God knows, l don’t like to judge. I just want to help.
Which is why I called the receptionist’s attention to the inept notice posted on the front door of my gym about “people who’s cars get towed.”
“Don’t worry,” she said. “As long as you don’t leave the shopping area, your car won’t get towed.”
I tried to reassure her the towing threat wasn’t a big deal. I wasn’t going anywhere but the gym. But I was concerned about the illiteracy of “who’s” instead of “whose.” She made me explain myself two or three times over, then jotted something down, shaking her head like I was a useless nitpicker or something. Then she tried to blame it all on the person who wrote the note whose (notice correct usage) native language is Russian.
Oh, sure. Blame the foreigners for the desecration of the English language. “Lots of native-born English speakers make the same mistake,” I said. “I see it all the time.”
I would have gone on at greater length, but she didn’t seem terribly interested for some reason. Then, when I saw my friend Hope in yoga class and reported the infraction, I learned the whole sign was her fault, to begin with, since her stepson’s car had gotten towed and it had cost a hundred and ninety-three dollars to get it out of hock.
“A hundred and 93 dollars,” Hope said. “I called them up and let them have it!”
I tried to tell her about the grave misspelling on the sign, but she didn’t seem interested, either. I struggle with this kind of apathy all the time. The only people who get as exercised about this deterioration in civilization and language as I do are other former journalists and English teachers.
That’s why I was shocked (shocked!) when I was emailing back and forth with a friend who was an editor at a newspaper I used to work for. He capitalized realtor. I’ve seen that kind of capital-letter abuse before. I usually give people the benefit of the doubt, thinking they’re either whimsical or German (I don’t think you can be both). But this was a former editor!
I wrote him back, asking since when he capitalized realtor and he got really snippy and said it was AP style. I said I didn’t think any occupation but God was capitalized, so he got all authoritative and heavyhanded and sent me this quote from the AP style manual:
RE: Realtor (initial-capped) Why is this profession initial-capped and attorney, banker, and even president of the United States are not when used as stand-alone nouns? Are we duty-bound to initial-cap it just because it’s trademarked? Do we really need to do this to distinguish a member of the National Association of Realtors when we don’t distinguish members of other professional associations? Thanks for your consideration of this question. Kim Anderson Slot Editor (Biloxi) Sun Herald – from Gulfport, Miss. on Mon, Jul 02, 2007
Realtor (capitalized) is AP style for this legally protected service mark. You can avoid it by using the generic term, real estate agent.
Good grief. I had no idea. You leave the profession of journalism for a couple of decades and this is the kind of insidious change they make in the language? Judge and president and professor and lawyer aren’t capitalized when they stand alone. Neither are queen or empress or goddess. But Realtor?
I wanted to Faint. I refuse! realtor, realtor, realtor. I’m not Judging, I’m just Helping. It looks better That Way.
(Copyright 2009 by Ruth Pennebaker)