Monday, December 13, 2004

Courtesy of SpongeBob SquarePants

Copy editors around the country are discussing style points related to a talking yellow sponge. And if that doesn't sound strange enough, their discussions certainly will.

First I read this thread at Testy Copy Editors: "In this review, the NYT has officially gone overboard with its insistence on using honorifics on second reference (or else A.O. Scott is having some fun with the style police):
In my ideal cinémathèque, "The Life Aquatic" would play on a permanent double bill with "The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie." Mr. Anderson and Stephen Hillenburg, Mr. Squarepants's creator, share not only a taste for nautical nonsense, but also a willingness to carry the banner of unfettered imaginative silliness into battle against the tyranny of maturity.
(Personally, I find the honorific delightful. Papers that are silly enough to use honorifics ought to be consistent -- even when the results point out how silly they actually are.)

Then I read in the Anderson (S.C.) Independent-Mail that AP style requires a two spaces in SpongeBob SquarePants:
We had a rather detailed discussion over the name usage. Since our newspaper uses courtesy titles, did we refer to the abductee as Mr. Pants or Mr. SquarePants? The Associated Press puts a space in between "Square" and "Pants" while Google doesn’t. In accordance with AP style, we’re going with Mr. Pants.

First, Google doesn't "put" spaces in anything. It just tells you where other people have put them.

Second, Google shows 61,400 hits for "SpongeBob Square Pants." It shows 1.23 million for "SpongeBob SquarePants."

Third, I don't know Norm Goldstein personally, but I hope I would have heard if the AP Stylebook came out with a rebellious ruling on SpongeBob SquarePants. Clearly, Nickelodeon has it as two words. Why would AP require three?

My guess is that a reporter saw it wrong in an AP-written story. But that doesn't make it AP style. That just makes it an AP mistake.


At 6:14 PM, December 13, 2004, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think we all know that AP writers and editors have as much or more trouble following AP style as anyone. At least in the sports world that's the case. D. Lo.

At 2:20 AM, December 15, 2004, Blogger Etaoin Shrdlu said...

If you are interested in what the NYT stylebook has to say, the answer came in the latest ACES newsletter (in the guise of a correction):

"Omit a courtesy title with a coined or fanciful stage name to avoid appearing overliteral. Meat Loaf and Little Richard, for example, keep their full names, without title, in all references."

I think this would qualify.

At 9:45 AM, December 15, 2004, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't know about that. I think Mr. Loaf sounds pretty good. But what would you do with, say, Sting or Madonna? Would it be Mr. Sting and Ms. Madonna? Or would it be just Mr. and Ms., assuming those are first names and not last names.
D. Lo.

At 10:50 AM, December 15, 2004, Blogger Nicole said...

So, does SpongeBob SquarePants count as "a coined or fanciful stage name"? It's possible, but I wouldn't call it a given. Saying "Mr. SquarePants" is silly only because the name is so silly, not because it's clearly not a first-name-last-name issue like Meat Loaf.

At the Morning News, which also uses courtesy titles, there are two rules of note here:

First, "Entertainment figures are identified by courtesy titles unless their names stand alone or are novelty names. Examples: Cher, Sting, Madonna, Meat Loaf, Ice-T, Tone-Loc."

Second, "Historical figures run without honorifics: Beethoven, Stalin, Hitler, Churchill, for example. This exemption extends to some eminent or pre-eminent who are still living. The treatment should be appropriate to the subject. We know Mother Teresa by that name, for example, and so should use that name on all references."

At 12:42 PM, December 15, 2004, Blogger Etaoin Shrdlu said...

Sting: No Mr. Sting. That's what the newsletter was correcting, that the NYT would use Mr. Sting.

NYT entry: I'm looking for the full entry, but it may have to wait until a run to a bookstore. Someone on the testycopyeditors board brings up the good point of Bugs Bunny, Superman, and Donald and Daffy Duck (and distinguishing between the two Mr. Ducks!)

At 3:32 PM, December 15, 2004, Blogger Nicole said...

The full entry is quite long, but in addition to the part Vince already quoted, on fanciful names, there is this tidbit on historical figures:

"Omit courtesy titles with surnames of historic or pre-eminent figures no longer living: Curie; Hilter; Lenin; Napoleon; Newton; Woolf. This style also applies, especially in the arts and sometimes in science, to eminent figures still living. Examples might have included Bernhardt, Callas, Einstein, Picasso and Stravinksy before their deaths. In an arts review, the judgment of eminence should ordinarily be left to the critic."

Now, does anyone know why they use semicolons to separate the historical names but commas to separate the names of the more recently departed? I'm flummoxed, unless it's a mistake.

At 1:34 AM, December 16, 2004, Blogger Etaoin Shrdlu said...

Yes, I was going to add that.

I think the semicolons are there because it's the first list follows a colon. I can't find it in writing, but I know some who insist that semicolons must be used in a list that comes after a colon.

At the new job, the style rules for a series that employ semicolons call a comma instead of where you would think the final semicolon goes. They say it's parallel to the nonserial comma.

So you'd get this kind of sentence. They traveled to Rome, where they went last year; Paris, where they went two years before, and London, where they will go again next year.

At 7:25 AM, September 26, 2005, Blogger Squirrel said...

Found a lot of useful info on your site about Spongebob - thank you. Haven't finished reading it yet but have bookmarked it so I don't lose it. I've just started a Spongebob blog myself if you'd like to stop by

At 1:52 AM, August 07, 2009, Blogger KARAN said...

I heard about Spongebob Squarepants TV Show and decided to check it out. Now I watch every episode of this show. This show is for all age.

At 12:12 PM, September 24, 2010, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice post. Thanks. SpongeBob SquarePants is a great great great comedian series to watch with friends. We really enjoy this show very much.

At 8:38 AM, November 26, 2010, Anonymous Anonymous said...

SpongeBob SquarePants Season 8 is really really fantastic. I have seen its all episode online with my friend.


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