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Style Sheet

from Sunday, May17th of the year2009.

Sometimes I don’t really understand what the Times is up to. They have some weird style sheet that allows this article to get away with pretentiously rendering Astérix and Obélix in that fashion, and then this article to get away with spelling names like Björk and Ólöf without any diacritix at all (Olof?). This is particularly annoying because é in French is, literally, the same thing as e just with an acute accent on him. Ó, and Ö, in Icelandic, are totally different letters, with Ö being at the far end of their Alphabet:

a á b d ð e é f g h i í j k l m n o ó p r s t u ú v x y ý þ æ ö

Anyway. It’s just weird to me. Talking about “Astérix” in the newspaper seems a Bit Much if you can’t spell Ice-ish people’s names with the letters to which they Я accustomed.


  • I love it best when you talk about music. Language is a close second. Your life is third. Food is a distant fourth.

  • I like when he talks about food. I’m sick of people who rail against bourgeois sensibilities in music and art and then go eat Kraft dinners.

    Nico, you need a lifestyle magazine, like Oprah (‘N’?), except the clothes all have uneven hems and the recipes all call for whalemeat.

  • So many people don’t understand how simple it is to add a language to their computer settings, putain de merde.

  • Oh God please write about something meaningful.

  • Nico,

    I like how you write.
    David can go autofellate.

  • I feel like they are just inconsistent. Search for “Arvo Part” on the Times website and see it come up both ways over the years.

    Or “Mötley Crüe,” for that matter.

  • I was in the bookstore today, so I picked up the New York Times Manual of Style to see if there was a sensible explanation for the apparent inconsistency.

    Their guidelines dictate that accents (and presumably other diacritics) are used only for words that are either French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, or German.

    It specifically says not to use them for Scandinavian or Slavic languages, as their use is less familiar to most American writers, editors, and readers and the marks would be “prone to error.”

  • It’s probably more dependent on the individual writer. If they leave out diacritics/non-basic Latin characters or include them, the editor may not really notice. Names in Icelandic are also a restricted set of words such that a native speaker of Icelandic (while bothered by lack of orthographic correctness) would at least know what was going on, unless there are Ólöfs and Ölófs.

    And, luckily, Icelandic uses a Latin-based alphabet. Rendering Russian names in a Latin transliteration is mostly inconsistent without using ‘special’ characters like Å¡. I’ve seen Сергей written “Serge”, “Sergei” and “Serguei”, and then Щ is rendered as shch, sch, and sh (despite that Ш ‘sh’ and Щ ‘shch’ are two separate sounds in Russian).

    At least they still know who they’re talking about, right? 😉

  • Reich was in “Newsweek”, and now you’re in there, too. Must be part of that “rebranding effort”. There aren’t as many articles about Hugh Jackman or Sanjaya as there once were.

  • I spent an inordinate amount of time looking for pictures of Astêrix and ObÂ¥lix.

  • Very cool entry, I agree.

  • I just don’t understand the concept of rehashing a Goscinny & Uderzo creation.

    As to the usage of diacritics, consider this perhaps, someone typing on a laptop? As callous and dismissive as it sounds… I too am crippled by the absence of a number pad.
    So I cannot just do alt + 0232 and get my aigu (wait… is that aigu or grave…?)
    I too must type Bjork. But actually, a few weeks ago, my friend and I have settled on a “poor man’s Björk” … Bj:ork. To save face and at least prove that there is some form of linguistic dignity left in this world.

  • Oh, cool, you’re doing shows at the Southern Theater in Minneapolis. It has a nice decayed ambience, like a miniature Brooklyn Academy of Music. I love the venue — I saw Ron Vawter do his Roy Cohn/Jack Smith piece there, and Saturdays at midnight there’s the world’s best open mic, Balls.

    My Minneapolis off-beat tourist destination suggestion: The Bakken: A Library and Museum of Electricity in Life.

  • “David can go autofellate.” Charming. Nico, evidently this is your audience. Knock yourself out. Enjoy it; be grateful you have enough famous friends to get you noticed.

  • David: I think your argument is refuted by the reality that people do, in fact, listen to his music, which makes how it got noticed pretty obsolete.

  • Yay, PJ Doland is on the ball. But isn’t this policy kind of obsolete now that, as Reb points out, computers make it extremely easy to check and correct your special Hungarian characters?

  • I’ll agree that their style guidelines seem stupid, but, the ease of copying and pasting a name accurately doesn’t solve the problem of readability.

    Should we render Japanese names in ideographs just because unicode can handle it? And should Russian names be written in cyrillic, even though most readers wouldn’t have the foggiest idea how to pronounce them?

    You have to draw a line somewhere.

  • Carah: love the attempt to save linguistic dignity. Liner Notes Danny, I would SO subscribe to a Nico lifestyle magazine. How utterly f:a:b!

  • Killian: I think SOMEONE has to. English is under the impression that it can truncate and bastardize other languages for the sake of convenience. It’s absurd, and takes too many liberties as a lingua franca.
    As Nico addressed in the above post, though, this developing internet ebonics of “azz” etc., can also be seen in other languages. In French, expressions are truncated as well. I’ve seen “c’est” becoming “ce” and “je suis” becoming “j’suis” and so on. Perhaps in English it is more shocking because vulgar words are being bastardized further? I’ve really no idea. But I think languages should at least stick to screwing themselves up, rather than take the liberty to screw other languages up.

  • Oh, by above post, I mean the one after this one. Sorry for any confusion.

  • Ahh! The beatings Scandinavian languages take when published in English-speaking newspapers! This past summer I wrote a cross letter to The Economist when they flagrantly violated all rules of Finnish vowel harmony and common sense more than twice in one issue:

    Dear Sir,
    In your most recent issue (August 2-8), you made two separate allusions to Finnish sportsmen — Eero Mäntyranta and Kimi Räikkönen. In both cases you misspelled their names, leaving out what are in Finnish crucial diacritic marks over the vowels. In the same issue however, you accurately referred to Hugo Chávez, Germaine de Staël, and among others, Société Général (which even does away with the accents in its official logo). In the future please take into account the linguistic requirements of less spoken languages such as Finnish, if only to keep those who are familiar with them from cringing. Names in the alphabetically challenging Turkish and Serbo-Croatian languages also deserve to be spelled properly, as they share the Latin alphabet (albeit with quite a few adjustments).

    It never got published, and I never did hear back from them…