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What’s that word I’m looking for?

Caricature of Steve“You are really busy, John,” waitress Beverly noted as she filled our cups with the daily coffee special. “It’s a delicious Mattari fresh in Yemen.”

“Hand delivered by former President Abed Hadi as he fled the country this week?” I guessed.

“Well, it was a little pricier than usual,” Beverly conceded, “but it’s worth every extra penny I’m charging you.”

“But not nearly as valuable as my new project,” John boasted as he punched away at his cellphone keypad. “I’m writing a news stylebook.”

“Wait, there are already many, many stylebooks. Why on earth would any news operation want another one?”

“Especially since they don’t seem to follow them anyway,” Beverly sneered as she left the coffee pot.

“Exactly. And the reason is because the books have no standards. The Associated Press has decided to defer to “common usage” (JOHN MAKES QUOTE MARKS WITH HANDS).  The book now is good only as starter sparks in my fireplace.”

“And you’re going to replace it with…,” I hesitated.

“Rightamundo, compadre. With my own style guide. Look, here’s what I’m suggesting when writing about “illegal aliens.”

“Whoa! That term isn’t used anymore,” I clarified. “We’ve become a kinder, gentler, more compassionate world when talking about those who come to America for a better life.”

“But they are here without proper papers,” Beverly agreeing with John and joining us at the table. “So we can’t call them ‘allowed,’ ‘permitted’ or ‘authorized.” (MAKES QUOTE MARKS WITH HANDS).

“Ditto, I’m advising newsrooms to scrap ‘undocumented’ and ‘unauthorized’ and replace those silly terms with ‘illegitimate,’ ‘illicit’ or ‘wrongful.’”

“You gotta be kidding!” I replied in shock. “President Obama has the right idea of acknowledging that since they are already here, we should welcome their contributions and embrace them.”

“Hm…I tend to agree but can we say they are ‘endorsed,’ ‘sanctioned,’ and ‘abetted?’” (BEVERLY MAKES QUOTE MARKS WITH HANDS).

“Nonsense,” insisted John as he punched even more rapidly on his cellphone. “Accuracy is my creed and so it shall be for the news media that adopt my improved style guide. Journalists now will have lots of choices such as ‘disallowed,’ discouraged,’ ‘prohibited…”

“I object strenuously,” I asserted. “You’d be better to give reporters and editors alternatives such as ‘sojourner,’ ‘desperate,’ and ‘abiding.”

“But you can’t prove that,” John countered without looking up from his typing. “I’m telling it like it is—without legal papers they are ‘unlicensed’ and ‘unsanctioned.’”

“Those are slightly more accurate and less pejorative words,” Beverly offered. “But what about the children who were only babies when they crossed the border with their parents. How do we call them.”?

“Uh…I haven’t thought about that…yet,” John paused.

“Most of them are not citizens, they’re here through no fault of their own,” I added, “but they are ‘ethical, ‘good,’ and ‘principled.”


“Yes, and the ones I see everyday as customers are ‘righteous,” virtuous’ and ‘proper.’

“Okay…I admit you’re right. I’m going to think a little more about this,” John responded sheepishly.

“Furthermore,” I contributed, “ I find them ‘unimpeachable.’”

“Enough, enough already,” John muttered as he paid his bill and left.

“And they are better tippers than you are,” Beverly shouted as John disappeared.

“Well, I agree with John that news media do need better style guides,” I commented.

“Yeah, but I think comedian George Carlin said it best,” Beverly smiled. “However, I wouldn’t let interns read it—whether they’re citizens or not.”

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