April 15, 2014

We don't need an Académie Française; we have the #AP

For the unfamiliar, the Académie Française is the god, guru and guardian of French language usage.

American English users like to laugh at it as just another example of snooty French pretentiousness or something.

But, the reality is that we already have such an organization — it's called the Associated Press. Since its origins, the AP has somehow evolved from a newspaper collective into thinking it

I've been reading multiple newspaper industry blogs, like Ken Doctor, where, in the last week or two, there's been discussion of the Associated Press finally catching up with 600-plus years of common English usage on the use of "over," rather than "more than," in numeric as well as spatial relationships. A mix of vapid worship of the AP, combined with fears that this means "the barbarians are at the gate" with such relaxing of standards, made me realize that the AP is indeed America's Académie Française, or so it and its fanboys like to pretend. Said comments also, per the fact that "over" has been used in such ways since the 1300s, made it clear that the AP and its knee-jerk defenders don't necessarily know the English language as well as they claim.

Maybe the AP can see its way free next to adopting the Oxford comma. Until that happens, the Chicago Manual of Style need not fear any challenge from the AP on proper English usage, especially since Chicago is the style for most serious nonfiction writing, as compared to newspapers and magazines represented by the AP.

Maybe it can also see free to restoring "illegal immigrant," for that matter. I'm not a political conservative, but I do deplore political correctness. When AP banned that phrase from its Stylebook last year, it really lost me.

Beyond that, AP, maybe you can teach your own reporters about the "it's" vs. "its" issue — I've seen that mistake creeping into more and more AP stories.

Besides, as the Wiki link above shows, the AP is ultimately about the style of Ben Franklins more than anybody else. If we are to have an Académie Française, let's use the Chicago Manual, in part because it was started by a nonprofit university press.

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