Data points: Faith vs. WF 12/1/10

Michael Pollan and Eric Schlosser, in an op-ed piece (“A Stale Food Fight”) in the November 29 NYT, about the FDA Food Safety Modernization Bill now under consideration in the U.S. Congress:

… the bill is under fierce attack from critics — egged on by Glenn Beck and various Tea Partyers, including some in the local food movement — who are playing fast and loose with the facts.

First point: Tea Partyers (with a Y) rather than Tea Partiers. Second point: the NYT‘s rendering of the bill’s name as “the F.D.A. Food Safety Modernization bill”, with periods in F.D.A. that are not in the bill’s name. Two different kinds of conflict between faithfulness (Faith) and well-formedness (WF) — see the inventory of postings here — resolved in two different ways: in favor of Faith in the first case, WF in the second.

In the first case, the ordinary rules for spelling English call for the Y of PARTY to be converted to I before the suffix -ER (and others): someone who parties (note the I) is a PARTIER, not a PARTYER. That’s WF. But in this spelling the identity of the base word PARTY is obscured — not ordinarily a problem, but it is a problem in the case of the proper name Tea Party. So TEA PARTYER is faithful to the base word.

Among the similar examples I’ve posted about are the plurals of rubber ducky, Germany, Zwicky, and BlackBerry. There is variation in all of these cases, but the details are different in the different cases. For Tea Party, the WF variant seems to be hugely more frequent than the Faith variant that Pollan and Schlosser (or their copyeditors) went for.

On to FDA vs. F.D.A. The Food and Drug Administration itself seems to use the period-free abbreviation consistently, and that’s the form that appears in the bill’s name. So Faith calls for no periods.

However, as I discussed here, the New York Times does its best to hew to a policy of period use in (most) initialistic abbreviations, to the point where the paper largely disregards the practices of organizations themselves. The paper’s style sheet calls for periods, so it’s WF (almost) all the way.


5 Responses to “Data points: Faith vs. WF 12/1/10”

  1. Keith Says:

    On the question of Tea Partyer/Tea Partier, isn’t it conventional NOT to alter the “Y” endings of proper nouns when suffixes are added? Henry Mancini, for instance has won multiple Grammys, not Grammies. And surely your family members are the Zwickys, not the Zwickies.

    • arnold zwicky Says:

      Zwickys/Zwickies was one of the examples I mentioned in previous postings. Where I commented on variation in particular cases.

      Insofar as the proper name seems to be unanalyzable, there’s a considerable tendency to preserve the Y (though there are people who hold intransigently that the customary spelling rules *must* be inviolable, that WF always rules, and are willing to tell me that Zwickies is the *only* acceptable plural of my family name). When the proper name has a final part that’s a recognizable word, then there’s a very strong tendency to go for WF. Hence a thousands-to-one ratio in favor of Tea Partier over Tea Partyer.

  2. F. Escobar C. Says:

    This is slightly off-topic. Well, sort of: I tend to revel in the NYT’s manic editing habits, which they parade gladly when they present their own copyediting slips on their blog. Here’s where the off-topic portion begins. In an article published today (here), on inequality in Colombia, the NYT says this at one point: “The national pageant, founded here in 1934 as a tourism linchpin, employs a multilingual staff at an air-conditioned building in Parque de Bolívar in the old center, attracting sponsors like Edox, a Swiss watch manufacturer.” My focus landed right on the “Parque de Bolívar.” It’s quite tricky. In Spanish, generic words such as park (in Spanish, parque) aren’t typically part of the placename (when they are, it’s an exception), so that the place is called Bolívar and merely described as a (lowercase) parque. Properly spelled, that’s “parque de Bolívar.” It’s different in English, of course: it would be plainly Bolívar Park. What the writer has put together, though, is a mercurial mess: Parque in Spanish, but capitalized following English-language rules. Does that sound kosher to you? Perhaps this is a vapid ramble on a point that’s been settled somewhere.

  3. ShadowFox Says:

    There is a third issue here that might be easily missed–the “some in the local food movement” (which, I presume, is actually “some in the local-food movement”) is not a part of “Tea-Partyers”, however spelled. Perhaps they are a part of those “egged on by Glenn Beck, but, more likely, the intent was to make them a part of the “critics”. So the placement of “including” and the entire complement is puzzling, at best.

  4. Data points: Faith vs. WF 12/23/10 « Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] the paper tries to insist on using periods in initialisms. (Most recent discussion on this blog here.) So in the Magazine on December 19, we get this report on “futures markets in […]

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