From Brent’s Desk: Just say what you mean (Not!)

Most of us have no need to even be aware of the existence of the AP Stylebook, but it governs how most of the media uses the English language – which in terms shapes how we are expected to think about things.

In April, Associated Press announced that the AP Stylebook no longer sanctions use of the term “illegal immigrant” to describe one who has immigrated illegally, despite having affirmed its use as recently as October 2012. Also nixed is the alternative term ‘undocumented’ “… because it is not precise. A person may have plenty of documents, just not the ones required for legal residence.” True enough, but what are we to say now? According to AP, “Acceptable variations include ‘living in’ or ‘entering a country illegally’ or ‘without legal permission.’” So long clarity, bye-bye brevity.

I was working in the prune industry during the much-reported effort to rebrand prunes as “dried plums.” That’s what they are, of course, but most people aren’t aware that you can’t just call a dried plum a dried plum even if that is what it is. No, this required the approval of the United States Department of Agriculture, which wouldn’t want anyone to be deceived by calling a dried plum, well, a dried plum.

All this brings to mind one of my favorite ditties, “Green Eggs and Ham” by the comedy troupe “Capital Steps:”

All the food that’s on your table

Has a most misleading label.

Grape Nuts have no grapes, no nuts,

No Swiss are in those Swiss steak cuts.

No cottage in that cottage cheese,

Your tuna has no Bumblebees.

No hash or pot in hash pot-taters,

Gatorade contains no gators!


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