

    I’m afraid I follow “AP’s oafish new policy of spelling out state names” when I address envelopes to my daughters in California and Colorado, as I tend not to abbreviate anything much. I wasnt aware it was an oafish new policy.

  41. In most Commonwealth-and-Ireland English, a movie theater is called a “cinema”. Googling confirms “movie theatre” as that rara avis, a distinctively Canadian spelling.

    How do Australians distinguish the two Commonwealths of which they are members? Of course context or explicitness will work; but in practice how would news organs rephrase e.g. “the Commonwealth government’s policy on Commonwealth student exchanges”?

  42. “Frankly, I always think it’s bizarre when a style sheet instructs writers to use a name for an organization that isn’t the name it uses for itself.”

    Then there is ISIS (sometimes pronounced /aɪsɪs/ sometimes /aɪ.ɛs.aɪ.ɛs/) also ISIL (sometimes /aɪsəl/ sometimes /aɪ.ɛs.aɪ.ɛl/ and IS (I think always pronounced /aɪ.ɛs/) and finally Da’ash (usually /dɑ’æsh/. Often news reports use one with AKAs, like “IS, also known as ISIS or ISIL.”

    And, this is in the U.S., there are likely other variations elsewhere.

  43. Either the Economist or the Guardian (I forget which) refuses to write “California (State) Legislature” and insists on “the Californian legislature”, which is downright bizarre.

    By the way, in linguistic usage, “California” seems to be preferred to “Californian” in phrases like “California English”, “a California accent” or “the Northern California Vowel Shift”.

  44. AJP Crown says:

    “I always think it’s bizarre when a style sheet instructs writers to use a name for an organization that isn’t the name it uses for itself.”

    I agree, and I think it’s a shame as well as being confusing to lose diacritics in foreign words. French seems to come off especially badly in English writing because there’s no alternative, whereas in German & Scandinavian there’s always ae or oe etc. if you run out of dots and crosses.

  45. AJP Crown says:

    If half-or-more of the world’s first-language English speakers come from the US, then the obvious alternative to US English, surely, is non-US English.

  46. For US states, attributive nouns seem to be preferred over “true” adjectives in almost all contexts. Texan might be the strongest contender, particularly in a cultural or culinary context, but even in their case it’s the Texas Legislature. Recently I was reading a Civil War-era book that used adjectival forms like Louisianian and North Carolinian, and it seemed rather quaint. (Of course, these forms are still in use as nouns, referring to the inhabitants of those states.)

    Internationally, New Zealand seems to be a rare country that follows this pattern, making no pretension of having a distinct adjective of nationality (at least not in English).

  47. Noun-noun compounds with California are preferred in all cases I can think of in AmE, possibly because Californian is also a noun, so that e.g. Californian ideology would mean the ideology of (stereo)typical people from California rather than of California as a political entity. Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel is by no means the Hotel California, and most early Google hits for Californian refer to newspapers and such.

  48. Alaska and Hawaii seem not to have converted (yet?) to have attributive nouns rather than -an adjectives as the standard as other states have. “Alaskan oil” and “Hawaiian pineapple” dominate, as opposed to “Texas oil” and “Florida oranges”.

  49. Garrigus Carraig says:

    In Black Philadelphia in the early eighties, I heard the word jaund/jawn/jimmyjawn, which must have been a variant of D.C.’s jont et al. My sources tell me that it fell out of fashion and returned sometime before 2007.

  50. Then there is ISIS

    I meant, of course, anglophone organizations. A name is, or should be, a name: non-US publications don’t insist on referring to lawyer and author John Armor as “John Armour”, still less Frank Armor as “Frankish armour”. (Indeed, Richard Armour was an American poet.)

    that rara avis, a distinctively Canadian spelling

    Not so rare: labour union came to mind at once (vs. labor union, trade union), and tire centre is a well-known case (vs. tire center, tyre centre) — a British person once defined tire centre as ‘a place you go to get tired’. Wikipedia mentions maneuvre (vs. maneuver, manoeuvre), now a secondary variant, and googling finds colourize (vs. colorize, colourise outside the Oxford dictionaries).

    Languagehat article from 2004.

  51. It’s funny that normative Canadian spelling (to the extent that it holds sway) uses -ize and -yze, despite mostly favoring Britain in other respects. You’d expect that their membership in the Empire and Commonwealth and their large French-speaking population would militate in favor of a spelling that’s both Anglo- and Francophilic.

  52. … and finally Da’ash (usually /dɑ’æsh/.

    No, never /dɑʔæʃ/. The eyn of داعش stands for عراق , Iraq, and its first vowel, the short i-kasrah, of Arabic is [e] in Persian and (this is just from snippets of Arabic in news reports, I have limited knowledge of, and even less interest in, Arabic dialectal phonology, so I may be wrong) dialects of Iraq. So /dɑʔeʃ/ or /dɑʔiʃ/.

  53. No, never /dɑʔæʃ/.

    GeorgeW was talking about English pronunciation, not Arabic. But I think he’s wrong about English, too; I haven’t heard it often, but I think the second vowel is /e/, not /æ/.

  54. LH: I think you are right, Wikipedia gives the pronunciation as Da’esh. It seems the English spelling is not consistent. One can find Da’esh and Da’ash.

    What is also interesting about this is that Arabic acronyms are very rare. In fact, I can’t think of another one offhand, including common organizations like the U.N. But, Da’esh is being used by Arabic speakers.

  55. … possibly because Californian is also a noun, so that e.g. Californian ideology would mean the ideology of (stereo)typical people from California rather than of California as a political entity.

    Possibly, but there must be something more to it. After all, we have “American/Canadian/German/Russian ideology”, never *!*”America ideology”, etc. Cf. the title of this blog post (“Canadian Vowels vs. California Vowels”). In cases like “the California poppy” there’s no risk of ambiguity, but it’s “California”, not “Californian” none the less. Since we also have Pennsylvania Dutch but Appalachian English, it seems to me that the names of American states enjoy some sort of special status in this respect (with the possible exception of Hawaii(an)). “The Canada goose” is special — it was so called already in the 1770s, and dictionaries warn people against calling it “the Canadian goose” (which would hardly be necessary if nobody called it that colloquially).

    For non-rhotic speakers, a minor euphonic problem arises: almost half of the names of US (U.S.?) states end in a schwa or another vowel (as in Utah, Arkansas) after which an intrusive /r/ is hard to suppress when the next word is “accent”, “English” (or “ideology”, for that matter).

  56. David Marjanović says:

    What is also interesting about this is that Arabic acronyms are very rare. In fact, I can’t think of another one offhand, including common organizations like the U.N.

    Fatah, Hamas.

  57. …almost half of the names of US (U.S.?) states end in a schwa or another vowel (as in Utah, Arkansas) after which an intrusive /r/ is hard to suppress when the next word is “accent”, “English” (or “ideology”, for that matter).

    Why not /s/?

  58. Why not /s/?

    In “Arkansas”? Precisely because “intrusive” /r/ is a phonologically conditioned phenomenon, so neither the spelling nor the etymology matters. Since the final s in “Arkansas” is mute, it might just well not be there at all. In non-rhotic Englishes, such as the mainstream British accents, “Arkansas” has a final /ɔː/ — one of the vowels that trigger the insertion of /r/ in connected speech before another vowel. It’s “Arkansas-r-accent”, just like “I saw-r-it” or “a flaw-r-in your argument” (with the same vowel sound).

  59. “Fatah, Hamas.”

    Yeah, kinda acronyms. Both are words with meaning appropriate to the organization (from their point of view). And, they are kinda-acronyms in that there is a relationship to elements of the organizations full name, but a little forced (particularly Fatah).

    But, yes they are reduced forms of the organizations full name.

  60. As a native of the Philadelphia area, I immediately recognized “jont/junt/jount” as being variants of the Philadelphia slang word “jawn,” which likewise can substitute for any non-human noun.

    See the discussion here: http://www.newsworks.org/index.php/local/philadelphia/53982-the-jawn-is-native-philly-slang

    I would disagree that either “jont” or “jawn” are local variants of “joint,” since to my mind, “joint” only refers to places not things. On first hearing the word back in the ’90s my initial impression was that it was derived from the name “John.” (I think the spelling “jawn” was adopted just by way of distinction).

    What’s fascinating here though is 1) seeing usage of a word spread in real time (as opposed to in historic time) and 2) how quickly the pronunciation of a word that exists primarily in the spoken language can shift.

  61. Brian, the first time I encountered “joint” in that sense was in the ’80s when seeing a Spike Lee film that described itself as a “Spike Lee joint”. A film is not a place. “Joint” referring to places seems much older, the sort of thing that shows up in movies from the ’30s.

  62. Ginger Yellow says:

    Since “the Scottish Parliament” sounds fine, I can understand editors at a British publication not appreciating how wrong “the Californian legislature” sounds.

    Speaking as an editor at a British publication, it doesn’t sound at all wrong. I think where John Cowan (or alternatively British editors) are being led astray is that we wouldn’t consider ourselves to be naming the institution at all, merely describing it. But your comment about comfort with alternate names is well observed. In the olden days, the university situation was probably a result of the fact that weren’t many actual universities and typically only one in most cities. Everything else was a polytechnic or a college of further education (more or less), so you wouldn’t generally get a situation where Oxford University and the University of Oxford could refer to different institutions, even in principle. London being an obvious exception. But the situation definitely applies more broadly. For instance, the courts. As Wikipedia notes, it has many names: “Her Majesty’s High Court of Justice in England (usually known as the High Court of Justice of England and Wales, the High Court of Justice or, simply, the High Court) “. Parliament is either the English parliament, the UK parliament, Parliament, Westminster, by synechdoche the House of Commons

    That said, I doubt even most American editors would use self-chosen titles for most countries. Do US newspapers refer to the Republic of Italy, or Italy? The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, or Jordan?

  63. Much older indeed. The OED2 defines this sense of joint as “A partnership or union, or a place of meeting or resort, esp. of persons engaged in some illicit occupation; spec. (in America) a place illegally kept (usually by Chinese) for opium-smoking, an opium-den; also applied to illicit drinking-saloons. More generally, a place; a house.” This definition is probably unmodified OED1 (1901), but some of the quotations are more recent.

    The first quotation given is from an anonymous book called Real Life in Ireland (1821): “I had my education at the boarding-school of Phelim Firebrass..; and when I slipt the joint, and fang’d the arm, he strengthened the sinews.” The sense ‘place of meeting’ shows up in 1877, and ‘opium-den’ in 1883; even the modern sense of ‘low dive’ is already found in 1899.

    The sense ‘marijuana cigarette’ is closely related, first recorded unambiguously in 1967 but of course older (a quotation from 1952 is ambiguous). The connection is via a 1935 sense of ‘heroin-user’s works (syringe and needles together)’. The joint ‘prison’ is first recorded in 1953 (William Burroughs).

  64. If it’s reasonable to translate the name of, say, a French government department from French to English, why is it unreasonable to translate the name of a UK government department from UK English to US English (or vice versa)? Certainly many styles would not do it, but it hardly seems equivalent to changing the spelling of a personal name. Such translations are more likely for international organizations, like the World Health Organi(s|z)ation, but maybe that’s more like translating the name of the pope.

  65. I have always found it a little odd that, by journalistic convention in AmEng, we can refer to a Partido del Trabajo or Mifleget HaAvoda as the Labor Party, while the one in Britain has to remain the Labour Party.

  66. Why? The latter is the official spelling of the party in English; the former two are not English names, so we naturally spell the translation our way. I find it odd that you find it odd.

  67. But the result is that we use the most foreign terminology for the least foreign country, which seems… esthetically dissonant to me. Although I suppose it’s analogous to other situations, where, for example, names from a Latin-script language like Czech are written unaltered in English (despite being hard for laymen to parse), while names from a Cyrillic-script language like Russian are more freely transliterated to suit English norms.

  68. Garrigus Carraig says:

    I’ll point out to Mr Cornish-Bowden that, aside from Massachusetts, our commonwealths include Kentucky, Virginia, Puerto Rico, and Pennsylvania. (This makes Pennsyltucky the commonwealthiest of them all.)

  69. I donate money periodically to the World Food Program which is known elsewhere as the World Food Programme. I presume the official name is spelled ‘programme,’ but in order to raise money in the U.S. they make the name more American friendly. I think were they to spell it in the British fashion, it would seem a little more British to us Yanks and a little less international.

  70. @Lazar: Unless it has been changed in the last few years, the AP style guide explicitly says not to use the spelling “Labour” for the British political party.

  71. In Australia the spelling is always “labour” except for the political party which is the “Australian Labor Party” (an early prominent member of the party, King O’Malley, was American by birth and a spelling reform enthusiast).

  72. Quoth Ginger Yellow:

    we wouldn’t consider ourselves to be naming the institution at all, merely describing it

    This may reflect a higher-level distinction in the practice of journalism. In an American news article (a feature article is another matter), the first mention of a person, place, organization, or what have you is an identification rather than a description. Thus a political news article would not begin “The president announced today” but rather “President Obama announced today”. Later references would be to “the president” or “the President” according to house style.

    There is a story about someone coming into the administration
    building of Harvard in the 1920s and asking “Is Mr. Lowell here?” He received the freezing reply: “The President is not here. He has gone to Washington to speak to Mr. Coolidge.”

    Quoth Keith Ivey:

    why is it unreasonable to translate the name of a UK government department from UK English to US English?

    But where do you stop? Would you go a step further and refer to the “US Ministry of Defence” rather than the “US Department of Defence”? Perhaps not, given that the official in charge of it is a Secretary rather than a Minister. But then there’s the Department of the Interior, which sounds like it might be analogous to various ministries of the interior in different countries, and so to the UK Home Office, but it isn’t. Immigration matters belong to the Department of Homeland Security (and before that to the Department of Justice) and police matters are under the control of the states, whereas our Department of the Interior deals with federally owned land (we have a lot of it of different flavors) and relations with Native American and territorial governments.

  73. I would limit the changes to the realm of spelling, and leave the word choice unchanged. Likewise, with foreign terms, I’d stick to direct translations and cognate terms as much as possible. I think the choice between things like secretaries and ministers can be more a question of local political culture than of language or dialect per se – for example, Mexico has secretaries, while Colombia has ministers.

  74. I don’t think it’s that surprising that Canada has largely gone with “-ize” – there was strong minority support in Briitain for “-ize” for a long time, with the first fascicles of the OED (down as far as “S” IIRC) using “ize” and the Times (of London) also insisted on “ize” until the late 1980s or early 1990s.

  75. There is also the fact that many non-English-speaking countries have settled on particular English translations for their political organisations.

    Japan, for instance, uses the word Diet for its parliament. To call it the Japanese parliament would be strange and incorrect (except as an explanation). More subtly, Japanese government ministers are customarily named according to the American convention, e.g., Minister of Justice rather than Minister for Justice.

    In describing Japanese politics, it is also normal to speak of the Prime Minister ‘forming a Cabinet’, where in Westminster countries it’s at least as common to speak of him ‘forming a government’. The Cabinet is also always referred to as the Cabinet, unlike Australia, for instance, where the Cabinet is often known as a Ministry (e.g., the Abbott Ministry).

    The term used for the Prime Minister or Premier also tends to be fixed by custom (the Chinese one is called the Premier, the Japanese one the Prime Minister).

  76. Excellent examples. I wonder if anyone’s done a study of how such conventions developed in non-English-speaking countries?

  77. down as far as “S” IIRC

    Throughout: I just looked up womanize; of course, womanise is given as an alternative spelling. Furthermore, the Oxford Dictionary Online also uses -ize, as do most if not all OUP books (unless they have changed them recently).

    Indeed, the international language tagging system uses “en-GB-oed” for OED spellings, including -ize.

  78. I hear and read “the Japanese parliament” in the news all the time. I suppose that I knew, in principle, that it was formally called a “Diet,” but that term doesn’t get a lot of use in American media stories. Moreover, while there do seem to be standardized choices for which countries use “prime minister” versus “premier,” the are not rigid. In the course of elegant variation, both can also be used for a single individual.

  79. marie-lucie says:

    “The Japanese parliament” is understandable both orally and in writing, but “the Japanese Diet” does not mean the same thing as “the Japanese diet”. The homophony can make things awkward.

  80. @zythophile: That’s true; I remember watching an episode of Inspector Morse in which Morse condemns -ise spellings as “illiterate”, demonstrating his old-fashionedness.

  81. If the Oxford preference for -ize is because it corresponds better to the classical origins, why doesn’t Oxford also prefer the Latin spellings of color, honor, etc., to their frenchified -our counterparts?

  82. IIRC Morse dismissed a claim that a witness/suspect had been up at Oxford because he wrote ‘ise’ not ‘ize’.

  83. there do seem to be standardized choices for which countries use “prime minister” versus “premier,”

    Do there? I know “premier” is the correct term for anglophone federal subunit heads of government, so that “prime minister” is reserved for the federal head; and in Communist countries, maybe because “prime minister” sounds bourgeois. Otherwise I read “premier” as an elegant variation rather than a formal title; e.g. it’s useful if the German Chancellor is meeting the Irish Taoiseach to refer to “the two premiers”.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Premier

  84. “premier” is the correct term for anglophone federal subunit heads of government

    With the huge exception of the U.S., where we have maintained the colonial term governor, even though we (directly) elect them ourselves rather than getting them from the mother country these days. Similarly, Kenya, Nigeria, and Sri Lanka have elected governors. Several other Commonwealth countries have them too, but of the ceremonial kind. I note that the Isle of Wight had a governor from 1509 to 1995; I presume this was always a sinecure. (Henry VI actually crowned the Duke of Warwick as King of the Isle of Wight with his own hands in 1444, but he died without heirs two years later.)

    Curious fact: the first governor of the State of Connecticut, Jonathan Trumbull, is officially the 16th governor, because Connecticut alone made no break between the colonial, the post-colonial, and the U.S. state regimes. The other 12 colonies all adopted constitutions fairly quickly after independence, but Connecticut felt its existing royal charter of 1662 to be satisfactory and kept it and its government intact for another forty years. The charter was, in fact, essentially a clone of the Fundamental Orders, which had been established by agreement of the Connecticut River towns in 1639, perhaps the first written constitution anywhere.

    In particular, governors were elected by the legislature under the charter, not appointed by the King, and although terms were short, Connecticut was notorious for re-electing the same officials over and over. Consequently, Trumbull assumed his colonial office in 1769 and retired from his state office in 1784. The charter was eventually replaced in 1819 over the issues of equitable popular representation in the legislature and separation of church and state. The present governor of Connecticut is the 88th, a number unmatched by any other state except South Carolina, which has had many changes of constitution but also numbers its governors consecutively from the beginning of the colonial period, and consequently is now on its 116th governor.

  85. “With the huge exception of the U.S.” — I was tacitly restricting to parliamentary rather than presidential systems. Is the term “premier” used in presidential systems? Or even in semi-presidential systems; I think France and Finland have “prime minister”.

  86. marie-lucie says:

    Premier is the French word meaning ‘first’, so nobody in France would use just premier as a title: first what? The title is Premier ministre, which could be translated as ‘Chief minister’.

  87. Ginger Yellow says:

    This may reflect a higher-level distinction in the practice of journalism. In an American news article (a feature article is another matter), the first mention of a person, place, organization, or what have you is an identification rather than a description.

    This could well be true, though I’m not sure it’s particularly standardised in the UK. See this example plucked at random from today’s Guardian. Description first, then name:

    The rapid rise in the rate of suicides in jails is caused by shortages of experienced staff and resources coupled with the growing size of the prison population, according to the chief inspector of prisons.

    Nick Hardwick’s annual report warns that there has been a “significant and concerning increase in deaths in custody reversing a downturn in the previous decade.”

    There are plenty of counter-examples, though.

  88. Yeah, that reads very oddly to me, an American — I have a deeply embedded expectation of “according to Nick Hardwick, chief inspector of prisons.”

  89. marie-lucie says:

    It was not obvious to me that Nick Hardwick was the chief inspector rather than someone else, already known to readers, who had written the report. Citing his name as “NIck” rather than (presumably) “Nicholas” reinforced that interpretation.

  90. “according to Nick Hardwick, chief inspector of prisons.”

    Or even “Nick Hardwick, Her Majesty’s [or HM] Chief Inspector of Prisons”, that being his actual title.

    Citing his name as “Nick”

    “Nick” apparently is the public form of his given name. When testifying before Parliament in 2005, he began by saying “I am Nick Hardwick, Chairman of the Independent Police Complaints Commission.” So this is another case like Jimmy Carter.

    I missed this one before:

    Do US newspapers refer to the Republic of Italy, or Italy? The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, or Jordan?

    Certainly by the short-form names, although they too have some official standing: the U.N. publishes a list of both long-form and short-form names in various languages including English. Here’s the U.S. State Department’s copy of the English-language list. Note that “Ireland” is both the short-form and the long-form name of that country, while “the Republic of Ireland” is its official description (which I think ought to be written as “the republic of Ireland”, since it is a description of the only republic on the island of Ireland). Both Congos claim “Congo” as their short-form name, so the U.S. distinguishes them “unofficially and provisionally” as “Congo (Brazzaville)” for the Republic and “Congo (Kinshasa)” for the Democratic Republic.

  91. Ginger Yellow says:

    As I’ve discussed frequently over at Language Log, most British newspapers quite a strong preference for what would be called “punchiness” over formality. This is most obvious in the absence of NYT-style comma laden headlines, but its also pretty apparent in leads and more generally in style choices. They’re also much less deferential when it comes to titles (with the possible exception of honorifics, though my publication bans them entirely). A plain “David Cameron” is much more common in a British paper than a naked “Barack Obama” in the US press. It would be mildly unusual for most papers to give the full “Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Prisons”. Maybe in the Times, but not elsewhere. Unscientific study: Google News throws up 1 result for the full title, 7 for the HM variant, and 119 for “chief inspector of prisons”.

  92. David Marjanović says:

    So this is another case like Jimmy Carter.

    I wonder: Austria briefly had a minister whose first name was Willi – and a TV newsreader said that’s not a nickname (for Wilhelm, Wilfried or Willibald), “it says Willi in the birth certificate”.

  93. J. W. Brewer says:

    If you google hard enough you can find a perhaps overformal reference to “Nicholas Hardwick CBE, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons for England and Wales.” (So direct your complaints about prison conditions in Scotland and N. Ire. elsewhere, I guess.)

  94. Chief Minister

    According to Wikipedia:

    A Chief Minister is the elected head of government of a sub-national (e.g. constituent federal) entity, notably a state (and sometimes a union territory) in India, a territory of Australia, provinces of Sri Lanka or Pakistan, or a British Overseas Territory that has attained self-government.

  95. according to the chief inspector of prisons.

    Nick Hardwick’s annual report

    LH: Yeah, that reads very oddly to me, an American

    m-l: It was not obvious to me that Nick Hardwick was the chief inspector rather than someone else, already known to readers

    True, but it’s a matter of convention. For instance, Western news reports constantly use the following type of formula:

    Indonesian imports during the month reached a record high.
    Exports from the Asian country also increased substantially over the previous year to reach…

    Chinese people easily get mixed up reading this kind of thing because, depending on the context, it sounds like the second paragraph could be referring to a different Asian country. This is partly because the significance of ‘the’ eludes them, but there are actually cases where the habitual and unthinking use of this convention by journalists can even be confusing for native English speakers. I haven’t got any examples to hand, but journalistic English definitely relies on familiarity with its conventions to be understood.

  96. Jonathan D says:

    Bathrobe, I thought that (in Australia at least), terms such as “the Abbott Ministry” refer to a larger group of people than the Cabinet itself.

  97. marie-lucie says:

    Indonesia … The Asian country …

    In French it used to be that the definite article could not be uses in this way, instead you would use a demonstrative, as in: L’Indonésie … Ce pays asiatique …. The demonstrative was understood to refer to the previous noun, while the definite article, as in Le pays asiatique would have been understood to refer to another noun, so here to another country than Indonesia (as it apparently does for Chinese readers). On the other hand, the demonstrative as in English This country … was not used in French, instead there was a possessive: French speeches usually referred to notre pays ‘our country’. Nowadays a literal translation from English uses Ce pays. But ce and its other forms do not mean ‘this’ or ‘that’, the word does not differentiate about distance (concrete or abstract). When I read ce pays my first reaction is to wonder which country they are talking about.

  98. Yes, that’s true. In Australia there is a distinction between the Cabinet (which is a smaller group that meets more often) and the Ministry, the entire collection of Ministers. I don’t believe the Australian Constitution actually has provision for a ‘Cabinet’, anyway.

    There are a lot of subtleties involved in the usage of this kind of terminology. Here my point was that people talking about the Japanese ‘Cabinet’ tend to use that term, a translation of 内閣, where English might also use Government or Ministry. The preference could also be based on the U.S., where the ‘Cabinet’ has a somewhat different positioning from the Westminster system. Is the Obama Cabinet the same as the Obama Administration? I think not.

    But in the Westminster system there is a closer alignment between ‘Cabinet’ and ‘Government’. When Her Majesty requests someone to form a Government, it is tantamount to selecting a Cabinet. Take the lead from the Wikipedia article on the Cameron Ministry:

    David Cameron formed the Cameron ministry after being invited by Queen Elizabeth II to begin a new government following the resignation of the previous Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Gordon Brown, on 11 May 2010. It is a coalition government, composed of members of both the Conservative Party and the Liberal Democrats. The government’s Cabinet is made up of sixteen Conservatives and five Liberal Democrats with eight other Conservatives and one other Liberal Democrat attending cabinet but not members.[1] The Cameron ministry is the first coalition government to have governed the United Kingdom since the Churchill War ministry of the Second World War.

    Wikipedia does not have a comparable article on the Abe Cabinet, but at the article on Shinzō Abe it says:

    Abe’s first cabinet was announced on September 26, 2006. The only minister retained in his position from the previous Koizumi cabinet was Foreign Minister Taro Aso, who had been one of Abe’s competitors for the LDP presidency. In addition to the cabinet positions existing under Koizumi, Abe created five new “advisor” positions. He reshuffled his cabinet on August 27, 2007.

    Another interesting difference in usage is that of “Ministry” and “Department”.

    In Japan, most government departments are called “ministries”, the exception being the Cabinet Office and Commissions and Agencies under it. In the UK, they are known as Government Departments, but while most ministerial departments (those headed by a minister) follow the format “Department for …”, there is also a “Department of …”, a couple titled “Ministry of …”, and a few titled “…. Office”. In Australia, except for the Treasury, these are all “Department of …”, possibly under U.S. influence.

  99. Is the Obama Cabinet the same as the Obama Administration?

    Definitely not. The Cabinet is made up only of Secretaries of various departments and some people who don’t have the title “Secretary of X” but are considered in “Cabinet-level” positions, like the Chief of Staff (head of the President’s personal staff) and the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. The Attorney General heads the Department of Justice: even though his title doesn’t include the word “Secretary”, he is considered equal to the Secretaries. The Administration consists of all the political (non-civil-service) appointees at whatever level, those who serve at the pleasure of the President (so it excludes Federal Reserve members, judges, etc.) So it is much larger than the Cameron Government.

  100. In Mongolian, ministry is “yam” (from Chinese 衙門 yamen), but minister is “said” (literally “a good man”).

    I wasn’t able to establish exact etymology of the latter.

  101. So it is much larger than the Cameron Government

    Despite this difference, it has been fashionable in Australia for some decades to use terms like “Abbott Administration” as a replacement for “Abbott Government”.

  102. The government in Mongolian is “Zasgiin gazar” which literally means “place for keeping Great Yassa of Genghis Khan”

  103. Jonathan D says:

    While I feel Commonwealth use of “government” can get very murky, I don’t think it’s ever restricted to Cabinet. Wikipedia (in its usual pedantry) maintains the ministry/cabinet distinction in its lists even for the UK, despite acknowledging that “ministry” is perhaps no longer used there as much as it is in Australia of Canada. The Cabinet might be the most talked about part of forming a government, but the “government” would include the whole ministry, if not civil servants as well. (The Wikipedia comment that “Only the Civil Service is considered outside of the ministry” sounds similar to John Cowan’s “all the political (non-civil-service) appointees”, although in practice I expect it is quite different.)

    Of course, “government” is also used to refer to the whole of the parliamentary party/ies that is involved in the Cabinet, and half the time anyone speaks of “the Cameron government” or similar, they don’t mean a specific group of people anyway, so it’s not surprising terms get interchanged.

  104. Indeed American Administration is wider than British Government, but differences are more of scale than of principle. In UK the Prime Minister fills all non-civil-servant positions and it is a substantially wider set than the Cabinet. There are 144 ministers in the British government and 22 cabinet members. In US there is more than 1000 positions filled by the president with “advice and consent” by the Senate, while the Cabinet is only 15 strong.

  105. George Gibbard says:

    Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Wales are all headed by a “first minister”.

  106. While I feel Commonwealth use of “government” can get very murky

    I totally agree. The word ‘government’ is a slippery one. And yes, the terms ‘government’, ‘cabinet’, and ‘ministry’ do seem to get interchanged, even if they are conceptually different. But my point is that they are much less likely to be interchanged when referring to the Japanese situation, and I’m curious why.

  107. In the Australian parliament, the government benches are on one side of the house and the opposition benches on the other, so there is a distinction between ‘cabinet’ and ‘government’.

    In Japanese, there is the term 与党, which is conventionally rendered as ‘ruling party’, although in a Western parliamentary context it would be the party occupying the ‘government benches’ — I’m not sure of the arrangement of seating in the Diet. Japanese sources also often refer to 政府・与党 meetings, which are literally ‘government – ruling party’ meetings. I’ve never been able to figure out who represents the government side in such meetings. Since Japanese is a different language from English, and there are political differences between countries, such differences are to be expected. And yet, I still feel that English-language usage in reference to Japan is being subtly influenced by direct translations from the Japanese. For instance, only seldom do you come across references to the “Abe ministry”, despite the fact that this would not be an unnatural usage in English. It seems to me that the language used in English to describe political institutions and processes differs even when the systems are broadly similar.

  108. Actually, I’ve now realised that the normal term for the Abe government in Japanese is 安倍政権 Abe seiken. So the second Abe Government becomes 第二次安倍政権 dai-ni-ji Abe seiken. My apologies for leading people astray. As Google Translate notes, ‘form a government’ is 政権を発足させる seiken o hossoku saseru, as opposed to ‘form a cabinet’, which is 組閣する sokaku suru. Despite this, I still find the differential in usage of English terms for Westminster systems and the Japanese political system interesting for the way in which it gives a different ‘feel’ to the reader based solely on the vocabulary used.

  109. Do you know the reason why the Japanese parliament is always referred in English as Diet?

  110. @John Cowan:

    Note that “Ireland” is both the short-form and the long-form name of that country, while “the Republic of Ireland” is its official description (which I think ought to be written as “the republic of Ireland”, since it is a description of the only republic on the island of Ireland).

    The Republic of Ireland Act, 1948

    It is hereby declared that the description of the State shall be the Republic of Ireland.

    Not

    It is hereby declared that the description of the state shall be the Republic of Ireland.

    Nor

    It is hereby declared that the Description of the State shall be the Republic of Ireland.

    MAke of that what you will: everyone else does.

  111. David Marjanović says:

    On the other hand, the demonstrative as in English This country … was not used in French

    Demonstratives are different everywhere. In German, too, dieses Land is the one I just mentioned, not necessarily the one where I am. Polish seems to be more like English in this respect.

    In the UK, they are known as Government Departments, but while most ministerial departments (those headed by a minister) follow the format “Department for …”, there is also a “Department of …”

    Reminds me of the German ministry of the interior. You’d expect the full, official form of its name to be Bundesministerium für innere Angelegenheiten, “federal ministry for internal affairs”, as its Austrian counterpart is in fact called*; but no, it’s Bundesministerium des Innern, “of the Interior”, where Innern isn’t even Standard German anymore (would be Inneren).

    * …even though all ministries are federal in Austria, where that term is only used for the national level.

  112. In Ireland the Government is the technical name; “cabinet” is used fairly interchangeably in the media. A minister is a member of the Government; a “junior minister” (formally a “Minister of State”) is not in the Government (or, hence, the cabinet). Cabinet (Sub-)Committee is an official non-statutory label for committees of Government and junior ministers; whereas “cabinet meetings” are confidential and restricted to members of the Government and a few others, “cabinet committee” meetings can include others ad hoc. “Chef de Cabinet” is a statutory term unconnected with the Government, based on the EU sense of cabinet..

  113. Do you know the reason why the Japanese parliament is always referred in English as Diet?

    Well, it appears that the foreign press more often calls it the Japanese parliament. But the origin of the usage is covered at the Wikipedia article Diet (assembly).

    According to that article, the word ‘Diet’ is actually related to the nutritional meaning of ‘diet’ as it is derived from Latin dieta, earlier diaeta, from Greek δίαιτα diaita. However, this is all marked ‘citation needed’.

    The term Diet was used for Imperial Diets in the Holy Roman Empire as well as parliamentary assemblies of a number of countries. As Wikipedia notes, “The Japanese Parliament (the Kokkai) is conventionally called the Diet in English, indicating the heavy Prussian influence on the Meiji Constitution, Japan’s first modern written constitution.”

  114. According to that article, the word ‘Diet’ is actually related to the nutritional meaning of ‘diet’ as it is derived from Latin dieta, earlier diaeta, from Greek δίαιτα diaita. However, this is all marked ‘citation needed’.

    And appropriately so marked, since it’s not so related; it’s from a different meaning of diaeta, ‘daily routine.’ To quote the OED (1895 entry):

    Etymology: < medieval Latin diēta in same senses, or < French diète in sense 5 (Cotgrave 1611): compare also Italian dieta ‘a parliament or generall assembly of estates’ (Florio, 1598), Spanish dieta the (Germanic) diet.
      Medieval Latin diēta had the various senses ‘day’s journey’, ‘day’s work’, ‘day’s wage’, ‘space of a day’, as well as that of ‘assembly, meeting of councillors, diet of the empire’. The same senses, more or less, are (or have been) expressed by German tag, and French journée day. Diēta has therefore been viewed as a simple derivative of Latin dies day (see diurnal adj. and n.), distinct from diæta, Greek δίαιτα, diet n.1 But it seems more likely that one or other of the senses developed < diæta was associated with dies, and led to the application of the word to other uses arising directly < dies. One of the senses given by Du Cange is ‘the ordinary course of the church’: this seems naturally transferred < δίαιτα, diæta, in the sense ‘ordinary or prescribed course of life’, which might be understood to mean ‘daily office’, and so lead to the use of diēta for other daily courses, duties, or occasions.

  115. Does that etymology for “diet” (a term which was used in the Holy Roman Empire) correspondingly explain the names “Reichstag” and “Bundestag” for more modern German parliaments? That is, the “-tag” suffix calqued from “diet”?

  116. Presumably; cf. in the OED etymology “The same senses, more or less, are (or have been) expressed by German tag.”

  117. marie-lucie says:

    French journée

    a journée means ‘day’ in the sense of ‘full day, during which things (work, travel, weather, etc) happen’ (as opposed to le jjour which can mean ‘daylight’ or ‘day’ as a unit of time. I am not aware that it has ever been used to refer to a political or administrative body.

  118. marie-lucie says:

    Sorry, I meant La journée but the L disappeared.

  119. marie-lucie says:

    But jour compensated by adding an extra j.

  120. I am not aware that it has ever been used to refer to a political or administrative body.

    You’re not the only one; neither the Dictionnaire de l’Académie francaise nor the Trésor de la langue française informatisé records such a sense. I wonder what the OED was thinking of?

  121. In Britain, folk are not likely to see any difference between “Oxford University” and the “University of Oxford”; in contrast, “Washington University” and the “University of Washington” are completely different institutions

    Texas has a University of Texas and Texas State University. A recent assignment involving a coop program between an Israeli college and TSU had me struggling to correct the college’s Hebrew rendering of the latter: אוניברסיטת טקסס Universitat Texas, which can only mean University of Texas. Texas State University is האוניברסיטה של מדינת טקסס Ha’Universita shel Medinat Texas, which to the average Hebrew reader looks weird, if not ridiculous.

    From what I recall of French (pardonez-moi, m-l!) a similar situation must arise in that language, and probably others as well.

  122. There’s no French Wikipedia article, or Russian for that matter, but there’s a Belarusian one, and the Belarusian name would correspond to a Russian Техасский державный университет, which sounds hilarious. Probably not an accurate correspondence, though.

  123. If it’s an older usage, it may be in Littré rather than TLFI.

  124. marie-lucie says:

    JC, thanks for the suggestion, but no, it is not among the senses in the LIttré. (I think I would have run into it during my studies if it had had such a meaning).

  125. marie-lucie says:

    PO: University of Texas. Texas State University

    In French it would be possible to contrast l’Université du Texas with l’Université d’Etat du Texas but in France the latter would sound both contrived and redundant since practically all French universities are under the jurisdiction of the ministry of education. I am not sure about the current status of the -few- Catholic universities – in my time they offered courses but could not grant degrees – their students took their exams in the state universities. I am not sure what the French wording would be in Canada either. Etienne must know!

  126. Here’s a sensible and linguistically informed article on the name Daesh and the reasons why the self-labeled Islamic State considers it so offensive (bezek unto their khothar!): it is a ludicrous non-word, it is an acronym in a language that generally avoids them (except in Palestine[*]), it sounds like an archaic Arabic word from the pre-Islamic “period of ignorance”, it is a pun on daes ‘one who tramples or crushes’. About the only thing not discussed is how to pronounce it in English. The comments are more mixed than usual on the Internet: not up to our standards, but not all trolls all the time, either.

    [*] Perhaps under Hebrew and/or English influence? The article doesn’t say.

  127. Great find! The subject is also being discussed at the Log, where I have shared your link.

  128. marie-lucie says:

    names from a Cyrillic-script language like Russian are more freely transliterated to suit English norms.

    Russian names are transliterated according to a rigid code. At the time of the Boston Marathon terrorist incident, perpetrated by two brothers, the one who survived was identified as having the first name Dzhokhar, which I would think many anglophones would interpret as very alien and barbarous. At one point I saw a news clip in which his uncle – dismayed by the horrible news – cited a conversation he had had with his nephew, calling him what sounded like Johar which anglophones would have found much less foreign-sounding than what the spelling suggested.

  129. Yeah, I’ve wondered why the conventional English transliteration of Russian (which isn’t above such liberties as -y for ий) insists on using dzh for дж while making no use of j.

  130. Russian names are transliterated according to a rigid code.

    The Associated Press Stylebook devotes several paragraphs to the subject. My elderly Canadian Press Caps & Spelling guide makes no mention of Russian transliterations, though I recall that Canadian and American newspapers respectively spelled Nikita’s name Khrushchov and Khrushchev.

  131. > it sounds like an archaic Arabic word from the pre-Islamic “period of ignorance”

    To be precise, it most clearly sounds like Dāḥis, the name of a horse whose killing ignited a famously bloody and fratricidal forty-year war in the pre-Islamic period. (For a published example of this association, cf. http://news.kuwaittimes.net/pdf/2014/oct/13/p06.pdf ). In addition to the obvious association with barbarism, murder, and ignorance, this reinforces the association with animality illustrated by the top picture in that article.

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