P.M.Lawrence, who comments from Australia, often flagging what he views as American biases and misconceptions, jumps ahead in the line of waiting Comments of the Day with this brief note. It raises an issue that I have thought about often in the past, and argued about with friends and others. What is the ethical obligation of Americans to use foreign spellings of proper names when writing about places and things for domestic readers? The particular example at hand was my using “Labor Party” to label the British organization which calls itself “the Labour Party.”
I’ll have a rebuttal after P.M.s Comment on the post, Sunday Ethics Warm-Up, 12/30/2018: A Petition, A Career-Killing Joke, And Priestley’s Play , and am very interested in what others think.
A minor point: the original spelling of proper names should be used out of respect, even if that is different from your own usage of the words involved. Just as it would be wrong to write “National Inquirer”, so also it is wrong to write “Labor” when writing of the (British) “Labour Party” – even though it is right to write “Australian Labor Party”, for the very same reasons. It gets trickier with groups like our Australian DLP (“Democratic Labour Party”) that have chopped and changed over time; I incline towards using whichever spelling was in place at the time of the reference being cited.
This is all part of the Rectification of Names.
I’m back. This issue is complicated, as P.M. notes. “Labour” is a great place to start. There is no word in America spelled “labour,” and proper or not, the British party called “Labour” is, in American spelling, about “labor.” It is not only accurate to use the domestic spelling, it is clearer. The Shakespeare comedy is called “Love’s Labour’s Lost” in the UK, but I checked with the Folger Shakespeare Company, D.C’s authority: they use “Love’s Labor’s Lost,” though not every Bard-centered company here agrees. If the word involved has two spellings in use here, then it makes no sense not to use the UK version. My now defunct theater company was named “The American Century Theater” because it was devoted to American works; it made no sense to use the British spelling “theatre”—which is still common here and popular with pompous theatrical companies—when the repertoire was pointedly American. I would expect any British media to also preserve our chosen spelling.
The spelling issue quickly slides into pronunciation. Somehow the globalists bullied people into calling Eye-RAN, which what I grew up saying, ir-RAAN. Why? This isn’t Iran. We don’t call Paris “Pa-REE” (this is my wife’s favorite argument.)
P.M.’s “National Enquirer” analogy doesn’t fly with me. It is true that the British use “enquire’ the way we use “inquire,” but 1) the two words technically have different meanings (“The traditional distinction between the verbsenquire and inquire is that enquire is to be used for general senses of ‘ask’, while inquire is reserved for uses meaning ‘make a formal investigation’.”) and 2) it’s exactly like “theatre/theatre.” Since both versions are used here and across the Pond, clear and understandable, a choice in a proper name should be respected. Moreover, in U.S. trademark law (and I assume in the UK as well) “The National Inquirer” could be a separate legal entity from the “Enquirer.”
Hmmmm. Nothing’ stopping someone from forming a “Labour Party” here either. Maybe P.L. is right….