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Colonel McCormick would be pleased

There has been some inflamed Twittery among copy editors since @APStylebook posted yesterday, “We have some new Stylebook entries to announce. No.1: It’s drive-thru, as a noun or an adjective.”

Of course, a flame among copy editors is not that hard, gemlike thing that poets give off or the Fawkes-like bonfires of the peeving class, but rather a sputter that quickly gutters.

Thru for through has been a pet of spelling reformers, among them Col. Robert R. McCormick, who imposed his own collection of simplifications on the Chicago Tribune for many years. The spelling has long since caught on with the sorts of businesses that you see along the highway (some, of the “Kozy Kitchen” variety, also given to substituting k for c), and New York has its Thruway.

It will be interesting to see who pays attention to this latest diktat. There are copy editors who await the proclamations of a new edition of the stylebook as if it were a papal bull. And there are copy editors who view the stylebook’s strictures much as Duke Bernabo Visconti of Milan regarded the bull excommunicating him in 1371—he made the legates delivering the bull eat it, parchment, lead seals, and all.

My guess is that accepting or rejecting drive-thru will hinge on how downmarket you’re willing to look.


A note to my readers: I’m aware that we’ve been down to seeds and stems on the blog this week—very busy at the plant and campus, and with two separate freelance projects. I’m hoping to get back up to speed.


Posted by John McIntyre at 4:56 PM | | Comments (7)


Uh...that would be the seeds and stems of organically grown healthy veggies, right, John? Nothing to do with that questionable vegetable material so beloved of Cheech and Chong, I have to believe.

Kozy Kitchen can be trademarked; Cozy Kitchen can't, or only with great difficulty. Even the status of Windows< as a trademark is quite shaky; it's only because people understand it to mean Microsoft's operating system in certain contexts that it can be trademarked at all, and the mark is limited to that context.

I'm through with thru.

At least they didn't authorize "drive-thru" as a verb. Just wait ...

That explains the Trib's most famous headline:   "Dewey Defeats Truman" was obviously a simplified spelling of "Truman Wins."

Commercial misspellings can also carry subtle meanings; were I black and in Dixie, I would hesitate to venture into Kathy's Kountry Kitchen.

Clearly anon knows nothing of either Dixie (my grandparents once named a dog "Dixie") or Southern cooking.

My publication has been using "drive-thru" as a noun and adjective for years -- the style pained me for quite some time when I was copy editing. I guess I'm used to it now. Familiarity breeds indifference.

But I'm with Dahlink: I will never accept it as [shudder] a verb!

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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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