Sunday, November 06, 2005

Reworking a Picasso but Leaving the Signature

Nothing wrong with using the indefinite masculine to refer to anyone. Some chicks don't dig it. Apparently it's better to mangle the language.

David Gelernter writes about it in a column I found on Jewish World Review. He mentions the writers' handbook "The Elements of Style" by William Strunk, Jr., the '57 revision by his student E. B. White, the further version White revised in '72 and '79, and a recent revision from '99.

The new version violates what Strunk and White is all about.

The revision was done anonymously. The only new name on the title page is now the illustrator's. And the reviser has been unfaithful to Strunk and White. For starters, he changed White's signed introduction, a short memoir about Strunk — like reworking a Picasso but leaving the signature. He changed lots of other things too.


Adding insult to injury, the illustrated edition includes a page of credits, dedications, copyright notices and so forth — each printed separately and placed on the page at strange angles or upside down. Clever. The word "hello" sprawls across the inside front cover in fancy italics; "thank you," "and," "goodbye" appear on three pages at the end.

"Avoid the elaborate, the pretentious, the coy, and the cute," say Strunk and White.

Thanks Miss Steinem... wait, it's Mrs. Bale now isn't it?