Monday, August 22, 2005

40 year-old virgins... Whaaaaaa?

From today's Editor & Publisher:

Press Wrestles with Grammatically Incorrect "Virgin"
By Lesley Messer

Published: August 22, 2005 12:59 PM ET

NEW YORK -- What happens when the title of a hit movie doesn't conform to AP style?

That question was answered in recent days when newspapers started reviewing and writing about the new box office hit whose official name is "The 40 Year-Old Virgin." Of course, as any reporter or editor worth his or her salt knows, there should be a hyphen between 40 and Year. As it reads now, it's almost as if the movie is about 40 virgins who are still toddlers (not exactly unusual).

The movie's title, as it appears on the screen, in ads, and on its official Web site, presents a problem for journalists: follow the studio lead or adhere to traditional newspaper style?

The Associated Press took the liberty of changing the title to “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” in its widely published critique and box office reports. So did Reuters.

When publishing reviews by their own staffers, the majority of newspapers inserted the hyphen (without explanation to readers).

Those adding the hyphen included: The San Francisco Chronicle, New York Post, Seattle Times, Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times, The New York Daily News, USA Today, The Boston Globe, San Diego Union-Tribune, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, and Newsday.

But many others went along with the movie-makers and left it out, including the the influential Los Angeles Times, both in its review by Carina Chocano, and a story today on its box office triumph. Others going along with the error include The Houston Chronicle, Atlanta Journal Constitution, Sacramento Bee, Syracuse (N.Y.) Post-Standard, and Toronto Star, not to mention the magazines Entertainment Weekly and Rolling Stone.

Christy Lemire, AP movie critic, told E&P that she had spotted a promotional poster on and that did include the hyphen, suggesting that, perhaps, even the studio was confused. With two style options from which to choose, she just picked the version that looked right to her (and adhered to the AP style). There was no big debate within the AP about how to report the title.

Lemire added that the grammar discrepancy is especially ironic, in this case. "For a movie about a guy who's so anal-retentive, it's kind of funny that the title itself is out there two different ways," she said.


And speaking of badly punctuated show titles...

Back in the mid-1990s, TV producers Bonnie and Terri Turner introduced a group of TV critics to the cast of a new sitcom premiering on Fox. The pilot episode was titled That 70's Show.

At the interview session for the network's debut of the show, a certain TV critic who might have been moi asked the Turners if they wouldn't mind changing the punctuation in the title to That '70s Show, thus saving us professional typists from having to correct it nine zillion times in the future as we wrote about it.

Thank you, Turners, for making the correction.

And for discovering Ashton Kutcher.


Blogger dkgoodman said...

Am I missing something? I thought journalists were supposed to report the facts as they are, not how they would like them to be. (Naive, I know.) If a studio in its ignorance uses the wrong punctuation in naming their movie, it makes no difference. The movie's name is a proper noun, and should be spelled as given (followed by [sic], if desired).

If I spelled my last name "Smith" and pronounced it "Jones" would you change the spelling of my last name? Or pronounce it differently? A proper noun is a proper noun, and the owner of the name should have the right to spell it and pronounce it any way they wish.

It's a matter of respect.


You're right... spell the movie the right way. Studios don't deserve respect. :)

2:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

FYI, your hometown paper, The Dallas Morning News, chose to insert the hyphen for both print and internet versions.

9:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

They could perhaps just not write about it at all. The sequel, likely "20 Year-Old Virgin", which I'm sure will be hilarious given a few more years of social decay, does not need to be made.

But, what do they do with every other misspelled or gramatically incorrect movie name? They print it as-is.

3:50 PM  
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