Sunday, January 11, 2009

Is it a game?

Oh, America, America, the good ol' US of A, how many ways there are of writing your name!

The author of the (very long) international affairs paper I am currently editing started off by calling it

the US

In my distant youth I was told that 'the USA' was to be preferred as the country noun, while 'the US' should be reserved for adjectival uses. A good and simple distinction, I always thought; but I fear the battle has long since been lost on that one, and we now regularly see the country referred to as 'the US'. Fair enough. I was prepared to go with that.

But of course, being a non-native English speaker, my author is entirely haphazard in his use of articles, and occasionally reduces it to


Not the end of the world. I don't mind adding a 'the' thirty or forty times. That's what I get paid for, after all.

Ah, but then he unaccountably began randomly restoring the long discarded full stops in the abbreviation:

the U.S.



And then from time to time he's giving me



the USA

And, of course,



the U.S.A.

Now, towards the end (thank heavens!), he's grown suddenly tired of all these abbreviations and switched to (when he's being good)

the United States

or (when he isn't)

United States

And finally, just to make sure that he has left no stone unturned (and hurled contemptuously at his long-suffering editor), he resorts to


I have bewailed before the apparent inability of the Chinese to exercise any consistency whatsoever in matters of spelling, punctuation, or formatting - but this guy is really pushing the national vice to new levels here.

I'm beginning to wonder if he's going to manage to squeeze in all 11 variants into a single page before the end. (He's already managed 5 or 6 within a single paragraph!)

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