Using proper names

Marguerite English
Sat, 22 Dec 2007 11:39:21 PST
Well said, Jane.  I was trying to be subtle about this when I mentioned 
my garden club discussions.   Most of the ladies really don't care what 
botanists call a plant, and the few who do reserve it for less 
generalized situations.   Since I like these folks, I don't try to 
change them.    It's something like previously being an English teacher, 
and correcting someone's grammar.  Not something a polite person does, 
no matter how important grammar is or how much she knows.   I find that 
people who do that are often being arrogant or unkind.   It is different 
when we are writing or editing for a scientific or international 
audience, the naming rules are different than for a local audience.  
And, as you say, a good editor doesn't permit her authors to put forth 
articles that will embarrass them later.                  Marguerite

Jane McGary wrote:
> On the other hand, no useful purpose is served by applying prescriptive 
> standards to usage in contexts where these standards are unnecessary. 
> However annoyed you may be by the term "calla lily," pointing it out over 
> coffee at a local garden club meeting can have several social effects you 
> might not desire: (a) it redirects the topic of the conversation; (b) it 
> seizes the "floor" or dominant position in an unexpected way; (c) it makes 
> the other speaker feel inferior. It's much more tactful to model a 
> preferred usage, which in conversation in North America, at least, would be 
> "callas" and not Zantedeschia, in the hope that your interlocutor will 
> imitate you. In editing, this is known as a "silent correction," because 
> you change it without pointing it out to the writer, and the writer almost 
> never notices that you've done so. He just smiles happily over what a good 
> writer he is.

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