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September 07, 2007

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I think one problem was, the production manager had majored in film studies -- in other words, had not spent a lot of time thinking about texts. So she assigned to the CMOS a prescriptivist force which the CMOS does not claim for itself. If you actually read the CMOS, it's rather like the Talmud: it doesn't simply offer rules, it offers ways of working out a good decision. But someone who is nervous about the whole idea of working something out, who really just wants a hard-and-fast rule, will feel safest falling back on the simplest version of what the CMOS might be taken to say. Because they think following hard-and-fast rules is an end in itself, the very activity of working out a decision looks suspect -- this is not the way they use the CMOS, and anyone who does (they feel) is likely to do something disgraceful.

Helen: Thanks for visiting and commenting! I love your comparison of CMOS to the Talmud. And a production manager in book publishing who majored in film studies? Oy.

Helen DeWitt's reasoning makes great sense to me.

And now that I have read her comment to your post, I'm with you. The CMOS and the Talmud is a fitting comparison.

Keep creating...infinite games,
Mike

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