June 05, 2004

"Pro-Life" vs. "Anti-Abortion"

This is at third or fourth hand, depending on how you count, but it seems worth spreading around. It's an item that appears on p. 24 of the May 10, 2004, issue of High Country News, in the `heard around the West' section (no, that lower-case h is not a typo):

Political correctness can sometimes get out of hand. The Tucson Weekly reports that a perfect example occurred at The Los Angeles Times, when a reviewer described a 19th-century opera by Richard Strauss as "pro-life''. The reviewer meant that it celebrated and affirmed life. An over-zealous editor followed the newspaper style-book's recommendation, and changed "pro-life'' to "anti-abortion'', giving the opera a whole new theme.

I assume that the perpetrator really was a live editor rather than a not-quite-clever-enough set of programmed instructions designed to keep the term "pro-life'' out of the newspaper. But it 's a bit hard to believe that the reviewer didn't realize that her/his loaded term would fail to convey the intended meaning to many readers (unless readers of opera reviews are really, really different from us ordinary mortals).

Posted by Sally Thomason at June 5, 2004 05:20 PM