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Publishing in the digital era and expressions in the news

Barbara McClintock
(Language Update, Volume 8, Number 3, 2011, page 5)

E-reader revolution

Electronic books and e-book readers or e-readers, such as Kindles and Nooks, are spearheading rapid changes in the publishing industry. On July 22, the president of Borders referred to the “e-reader revolution” when he announced the bookstore chain’s demise. Paper is out and digital is in. The Chicago Manual of Style (CMS) has been the main reference for the US book publishing industry since 1906. To stay current, the CMS has had to change with the times. In 2010, the 16th edition was published simultaneously in print and online for the first time.1 In a departure from previous years, the 16th edition prefers US over U.S. and recommends a single approach to ellipses—a three- or four-dot method. The CMS features tips for citing blogs, podcasts and other electronic sources.

eBay, iPad, iPod and other wired words

There is no academy of the English language. Since usage rules, some grey areas are disputed. One of the most perplexing of these areas for writers is how to spell compound words. CMS section 7.85 contains an easy hyphenation guide for compounds and words formed with prefixes. Compounds usually start out as two words, then they take a hyphen and, over time, they become one word. The rate at which this happens depends mainly on usage according to Jan Freeman of The Boston Globe. She writes that the Associated Press has decided to dispense with the hyphen in email and to write cellphone and smartphone closed instead of open.2 Both e-mail the noun and the verb (courrieller3) are still hyphenated in the CMS.

The popularity of so-called wired words is pushing grammars and dictionaries to change more quickly than usual according to Freeman. Making a radical grammar change, the 16th edition allows a sentence to start with a lowercase letter for company and brand names with a lowercase initial letter and a midcap such as iPod.4 If you have not looked at the CMS for a few years, the 16th edition has introduced a number of changes to reflect publishing in the digital era.

Green vehicles, plug-in vehicles and V2G

The 2011–12 Quebec budget replaces the tax credit for green (i.e. energy-efficient) vehicles (véhicules écoénergétiques) in order to accelerate the arrival of electric vehicles (E.V.s). Individuals who buy a plug-in or hybrid electric vehicle may receive a rebate of up to $8,000. Plug-in vehicles (véhicules rechargeables) are exclusively electric, whereas more practical hybrid vehicles (véhicules hybrides) have both a gas tank for long trips and a rechargeable battery for daily commuting. Quebec also provides a rebate for home charging stations (bornes de recharge à domicile).5

In related news, the University of Delaware has an advanced V2G program. Electric power generated by vehicles and allowed to flow to power lines is referred to as vehicle-to-grid power, or V2G.6

Rare-earth elements, rare-earth metals or blood minerals

Rare-earth element (métal des terres rares), a term describing any of the group of chemical elements with an atomic number from 58 to 71, is a misnomer. Rare-earth elements are “neither rare nor earths.”7 The elements are also called blood or conflict minerals, which is an analogy with diamonds, because of the violence associated with African mines. These metals are essential for alloys and magnets for diverse applications, including wind turbines, hybrid cars, computer batteries, medical imaging and smartphones.8

Stalking horse

A colourful term in the news recently is stalking horse. Originally a hunting term, stalking horse has taken on various metaphorical meanings related to deception. I have seen it translated a number of ways, including stratagème, prétexte, moyen indirect and paravent. Before a bankruptcy auction, a stalking horse offer is an agreement that allows other bidders to bid against the first bidder, whose bid is the floor price. An option is often provided to allow the first bidder to top rival bids.9

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