Pilates: trademark -- used for an exercise regimen typically performed with the use of specialized apparatus.So, before I signed off on the page, I noted that the "P" should be capped "per Webs." and brought it to the copy chief's attention.
"Oh," she said, "I looked it up. Webster's says lowercase." I was skeptical: "Really? Because I looked it up..." She flipped open her copy to the appropriate page and showed me the entry. It was indeed lowercase. Color me perplexed. "I swear I looked it up..." I went back to my desk and consulted my copy again. There it was, on page 939, in the very same spot -- and capped. We were both using the Eleventh Edition, but where mine labeled the word a "trademark," hers noted that it derived from a proper name (that of Joseph Pilates), but did not even note that the word is "often capped." The capital 'P' was clearly contraindicated.
Maybe you need to be a copyeditor to fully appreciate the consternation this discovery caused. The whole reason Webs. 11th is on my desk is to prevent this kind of confusion. Webster's solves disputes. "Per Webs." cannot be argued with. But what hope is there for the noble copyeditor if two copies of the same edition of Webster's can't even agree with each other? Are there no true standards on which we can rely? Is our professional code nothing but lies?
I assumed that changes, additions or deletions to the dictionary would require a new edition, or at least a note to indicate what had changed. But the volumes we compared were alike in every way except their copyright date -- at least, so we believed, until today. In fact -- who knew? -- "Merriam-Webster updates its best-selling Collegiate® Dictionary every year with a number of new words, senses, and variants." And I guess the only way to stay on top of it is to buy a new copy every single year. Make that several new copies, if you have a staff.
In this case, it turns out there was a court decision that declared the word "pilates" is not a trademark. But that was in 2000, before the Eleventh Edition ever came out, so it's curious that Webster's took several more years to make the change. And they still haven't updated their online dictionary. (But they also misuse the phrase "begs the question" in their press materials, so what do you expect.)
When I did sign off on that page, I wrote my initials and the date, as usual. Today, though, I've been moved to add the year, even though it isn't necessary -- these proofs aren't meant for posterity, and even if they were, the page is clearly from the October 2007 issue. There's no need to specify which September 11 I mean. It just seems strange, and frivolous, to write "9/11" when I mean nothing more than today's date. How can I use "9/11" to refer to this unexceptional, rainy day, a day when I spent a good 20 minutes fretting over the discovery that the office dictionaries don't agree on terms like "pilates"? I don't know whether knowing I've spent Tuesday, September 11 in a Manhattan office building doing ordinary things makes me feel grateful, or sad, or guilty, or relieved. Maybe all of the above.