Dot Wordsworth

What Nodwe isn’t

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‘Lady Day,’ it said in the New Oxford Style Manual (one of ‘the world’s most trusted reference books’, as it said on the jacket), ‘25 May, the feast of the Annunciation.’ Well, it is the Annunciation, but it isn’t in May but March. Of course, one does not look up ‘Lady Day’ in the New Oxford Style Manual to find out what it is, but whether to use capital letters, perhaps. But even so...

The odd thing about this mistake in one of ‘the world’s most trusted reference books’ is that it has languished there since 2005, when it was last revised. You’d think someone would have told them. Perhaps someone did and they lost the message.

The New Oxford Style Manual, out this week (£25), is composed of two books: New Hart’s Rules and the New Oxford Dictionary for Writers and Editors (Nodwe). The preface says that ‘this new second edition combines updated and revised versions’ of the two books. It is strange, then, to find in the separate preface for Nodwe a statement that its publication ‘marks a return to the traditional small “handbook” form’; the separate preface for New Hart’s Rules makes a similar remark about returning to a ‘small “handbook” format’. That was true of the 2005 editions, which could each be slipped into a coat pocket. It is certainly not true of this combined edition, which is in a larger format and, running to more than 870 pages, is the size of a brick. Still, the larger format is welcome in making the type larger.

What is going on? There might be some point in retaining historical introductory material, but not if it contradicts the plain evidence of the senses. Then, when we read in the Nodwe, ‘BAA British Airports Authority’, are we to take this as a similar historical excursion, since BAA nowadays insists its name does not stand for ‘British Airports Authority’?

There are updated details in the Nodwe. The Supreme Court is called the ‘final court of appeal in the UK for civil cases’. There is no mention, though, of its being the final court of appeal for criminal cases from England, Wales and Northern Ireland, but why should there be? This is not an encyclopaedia. What it is I am less certain.