Journalism

My God, my lord, my country. Watch your language.

“We have really everything in common with America nowadays, except, of course, language.” –Oscar Wilde, printed under the heading “Americanisms” in BBC’s Style Guide.

Saw an interesting thing in The Guardian a couple of weeks ago. In a story about the political/ethnic massacres going on in South Sudan, the British news guys included the following sentences:

“The lord is our best defender,” it reads.

But there is no sign here of the lord’s defence, as the country that gained independence in 2011 with huge international fanfare and support has come apart in the space of a week.

Did you see that? Did you see the lowercase “Lord?” Jesus with a capital J. Try publishing that in America and you’ll be roasted on a St. Peter’s Cross by your more devout subscribers.

I did probably more research on British style guides (both journalistic and non) than was called for. Everyone — e.g., The Guardian, BBC, The Economist — still capitalizes “God,” thank God. But The Guardian, for example, expressly uses “he, him etc rather than He, Him,” and the more ambiguous, lesser used holy qualifiers like “Lord” seem to be up in the celestial air. Or maybe not. Maybe it’s so obvious to them that you don’t capitalize “Lord” that it’s not worth mentioning. Only 38% of Brits believe in a definitive “God,” after all. Then again, I’ve noticed they do capitalize “Creationism,” so maybe if you’re seeking to increase your chances of capital promotion, you should tie yourself to a  secular context.

The Guardian’s guide claims to be a bit looser than the pharisees over at BBC. “The tendency towards lowercase, which in part reflects a less formal, less deferential society, has been accelerated by the explosion of the internet…Our style reflects these developments.”

Christ, did you see that “towards?” Backwards Old Europe for you. I guess they’re not that risqué.

But for the close readers aka journalism school students, The European Commission Directorate-General for Translation, English Style Guide for authors and translators *inhale* says it’s the internet now, not the Internet. It’s time we get the Associated Press on board with that.

Anyway, you might not find this relevant to your blue-collar American lives, but I find our Atlantic differences of language Bloody interesting.

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