What is even happening, Chicago Manual of Style?

Hot on the heals of “Everything you never wanted to know about indexing a book,” let’s dish about the Chicago Manual of Style.

First of all, I will say that this sucker, which clocks in around 1,000 pages, is incredibly detailed and useful. This post is not intended as some kind of holistic critique — I tend to err on the side of preferring grammatical and formatical consistency, so I would consider myself a Big Fan of the Chicago Manual of Style.

Using the book was pretty sweet, especially when I totally needed to figure out how to alphabetize titles beginning with numerals, and one of the things that I need to alphabetize was an example!

1984 (Orwell)

(Alphabetized under “n,” as in “nineteen-eighty-four.”)

But I did notice a few odd things while I was flipping through the Chicago Manual of Style to read up on indexing, and I thought they were worth mentioning here.

As a wise person on ye olde tumblr puts it:

A PSA about Language

The Chicago Manual of Style is sort of like a dictionary plus. Indexing a book about sadomasochism in the socio-legal imaginary presented a few unique obstacles to the level of detail found in the manual. For example, it doesn’t tell you what to do about indexing a transperson’s former and current names.

There’s information on psydeonyms, married women’s names, persons with the same names, “popes and the like”, princes, saints, “Michigan, Lake,” but no clues on what to do about Patrick (formerly Pat) Califia, which was important for the project I was working on.

After discussing this with the author, we went with:

Califia, Pat, see Califia, Patrick

The categorization of other naming practices in the book were rather interesting, as well. For example, under “Foreign Names,” I found out about how to index Arabic, Hungarian, and Chinese names.

p 837 p 838

The exact definition of “foreign” eludes me at present. What do you do with a non-foreign name? What is a non-foreign name? How many generations have to pass before your name is not foreign according to the Chicago Manual of Style? And what would you even do about something like “Murphyao?”

Just some passing questions.

Oh, and one last thing — I found it curious that in a manual devoted to grammatical and stylistical perfectionality that “Inuit” was redundantly pluralized:

p 821This was used in an example.

“Inuk” is singular. “Inuit” is plural. “Inuits” is not a word!

Public Works and Government Services Canada

via Public Works and Government Services Canada

Except in French, which then apparently needs to be italicized, because it’s “foreign.” According the manual: “If a foreign word becomes familiar through repeated use throughout a work, it need be italicized only on its first occurrence. If it appears only rarely, however, italics may be retained.”

On the other hand, the undisciplinary, peer-reviewed, digital Open Access journal Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education & Society argues: “when using words from a language that is not English, refrain from italicizing these words as it only serves to set them apart as exotic, deviant or as part of a particular colonizing anthropological project.”

Just some food(s) for thought(s)!

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3 Responses to What is even happening, Chicago Manual of Style?

  1. Judith Hazlett says:

    Totally fascinating, though the “foreign” does seem a bit problematic. I guess it is foreign to the authors/editors or whoever they are. I, as a Canadian, certainly wouldn’t tell the Chicago style manual people what to do. The interesting part is the method for alphabetizing Arabic and Chinese names. Even the method for the “de” in French names was a surprise to me, though it just occurred to me that in the regular English book with only a couple of French names, they would probably be more reasonably listed under “d,” if you actually wanted anyone to find them.
    Anyhow, thanks for another interesting blog.

    • As ever, thanks for reading and for your comment. :-) As a Chicagoan, I wasn’t going to tell the Chicago Manual of Style people what to do, but a friend suggested that I do just that, so I’ll keep you posted if anything changes!

  2. Pingback: Everything you never wanted to know about indexing a book | This dissertation is going to be fun, like dessert

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