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How are the mighty fallen

Back at the height of the Cold War, Communists were everywhere. (Gather around, little ones; Uncle John is recollecting the Olden Times again.) Newspapers ran regular articles of the "Wake up, America!" variety to explain how the Kremlin was trying to fluoridate our water and make white children and black children attend the same schools. We were under siege by this sinister power, whose tentacles reached everywhere. (We didn’t mind mixed metaphors much in those days.)

Then the Soviet Union collapsed under its own weight, a failed state whose satellites escaped its gravity. The Chinese, sneakily, adopted a form of state capitalism. And the Communist world of true believers shrank to a few troublesome minor states, such as Cuba and North Korea. After that, the greatest indignity: Communism lost its capital letter.

The Sun’s brief obituary notice of Ladislav Adamec described him as "Czechoslovakia's last communist prime minister." In two more paragraphs it mentioned "the fall of the communist regime" and "a communist deputy in the Czechoslovakian federal parliament."

This despite the language remaining in The Associated Press Stylebook to capitalize "Communist, Conservative, Democrat, Liberal, Republican, Socialist, etc., when they refer to a specific party or its members. Lowercase these words when they refer to political philosophy. …"The Sun's in-house stylebook has the same entry.

So the distinction has stood for generations in newspaper stylebooks, but the writers and editors of the Associated Press (along with my colleagues on The Sun's copy desk) have apparently gone in for editorial nullification. The reasoning, I take it, is that our side won, so the loser reverts to lowercase.

What are all the readers who believe that The Sun still takes its orders from Moscow going to think?

Posted by John McIntyre at 8:04 AM | | Comments (2)


So these are most assuredly would-be capitalist communists, as the case may be (upper or lower).

"Sinister power" and "tentacles" is not necessarily a mixed metaphor, see Cthulhu from H. P. Lovecraft.

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About John McIntyre
John McIntyre, mild-mannered editor for a great metropolitan newspaper, has fussed over writers’ work, to sporadic expressions of gratitude, for thirty years. He is The Sun’s night content production manager and former head of its copy desk. He also teaches editing at Loyola University Maryland. A former president of the American Copy Editors Society, a native of Kentucky, a graduate of Michigan State and Syracuse, and a moderate prescriptivist, he writes about language, journalism, and arbitrarily chosen topics. If you are inspired by a spirit of contradiction, comment on the posts or write to him at
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