Monday, March 02, 2009

"A rose by any other name...."

I belong to an e-mail discussion group for copyeditors and others involved in various fields of editing and writing that is maintained by the LISTSERV at Indiana University -- the COPYEDITING-L. This has been shortened to CE-L, which has morphed into "CELery," which helps to explain the graphics in the logo.

We often refer to each other as "Stalks." All sorts of people from all around the world belong to the list -- librarians, authors of books, copywriters, copyeditors, indexers, teachers, proofreaders, translators -- all sorts. At least one famous author, the great science fiction writer Damon Knight, participated in the discussions up until his death.

People pose questions about all aspects of writing and editing. Other people answer, and discussions erupt. The discussions can be to the CELery as a whole, or they can be private.

I have books on English grammar, language, and usage by Fowler, Follett, and Strunk and White, and Bernstein and others, and I can usually find the answers to the mysteries in the sentences I work with, but asking the Stalks is often faster and often much more amusing than searching through my reference books, although this one manages to generate some laughs...



I recently posted a question to the CE-L group about something I see frequently in the manuscripts I work on for the orthopedic journal.

Stalks....

The shoulder from a newly dead person is being harvested for a study. The shoulder is fresh. The shoulder is frozen

Is this a...
fresh frozen shoulder...
fresh, frozen shoulder....
freshly frozen shoulder
fresh-frozen shoulder....

The sentence is: The study used a fresh frozen shoulder from a deceased donor.

Opinions please

Leilani, freshly confused....

And my goodness, did they have opinions. The first responses, mostly from the other medical copyeditors on the list, simply answered the question: "fresh frozen" was correct. A few others who responded thought it should be "fresh-frozen." And then the discussion moved away from my specific question, and they began taking issue with the term "fresh." I had to send another e-mail explaining that the term "fresh" was used to differentiate from "embalmed." And then I basically opted out of the discussion, until I got this private e-mail from Geoff, who writes books and lives in Melbourne, Australia:

I remember getting fresh and being told to drop dead then being given the deep freeze treatment -- the assumption being that this would discourage me from being fresh. How the world changes. Or was it just me? More seriously, I see the fresh referring to the frozen rather than the shoulder in all these. As distinct from a frozen cooked shoulder, or a frozen preserved shoulder. Maybe that's what they want to say. Maybe that's just me, too! A frozen fresh shoulder is best of the four, I think, but really, really, really, I think we can do without the "fresh" when talking about donated body parts!

Geoff...

I responded with
Thank you for the good laugh at the end of the day.... But no, we really really can't do without the "fresh" in these studies of the mechanics of shoulder joints. The joints can't come from embalmed specimens because that messes with the properties of the tissue.... and it can't be from a decomposing specimen either. It really must be fresh...

And Geoff responded with...
I appreciate it must be "fresh" but I would have thought fresh was too imprecise a description for scientific work... still, I would hold it should be "frozen fresh shoulder" rather than "fresh frozen".

And beware, Leilani, I can do awful things with your name.

Having been familiar with your name from the song, "Sweet .....", back in the 1970s I convinced a group of young Motu speakers (Papua New Guinea, and an Austronesian language related to Hawaiian) that in their own language (in which I was fluent), "leilani" meant a toilet seat with a square hole in it. It was supposed to be a joke, of course, but somehow I managed to keep a straight face and come up with convincing explanations for why they, with Motu as their mother tongue, were unfamiliar with the term.

But months later, I happened to be in the same room as one of the group and heard him repeating it ... seriously. I had to take him aside and quietly confess. One of the most embarrassing moment of my life!

And now I don't think I will ever think about my name, and what it means, in quite the same way...

3 comments:

Tami said...

Oh my goodness...what a funny funny post.

I personally love your name. So unique!

The Weaver of Grass said...

Oh dear - the intricacies of English Grammar - thank goodness I no longer have to teach it and the occasional slip up goes unnoticed. I enjoyed your post and had a good laugh.

disa said...

I love it ! Very creative ! That's actually really cool Thanks.