Tuesday, March 22, 2011


Send me an e-mail?

The New York Times has not just gone astray with its payment scheme; it’s gone completely off the deep end, gotten lost in the forest, fallen off the cliff and into a pit, and is knee-deep in any other mixed and fractured metaphor you can devise... linguistically.

See, they have recently updated their style guide, removing, according to editor Philip Corbett, some aging or outdated technical terms, such as CD-ROM, floppy disk, Dictaphone, Usenet, newsgroups, VHS, CAD-CAM and I.S.D.N. Yes, they used to use periods in ISDN, as they still do in I.B.M., I.P. address, C.P.U., and others. But I’m happy to see that they’re eliminating the dots in USB, URL, and PDF.

They also agree with me on capitalizing Web and Internet.

But here’s where they now err:

We no longer have to write about people sending an e-mail message — we can call it an e-mail. The term is also acceptable as a verb. (For now, at least, we are keeping the hyphen for this and similar coinages like e-commerce and e-reader.)

I’m apathetic, disinterested on the hyphenation issue. I, myself, omit the hyphen and prefer email, but I think it’s fine either way. But I insist that email, avec hyphen ou sans, be used in a parallel way to mail. It only makes sense, yes? And one would never say, I sent him a mail. Of course not.

A letter is parallel to an email message, and they should keep it that way. If one wants to be shorter, it’s easy: I sent him email, works fine, just as I sent him mail, does.

But the New York Times is giving in to sloppy, lazy usage, such as is unbecoming the Gray Lady.

Oh, Noes!


Nathaniel Borenstein said...

Yielding to common usage is not lazy; it's an acknowledgement that the language has evolved. Much of what is now considered good grammar was once considered bad. Almost everyone says "I sent an email," which means resistance is probably useless.

Hopefully, old fogies like you could of "gracefully" made peace with such neologisms, but irregardless, they don't impact the kid's. And so its something we just have to put up with. Your gonna hafta except that the door to there future is not alarmed.

But UR rite about "email" -- putting a dash in their is the kind of errant nonsense up with which I will not put. It keeps me up @ nite, LOL.

Barry Leiba said...

Thing is, the Times doesn't usually "yield to common usage." Your "irregardless" example is a perfect one, because the Times stylebook doesn't accept it. Nor does it accept the (mis)use of "comprise" as a synonym for "compose", though almost everyone does both of those.

Of course it's true that the "send an email" battle has long been lost in popular usage. It's that the Times is accepting it, when it still wants periods in "C.P.U." that's disturbing.

Disturbing in a whimsical way, of course, ROFLMAO.

Jim Fenton said...

While I love the Times, I find their insistence on using periods in acronyms quaint. I'll run into one of those, like M.I.T., and stop, remind myself that yes, this is a Times-ism, and then return to the story. In other words, it distracts me from the story, which is not a good thing.

With respect to e-mail [message], there are so many ways to send messages these days (via e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, SMS, and LinkedIn, to name a few) that I'm trying to just use the word "message". I have different friends (in the real world, not the Facebook sense) that I customarily use each of those to communicate with. What's useful to convey is the act of communicating, not the protocol that was used.

That's my message; commenting on a blog is sending a message as well!

Nathaniel Borenstein said...

The Times, like everyone, yields to common usage when the battle is completely lost. I of course know that most of my misteaks were things that aren't yet generally excepted. But some are, and the rest are, you know, common enough to be widely accepted someday.

But mostly I just had fun "writing" that comment. If only, like, for it's annoyance value.