I am a big fan of New Yorker magazine, regarding it, along with the New York Times, as the gold standard of print media. It’s publications like these that determine and change usage and correctness. I know, the use of commas has been curtailed, but I still put the Oxford comma before the “and” in a series. I am fairly conservative when it comes to questions of usage ( “shined” as a past tense grates on my ear. It may change to that some day, but not today for me).
I think it’s basic to italicize books titles and other longer works. Short stories, song titles and shorter poems go inside quotation marks. So, imagine my surprise when I read an article by the incredible New Yorker writer John McPhee about revision and copy editing (“Draft No. 4” on p. 32 of the Aril 29, 2013 issue) which included these sentences: “Book titles are framed in quotation marks. The names of magazines are italicized…The names of ships are italicized…”(p. 37). This, McPhee wrote, is House Style at the New Yorker.
Huh? I hadn’t noticed quotes around book titles in nearly forty years of reading the magazine, but I checked a couple of book reviews and there they were. I have been driven crazy by Facebook’s lack of italics for book titles, so, according to the New Yorker, I could have saved my mental energy.
Language changes, and that’s good, else we would be speaking Anglo-Saxon with a vocabulary of ten thousand words as opposed to the million or so that present-day English sports. I just wish someone would have told me about this change!
This is a phoropter. I didn’t know what it was called, either.
National Poetry Month Poem #26: A Concept du Jour Poem
Angle of Refraction
At the opthamologist to have my eyes refracted once again
I am struck by the changes the years have brought.
Instead of a dumpy little man in a white coat peering through thick glasses
Who used a phoropter (you know that machine with a whole bunch of lenses
That, stuck in front of a face, makes someone look like a Borg decades before
Anyone ever thought of a Borg. Or the Borg. It’s a collective, you know)
To refract my eyes, my ophthalmologist breezes in.
She is an energetic young Canadian woman of Italian descent
So she wears her white coat fashionably over her stylish Italian pants suit.
She speaks rapidly, making jokes, asking about my family
And she refracts my eyes with an autorefractor which
Scans my eyeballs and feeds the measurements into a Mac.
Quite a change from the old days, but I like these changes.
My eyes are not limpid pools or any of that other
Romantic claptrap, although I like Romantic poetry
In its place. No, they are two more or less spherical orbs
Made of tissue, muscle and vitreous fluid
Which enable us to see. Which is a good thing.
Mine are green and have served me well.
My sophisticated funny Canadian doctor tells me
That my eyes are presbyopic, which I knew since I am sixty-five,
And that I have slight astigmatism. She does a glaucoma test,
My least favorite part of the exam and says that I tend to want to shut my eyes
While being tested. I’m thinking, Of course I’m shutting my eyes—you’re
Blowing puffs of air into them, but it’s soon over and I am glad to hear
That I am free of glaucoma.
The doctor tells me to see her in a year, which I will, and dashes off to her next patient.
I can use reading glasses but I’m clutching a prescription for bifocals.
I pick out a pair from the frame department and am told my lens will be ready
In a couple of days. Then my vision will be corrected and my astigmatism will be
Corrected. I step outside into the bright sunshine, glad for the plastic dark glasses
They gave me for my dilated eyes. I hesitate by the car, ready to get in and drive away,
And I stand