Things I hate about copy-editors.

There was an op-ed in the Sydney Morning Herald today. It wasn’t by a Herald writer; it was sourced from the L.A. Times. Whatever — I sure would have preferred to have seen an Australian writer get the space, but I’m not a protectionist when it comes to other things, so I sure shouldn’t be when it comes to my own industry. Evidently the editor thought the Herald’s readers would enjoy this piece.

It wasn’t that great a piece; just some woman called Amy Alkon making the perfectly fine argument that kicking an excessively disruptive child off a plane is a good idea, then using it as a battering ram to say all kinds of preposterous things. You know, opinion journalism. But I’ll show you the quotes that interested me.

Unbelievably, Root demanded the apology she eventually got from the airline (shame, shame) and hit it up for the cost of nappies and the portable cot she says she had to buy for the overnight stay.

Except Alkon didn’t say “nappies.” She’s American! It says as much right at the bottom of the op-ed! And sure enough, the original article used the word “diapers.” It also described a “portable crib,” not a “cot,” an edit I find astonishing, because I had no idea “crib” was an Americanism us Australians must be prevented from seeing for the sake of our national dignity*.

Likewise, in the Herald, Alkon is printed referring to the “Mummy Mafia,” when, of course, she wrote “Mommy Mafia.” This is an even more egregious edit; a “mummy” is quite different to a “mommy.” The images conjured up are entirely different and the notion that a mafia of one kind is identical to a mafia of the other kind makes me want to give these copy-editors nap-time with the fishes. Let me make it clear: Australians have mums. Americans have moms. American moms should be “moms,” even if an Australian is referring to them, and vice-versa. Would we really call Carmela Soprano or Marge Simpson or Peggy Bundy a “mum”? Should an American really think of Maggie Beare or Kath Day-Knight or Sal Kerrigan as “moms”? It’s preposterous!

It is time we all learned to accept that those of us around the Anglosphere speak different kinds of English. Unless that kind of English causes problems with comprehension (and sometimes even then; American publishers should not change “jumper” to “sweater”) we should retain the writer’s original voice. If the Herald thinks a woman in Los Angeles is worth publishing, it shouldn’t patronise its readers by assuming their precious cultural sensitivities will be shocked if they read that woman communicating in her natural voice.

*Come to think of it, “cot” sounds like a Britishism we should have jettisoned along with the Monarchy when we became an independent nation.