Where’s the the? And punctuation for the dead.

Here’s a question for someone like Stephen Pinker: Why do we drop determiners on some acronyms? For example, when speaking of the Occupational Health and Safety Administration, I wrote “the” before the name of the organization. However, if I called it “OSHA”, then I would not say or write “the OSHA.” That just sounds odd. But I would keep the “the” with or organizations: “Like the FBI and the CIA
And the BBC”. Dig it? Is it the vowel? No, I think not. It’s that people don’t say the letters O-S-H-A, they say the “word”, as it were, osha. Thay must be it.

On a related note, I wanted to check the proper use of nested quotation marks, so I checked the Q&A section of the Chicago Manual of Style. This question is amusing:

Q. I am currently editing a lengthy manuscript made up almost entirely of quotations made by a dead person to a living person. The living person is what is known as a �channeler.� Since the living person is quoting what the dead person tells her, how do I handle the quotes? The dead person is of such stature that giving the quotes to the living person does not seem right. Any help you can give me is much appreciated.A. If you want to represent the dead person as truly speaking through the channeler, then by all means quote the dead person as if he or she is physically speaking, even if it is the living person�s voice box that is being used for turning spirit or thought into physical vibrations in the air. If you do this well, it will be clear enough what is going on (though you may want to outline your methods in an introductory paragraph). I think that it would be more awkward to keep having to resort to something like �the channeler, speaking the voice of the dead person, then said. . . .�

You might consider some alternative approaches. The rather convoluted narrative voices in Faulkner�s Absalom, Absalom! were differentiated in a variety of ways, most of them verbal, but some of them typographical. For example, you might decide to use unquoted italic type for everything that the dead person says through the channeler�or for everything that the dead person does not say. Whatever approach you use, try to maximize the transparency with which different voices can be distinguished. (And for more ideas, see CMS 15, paragraphs 11.43�48, which include discussions of unspoken and indirect discourse.)



Leave a comment

Filed under words

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s