Recently I’ve been working on a monograph on Islamic dream interpretations. This has been a stretch for me as I am not overly familiar with either Islam or Arabic. However, it’s just the kind of exercise I like.
When referring to only the family name of someone, is the Arabic particle capitalized? Is it Al-Jibaly or al-Jibaly, ibn Sirin or Ibn Sirin? According to Chicago 8:17, it’s the latter in both cases. “Al-” means “of” and “ibn” means “son of.” Can’t make a blanket yes or no rule here. Nope, couldn’t be that easy.
Both Chicago style (7.54) and the publisher’s style guide state that familiar foreign words and phrases are not italicized. Familiar to whom? I might be familiar with terms like imam, sura, and Ummah, but is the average reader? I decide by consulting the publisher’s dictionary of choice, Merriam-Webster’s collegiate. (Imam and sura are in there and thus set Roman; Ummah is not and therefore is italicized.)
And then, there are things that are just customary or respectful or, to be honest, just feel right. When writing about Muhammed, it is customary (both in Islam and Chicago 8:100!) to capitalize “Prophet” even when not followed by his name, e.g., “The Prophet explained that good dreams bring glad tidings.” However, in this manuscript I have lowercased “angel,” as in, “She dreamed of the Prophet and angels surrounding her.” The author capitalizes seemingly everything; I not only need to set “imam” as Roman but need to lowercase it here. Perhaps the author is being a wee bit too respectful.
Copy editing decisions are yoga for my brain.
I often edit books by authors who are not native English speakers. While generally these authors are good writers, as I specialize in scholarly editing in the humanities, sometimes quirky little errors pop up.
Today I came across the substitution of “oversight” for “overview.” It struck me that on the face of things, those words really have the same meaning. “Sight” and “view” are not semantically that different.
But of course, in practice, these two words have different meanings. “Oversight” refers to a sense of supervision (sight–vision) or control, while “overview” refers to a skimming over of something, a summary, a quick look.
In defining words for my children, I come across this same problem: how to get across the very subtle differences in words. In German we call this the sprachgefühl, the feeling for or intuitive grasp of a language. Recently we’ve been pondering the difference between “machine” and “tool.” Still pondering that one.
Right now I wear at least three hats: editor, mother, teacher . . . in seemingly random order depending on the hour and the day.
I started homeschooling my two children this month. So far, it’s been great. We have fun together, the pace is natural, and there is plenty of time for play and life to happen. Language arts have been a big focus, natch, with lots of fairy tales and nursery rhymes and poetry.
Then the other half of the day, I work on editing. Or at night, or on weekends, or wherever I can fit it. It’s funny but I don’t really mind working a few hours on the weekends most of the time; in fact, it’s sort of nice to have the same thing every day. Creature of habit, I guess.