Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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August 2, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

THE NETROOTS....I know there are bigger and better things to get annoyed at, but who's the fogey on the Washington Post copy desk who came up with this style edict?

'Net Roots' Event Becomes Democrats' Other National Convention

"Net roots"? Are they trying to sound like Grampa Simpson?

For the record, "netroots" gets 1,120,000 hits on Google while "net roots" clocks in at 67,900 hits. That's actually more than I would have expected, but it's still less than 6%. Time to change the style guide, folks.

Kevin Drum 10:49 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (34)

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Comments

you're quibbling about a SPACE? a SPACE?

Jesus, Drum.

Don't you have some Harry Potter to re-re-re-read?

Posted by: Chalmers on August 2, 2007 at 11:11 PM | PERMALINK

LOL, good catch.

Posted by: -asx- on August 2, 2007 at 11:13 PM | PERMALINK

I vote for annoying term either way!

Posted by: Robert S. on August 2, 2007 at 11:27 PM | PERMALINK

Sounds like an insecure editor with an overactive spell-checker.

Posted by: WisDem on August 2, 2007 at 11:32 PM | PERMALINK

Though I count myself as a "netroot", I actually think "Nutroots" has a log going for it.

Posted by: jerry on August 2, 2007 at 11:33 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin,

Apparently the Post's editor is not firmly committed to "net roots." In the fourth paragraph the author is allowed to use the word "Net-roots."

The English language is always evolving. I'd bet that by the end of YearlyKos the Post is using "netroots."

Posted by: corpus juris on August 2, 2007 at 11:42 PM | PERMALINK

The story using Net Roots can be summarized in three sentences. "The netroots people are having a convention in Chicago. Hillary isn't as popular with the netroots as she would like. She is working hard to win their support."

Am I the only one who notices all the big time papers pushing Hillary Clinton puff pieces as meaningful news.

Chris Dodd went on the O'Reilly Factor last night and vigorously defended the netroots in general and DailyKos in particular. We all owe him a debt of gratitude. Where the hell was Hillary? More to the point where the hell are the netroots whose honor Dodd defended?

Posted by: corpus juris on August 2, 2007 at 11:55 PM | PERMALINK

AP Style is clinically retarded.

It took me two years to get my company to let me use "email."

Posted by: Mark D on August 2, 2007 at 11:55 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin,

You're right, there are bigger things to get annoyed about, but since you've opened the door: physician, heal thyself. Quit using the word "optics" when you mean "appearances."

Posted by: zeke on August 3, 2007 at 12:01 AM | PERMALINK

GIMME FIVE BEES FOR A QUARTER!

Posted by: norbizness on August 3, 2007 at 12:05 AM | PERMALINK

If you really cared, you'd be running an ubuntu linux box, firefox, and greasemonkey, with a custom script that always converted "net roots" to "netroots" every time you loaded a page.

If you're not doing that, you're not "netrootsie" enough. poseur.

Posted by: bungholio on August 3, 2007 at 12:30 AM | PERMALINK

the problem is that Internet and Net (and World Wide Web and Web) are still proper nouns. Most newspapers and magazines still cap them, and standard style still holds that it's illogical and incorrect to create a compound noun when one part is proper. When the decision is made to lowercase (yes I know that's not really a verb...) the terms, then style desks will close them up. Check out how many hits Web site gets compared to website...

Posted by: along on August 3, 2007 at 12:36 AM | PERMALINK

The Post is totally hip to this internetwork BBS. I don't know what you are talking about.

Posted by: Will on August 3, 2007 at 12:37 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin: "... who's the fogey on the Washington Post copy desk who came up with this style edict?"

They're all fogeys over at the Post.

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii on August 3, 2007 at 1:02 AM | PERMALINK

[OT]: An exploration of the 1934 coup attempt against FDR and the modern-day consequences of the relative repression of its public scrutiny. Interesting reading:

The Threat of U.S. Fascism: An Historical Precedent
by Alan Nasser

[Kevin: Sorry, I'd really prefer to be on-topic, but in this particular case I just can't get excited. No offense.]

Posted by: Poilu on August 3, 2007 at 3:53 AM | PERMALINK

annoying term. I'd prefer "liberal blog event."

How about "Hairball from metaphorical series of tubes . . .

The space doesn't get annoying till I see the phrase the 5th time in ~ 2 paragraphs.

Posted by: B on August 3, 2007 at 7:27 AM | PERMALINK

I wonder, do they write "Grass Roots"? If they do, probably a stupid attempt to be consistent. And I think they do - see e.g. this article

Of course, that doesn't really help them, since grassroots gets a good 19 million google hits, while "grass roots" comes in at 2 million and has google asking if you really meant grassroots. But it does show that the real source of the stupidity is farther back.

Posted by: m on August 3, 2007 at 8:25 AM | PERMALINK

"E-mail" and "Web site" have got to go, too.

Posted by: BH on August 3, 2007 at 8:25 AM | PERMALINK

The Wash Post is just taking a little extra time to catch up and catch on. I understand their Altairs are still running the original Micro-Soft software.

Posted by: frankly0 on August 3, 2007 at 8:38 AM | PERMALINK

i remember when the company i used to work for converted from "email" (the correct spelling, which they had previously singled out as the way you could identify who "got it" and who didn't) to "e-mail". it was done purely at the insistence of editors who had come from print journalism, hated computers and despised the internet and net culture, and who were making the change solely because it drove the techies insane. they thought it was hilarious.

Posted by: tatere on August 3, 2007 at 8:44 AM | PERMALINK

"Who's the fogey?"

Bill Walsh, of course.

Posted by: Trevor on August 3, 2007 at 8:52 AM | PERMALINK

On the other hand, "grassroots" gets 3,470,000 hits on Google while "grass roots" gets 11,100,000, so maybe they are going for stylistic consistency, a hobgoblin of copyeditors' minds.

Posted by: anandine on August 3, 2007 at 9:50 AM | PERMALINK

They're not consistent...paragraphs 2 and 3 read "Net roots" while para 4 reads "Net-roots".

I mean, one would write "grassroots", and even the fogeys should be familiar with that one.

Posted by: grape_crush on August 3, 2007 at 9:55 AM | PERMALINK

Personally, I could not care less about the number of Google hits as a deciding factor. "The grass roots" is a noun phrase, meaning a mass of individual people who can be energized to vote, while "grassroots" is an adjective used to describe a specific campaign whose main strength came from those individual people.

Logically, since the phrase is intended to describe the main strength that comes from online intereaction, it probably should be "the net roots" if you're referring to folks on the Net who are activated politically, and "netroots" should be used to describe a campaign whose main strength comes from those folks.

Posted by: Wally on August 3, 2007 at 10:00 AM | PERMALINK

On the other hand, "grassroots" gets 3,470,000 hits on Google while "grass roots" gets 11,100,000

Which of the internets are you on?

Posted by: toast on August 3, 2007 at 10:10 AM | PERMALINK

toast: Which of the internets are you on?

Jeez, I don't know. I thought I was on the Google, but I just tried it again (on a different computer, which shouldn't matter) and got entirely different numbers, but in about the same proportion.

grassroots = 19,700,000
grass roots = 52,600,000

Posted by: anandine on August 3, 2007 at 10:45 AM | PERMALINK

Perhaps it's a conscious aesthetic protest against creeping internet terminology. Netroots? Blog? Could we come up with uglier words?

Posted by: shawn on August 3, 2007 at 10:51 AM | PERMALINK

corpus juris,

Good pickup on Senator Dodd's blistering O'Blowhard - Not like Ford of the DLC telling Billo that he was going to the convention, because he believed in free speech, but, that he was going to scold them.

Good to see Kevin is diligently perusing the web and not paying any attention to I-35W.

Posted by: thethirdPaul on August 3, 2007 at 10:54 AM | PERMALINK

Apparently the Post's editor is not firmly committed to "net roots." In the fourth paragraph the author is allowed to use the word "Net-roots."

The English language is always evolving.

True, but within the same article?

Netroots? Blog? Could we come up with uglier words?

An interesting sign of how language changes as it becomes more utilitarian everyone uses it, everyone uses it often and quickly, everyone uses it in contexts where conveying meaning is paramount but aesthetics is less important than usual and becomes more and more disconnected from spoken words. If blogs were discussed primarily in speech, what would they be called? Would "webel" be a more appealing and phonetically intuitive name? Would Web sites with frequent updates in chronological order become the normal meaning of "Web site," and something else like "formal Web site" would have to become the term for normal Web sites, in the same way that the word "guitar" now needs the "acoustic" modifier?

Posted by: Cyrus on August 3, 2007 at 11:24 AM | PERMALINK

"E-mail" and "Web site" have got to go, too.

I confess to having trouble letting go of "e-mail," largely because most of the people for whom I write insist on having the hyphen in.

Apart from the differing usage conventions in the journalism/publishing and computer industries, there was once a decent excuse for using the hyphen. Years ago, the argument was that having the vowel E before the consonant M would confuse the eye into reading "em" instead of "ee." But by now, very few people are left who don't immediately visually process that word.

And no one can confuse the word "website."

Posted by: shortstop on August 3, 2007 at 12:02 PM | PERMALINK

Can we now talk about your stylebook, Kevin, on health SPACE care? :)

Posted by: folkbum on August 3, 2007 at 12:28 PM | PERMALINK

Sometimes when I have a style question about a term that's too new for my AP stylebook, I do an NYT archive search to see what a very formal newspaper, in terms of style, would do. Even the NYT uses "netroots," though not often (only 25 times in its history), and "net roots" or "net-roots" has slipped through six times. (You always have to check multiple versions because copy desks, alas, are staffed by imperfect humans who often disagree or forget the latest decree by the higher-ups.)

Posted by: melissa on August 3, 2007 at 3:10 PM | PERMALINK

The grass roots" is a noun phrase, meaning a mass of individual people who can be energized to vote

Really? I thought it was a noun phrase meaning the guys who sang "Midnight Confessions"

Posted by: C.L. on August 3, 2007 at 4:03 PM | PERMALINK

Grass roots are something we study in terms of desert plant ecophysiology. They're truly a wonder of nature.

Posted by: B on August 3, 2007 at 4:07 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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