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 Post subject: The capital of confusion
PostPosted: Fri Jun 18, 2004 9:21 pm 
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From two wire stories I've edited tonight (emphasis added):<p>In Iran, active faults that run through and around the capital of Tehran have already produced four or five earthquakes of at least magnitude 7, ...<p>The exquisitely inlaid and carved amber panels and ornaments adorned the walls and ceilings of a room in the 18th-century Catherine Palace, outside Russia’s pre-communist capital of St. Petersburg.<p>Am I alone in being really annoyed by this phrasing? What's wrong with just saying "through and around the capital, Tehran, have already ..." or "Russia's pre-communist capital, St. Petersburg"? Tehran is the capital of Iran; it's not the capital of Tehran.<p>Thoughts?


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 Post subject: Re: The capital of confusion
PostPosted: Fri Jun 18, 2004 9:42 pm 
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Losing the "capital of Tehran" construction is automatic and mandatory.


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 Post subject: Re: The capital of confusion
PostPosted: Fri Jun 18, 2004 10:06 pm 
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I've seen this construction a million times and never been bothered by it, but I can see how it would be confusing to someone who is bad at geography, and most Americans are.


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 Post subject: Re: The capital of confusion
PostPosted: Fri Jun 18, 2004 11:45 pm 
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You can't talk about the capital of Tehran, because Tehran doesn't have a capital -- it's just a city. Plain and simple.


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 Post subject: Re: The capital of confusion
PostPosted: Sat Jun 19, 2004 12:01 am 
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I always kill that construction. Usually, I go the appositive route:
In Iran, active faults that run through and around Tehran, the capital, have already produced four or five earthquakes of at least magnitude 7.


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 Post subject: Re: The capital of confusion
PostPosted: Sat Jun 19, 2004 2:11 am 
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<blockquote><font size="1" face="TImes, TimesNR, serif">quote:</font><hr>Originally posted by SeaRaven:
I always kill that construction. Usually, I go the appositive route:
In Iran, active faults that run through and around Tehran, the capital, have already produced four or five earthquakes of at least magnitude 7.
<hr></blockquote><p>Doing that, though, chops up the sentence with two more commas. For ease of reading, I'm not sure I mind "capital of Tehran" that much. Nobody will misunderstand. I'd rather read "He was beloved in his hometown of Chicago, where he lived most of his life" than "He was beloved in his hometown, Chicago, where he lived most of his life."<p>[ June 19, 2004: Message edited by: Todd J. Behme ]<p>[ June 19, 2004: Message edited by: Todd J. Behme ]</p>


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 Post subject: Re: The capital of confusion
PostPosted: Sat Jun 19, 2004 2:15 am 
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Commas, properly used, do not "chop up" sentences.<p>[ June 19, 2004: Message edited by: blanp ]</p>


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 Post subject: Re: The capital of confusion
PostPosted: Sat Jun 19, 2004 2:19 am 
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<blockquote><font size="1" face="TImes, TimesNR, serif">quote:</font><hr>Originally posted by blanp:
Commas, properly used, do not "bog down" sentences.<hr></blockquote><p>Properly used or not, they can screw up the pacing to the point where they aren't worth it. Aren't you the one who has talked here about tin ears?


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 Post subject: Re: The capital of confusion
PostPosted: Sat Jun 19, 2004 2:24 am 
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<blockquote><font size="1" face="TImes, TimesNR, serif">quote:</font><hr>Originally posted by Todd J. Behme:
<p>Properly used or not, they can screw up the pacing to the point where they aren't worth it. Aren't you the one who has talked here about tin ears?<hr></blockquote><p>Nothing jarring about writing or saying "... Tehran, the capital, ...." Anyhow, we shouldn't write for people who move their lips when they read.<p>[ June 19, 2004: Message edited by: blanp ]</p>


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 Post subject: Re: The capital of confusion
PostPosted: Sat Jun 19, 2004 9:51 am 
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<blockquote><font size="1" face="TImes, TimesNR, serif">quote:</font><hr>Originally posted by Todd J. Behme:
<p>Doing that, though, chops up the sentence with two more commas. For ease of reading, I'm not sure I mind "capital of Tehran" that much. Nobody will misunderstand. I'd rather read "He was beloved in his hometown of Chicago, where he lived most of his life" than "...hometown, Chicago, where he lived...."<p>[ June 19, 2004: Message edited by: Todd J. Behme ]<hr></blockquote> Except that hometown of Chicago has quite a different meaning. I have to agree that capital of Tehran is--or should be--an automatic fix.


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 Post subject: Re: The capital of confusion
PostPosted: Sat Jun 19, 2004 2:13 pm 
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<blockquote><font size="1" face="TImes, TimesNR, serif">quote:</font><hr>Originally posted by CopyMonkey:
You can't talk about the capital of Tehran, because Tehran doesn't have a capital -- it's just a city. Plain and simple.<hr></blockquote><p>Of course. But I've always accepted "the (nation)ian capital of (city)" as an evolved usage. It's never tripped up my reading. This is the first time I've seen the problem raised.<p>But you've all convinced me on this one. I won't use this construction in the future.


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 Post subject: Re: The capital of confusion
PostPosted: Sat Jun 19, 2004 2:27 pm 
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I am against the philosophy that commas break up sentences and are evil. Putting nonessential information in commas does not break up the sentence, but can add information without adding another short sentence.
... the capital, Tehran, ... or Tehran, the capital, ... would do.
In both instances, the information is not essential, but it aids the reader. I would go with the second because not everyone (sadly) knows the capital of Iran.


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 Post subject: Re: The capital of confusion
PostPosted: Sat Jun 19, 2004 11:17 pm 
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Could it be that the awkwardness of the "capital of" construction often betrays a writer cramming in a mandatory reference against his/her will? I don't know the context, but "capital" does not sound vital to the first sentence. It's probably there to set up Tehran as a population center. I'll bet there was a better place to sneak it in somewhere else in the piece.<p>Same with the second example. Adding the phrase "pre-communist capital" here is no public service for the geographically-impaired. Duh, wait, does that mean it's the capital again, now that Russia's not communist? I'd be tempted to rewrite it: "...the 18th-century Catherine Palace, outside St. Petersburg, Russia's former imperial capital."


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 Post subject: Re: The capital of confusion
PostPosted: Sun Jun 20, 2004 2:34 am 
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<blockquote><font size="1" face="TImes, TimesNR, serif">quote:</font><hr>Originally posted by Todd J. Behme:
<p>Properly used or not, they can screw up the pacing to the point where they aren't worth it. Aren't you the one who has talked here about tin ears?<hr></blockquote><p>Commas used correctly don't screw up pacing. Poor construction does.


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 Post subject: Re: The capital of confusion
PostPosted: Mon Jun 21, 2004 9:42 am 
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Of course Tehran has a capital. It is T.
(sorry, I'm in that kind of mood this morning.)


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 Post subject: Re: The capital of confusion
PostPosted: Wed Jun 23, 2004 11:47 am 
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<blockquote><font size="1" face="TImes, TimesNR, serif">quote:</font><hr>Originally posted by JPSheehan:
Could it be that the awkwardness of the "capital of" construction often betrays a writer cramming in a mandatory reference against his/her will? I don't know the context, but "capital" does not sound vital to the first sentence. It's probably there to set up Tehran as a population center. I'll bet there was a better place to sneak it in somewhere else in the piece.<hr></blockquote><p>** The story went on to discuss how a devastating quake in Tehran could cripple the Iranian government, so yes, the reference could have been worked in elsewhere, with something like "The Iranian goverment could be left in chaos by a major quake in Tehran, the capital."
In general, I'm inclined to think this construction results from a combination of allergy to commas and mistaken parallels with constructions like "his hometown of Chicago," as mentioned in this thread.


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