Everything I thought I knew has changed, and everything else I have forgotten

According to the 2013 edition of The Associated Press Stylebook, I have officially become irrelevant.  To those 30 years old and younger, that statement is hardly news.  I’m the one in the office whose references are lost on most of the staff – the nods to ‘80s music and movies, to Hollywood stars long dead and politicians long ousted from office. I fight the desire to tease my hair and wear MC Hammer pants to work, and not just on casual Fridays. I long for the days of mix tapes, waterbeds and music videos that made sense to me.

Nostalgia aside, I’m not resistant to all change, so long as it’s logical and well presented.  I’m afraid updates to the 2013 Stylebook are neither. I’m not so much alarmed by what the new edition writing bible has chosen to include.  It does not surprise me that cultural references like red carpet, hot spot, stem cell, WikiLeaks, DVR and Breathalyzer are now listed. Nor am I troubled by the 30 pages devoted to Social Media guidelines. I applaud any attempt to reign in all the nonsensical Tweeting and Skyping and texting. To those born post 1981, LOL is not a real word.

I’m not certain in which edition the AP began including sport identification codes, food and fashion guidelines, and a section on info graphics, but I say, “Welcome aboard.” I’m a gal who believes in structure—the more the better.

But I do start to cringe at the rephrasing of words, perhaps in an attempt to become politically correct or, worse yet, to be cool. I never thought of anyone working at the AP, especially the folks whose job it is to flyspeck copy for jots and tittles, to be concerned about their “popular” status.

According to the AP, we are now required to call a large container of trash a dumpster. A doughnut is no longer a donut, under any circumstance. Global warming or climate change? The good people of AP say use the terms with aplomb, and interchangeably if the spirit moves you.  Disabled or handicapped? Don’t even bring them up. And avoid such terms as afflicted, confided, suffering and (God forbid) cripple.  For the record, the AP also bans the terms illegal immigrant, Smokey ”the” Bear, high blood pressure and asylum.

I knew that life for me would never be the same after Pluto was stripped of its planet status and Steve Jobs unveiled the iEverything. But changing the stylebook is akin to changing the Constitution or disputing the irrefutable Laws of Physics. When people start playing with the placement of punctuation marks, abbreviations, capitalization and other grammatical rules, for me the fight is on.

The fact is, I’ve forgotten more than I ever leaned in my four years studying journalism. But some things did stick. I know how to spell under way and work force. And that mike is short for microphone.  That a province name follows a Canadian city in news reports and that state names are abbreviated in ways other than postal codes.  Eskimos live in Alaska and Hawaiians are residents of Hawaii.

That much I know.

Or I should say used to know? We now live in an underway, workforce, mic, Inuit and Hawaii resident universe.  A universe where Canada is not divided by provinces in news articles, where we no longer abbreviate and parenthesize the names of organizations on first reference, and where the pope and president are lower case p’s and Internet stands proud with a capital I.

I guess it all makes sense, since this same universe has supplanted Washington’s Birthday with Presidents Day (no possessive). Here, homophobics no longer exist but flash mobs (two words) do.

I’ve lost my way, a wordsmith without her familiar words.

Now I’m just a writer without a roadmap.  And a woman who still loves Duran Duran.

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