The Plank

The Wonderful Washington Times' Style Guide

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Here's a strange bit of news that went largely uncommented upon yesterday: the Washington Times ' Editor Wesley Pruden is retiring and will be replaced by John Solomon, a national reporter at the arch-rival Washington Post. The Times, of course, is owned by the Rev. Sun Myung Moon, last seen on Capitol Hill being coronated by members of Congress (see the amazing video of that reception here). This seems like a really strange fit for the Times, as it's an almost comically conservative paper and Solomon does not have "movement" credentials.

Anyways, since Solomon is a legitimate journalist, I'm wondering if he'll tinker at all with the Times' stylebook, particularly the rule that the word "gay" can never be used in news copy (except when quoting someone), only "homosexual." This leads to the awkward construction "homosexual 'marriage.'" Scare quotes for scary people. Here's what a Times staffer had to say back in 2003:

"Because the Washington Times uses only sturdy English, " Rarey says via e-mail, "this paper avoids using what Mencken described as ‘greasy, meaningless words.' Thus, the word gay -- which, according to the OED, has meant mirthful since Middle English -- is not used as a euphemistic synonym for homosexuals or homosexuality, except in quote marks. "

The Washington Times: defending journalism from "greasy and meaningless words" since 1982.

--James Kirchick

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