Thursday, October 27, 2011

Integrity and citations

Section 17.274 of The Chicago Manual of Style, 15th ed., was quite excellent:
To cite a source from a secondary source (“quoted in...”) is generally to be discouraged, since authors are expected to have examined the works they cite. If an original source is unavailable, however, both the original and the secondary source must be listed. (ellipsis in original)
One imagines the composer of “authors are expected to have examined the works they cite” inwardly rolling her or his eyes at needing to point this out. And note the antepenultimate word of the quotation; that must is very non–Chicago Manual (imagine the post-non hyphen as an en dash). That part about “is generally to be discouraged” is more in keeping with the manual’s usual tone. But the must is called for; it’s a matter of integrity. I’ll keep this anecdote as vague and boring as possible for the sake of confidentiality. I chose masculine pronouns with the help of a flipped coin.

The author of a book I worked on cited a few dozen sources written in some language other than English. Fine and dandy; happens all the time. I edited the book, and he sent back his emendations. One of them changed the correct spelling of the word for “Proceedings” in a journal title in that other language to an incorrect spelling. My employing university’s library catalogue lists over a hundred journals whose titles begin with the correctly spelled word; nothing in the library has as a keyword (author, title, or subject) the incorrectly spelled version. The misspelled version doesn’t appear in the dictionary of that language that my department owns, and it gets zero Google hits in that language. I may or may not know that language, but I either know or suspect that the incorrect spelling clusters more consonants than that language can bear.

We all misspell things in languages we know, and we mistype words we know how to spell. But this guy took a correctly spelled word and actively changed it into a misspelled version. And it isn’t an obscure word, certainly not to any scholar who reads in the language. This suggests to me that he doesn’t know the language he was citing works in. If he “examined” them, as the manual expected him to do, his examination was meaningless.

What did I do about this? Not a heck of a lot I could do. I asked him to confirm the correction, suggesting that he may have been right the first time. Did I ask him whether he did in fact examine all the materials he cited? Of course not. Nor did I ask him to remove all citations in that language. All I could do was get annoyed and write this post.

Why did I cite the fifteenth edition of the manual when the sixteenth is now available? Because that section got seriously muushed in section 15.52 of the sixteenth:
If an original source is unavailable, and “quoted in” must be resorted to, mention the original author and date in the text, and cite the secondary source in the reference list entry. The text citation would include the words “quoted in.”
The use of imperatives instead of passives is good (no, that wasn’t sarcasm), although some might find the eye rolling and the must of the older version preferable (although I did try using a Chicago tone after the comma).

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