Friday, August 17, 2007

Baloney Vs. Bologna: An Editing Dilemma

Bologna, the sausage, appears in the second Girl/Boy book. I wanted to call it baloney because I don't know anyone, myself, who pronounces it bologna, and this is a book for first through third graders. I didn't know if they'd even be familiar with the word "bologna." I don't know many adults among my acquaintances who would know how to pronounce that word if they saw it in print. Though that may just be the company I keep.

Well, I looked up baloney in a couple of dictionaries. Both of them described it as a variant of bologna. Good enough, I thought. I should be able to use it.

When the book came back from copy editing, my favorite copy editor had replaced baloney with bologna. So when I responded to the copy editing changes, I asked if there was a compelling reason why we couldn't stick with baloney. It wasn't a make or break issue for me, by any means, but I wondered if it wasn't a case of being realistic vs. being excruciatingly correct. Given a choice, I'll always go with being realistic.

Between the time I sent off my responses and the time I talked with my editor, I read Melvin Beederman Superhero, Terror in Tights. Bologna, the sausage, figures prominently in that story, and the word appears as bologna, not baloney. This gave me pause, since the Beederman books are written for the same age group as the Girl/Boy books.

So my editor and I discussed this over the phone this past week. By that point, I was no longer confident that I wanted to stick with baloney, but I still wanted to run it past everyone. My main editor (think conceptual/content editor) got together with my copy editor (think grammar and usage editor), who felt quite strongly that bologna is the sausage and baloney is foolishness.

My concept editors and I have always had a policy of deferring to the copy editor on lines, words, punctuation, etc. Given that she wanted to go with bologna and Melvin Beederman went with bologna, I am now going with bologna. And I'm very satisfied with that decision.

It took three of us to resolve this dilemma, and it only related to one word. This is why I like editing and editors. I don't want the burden of making these decisions by myself.


Chris Barton said...

This reminds me of a three-way conversation among two Charlesbridge editors and me over whether the appropriate reference for the 1950s was "Popular Science" or "Popular Science Monthly." We talked about the font size used for "Monthly" on the magazine cover, the primacy of the wording on the cover vs. the wording in the table of contents, etc., and the thing that really came through was just how much these folks cared about getting things right -- even to the point of sweating nitpicky details that few readers would ever notice.

Not that "bologna" isn't a big deal. You don't mess around with lunch meat.

Gail Gauthier said...

In Melvin Beederman bologna could turn deadly.

I think a lot of editing relates to very unexciting things like spelling, font size, and the wording in tables of contents. That kind of thing makes a world of difference.

grrlpup said...

This makes me miss the late '70s, aka my youth: every kid used to know the commercial that ended "cause Oscar Meyer has a way/ with B-O-L-O-G-N-A."

Gail Gauthier said...

When my computer guy heard about the baloney/bologna problem, he said, "How does Oscar Meyer spell it? Well, then, why are you even discussing it?"

The weiner people are the final authority as far as he is concerned.

Liz B said...

As soon as I read this post, I began to sing, My baloney has a first name....

J. L. Bell said...

Surely someone at your publisher has read From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, in which the baloney/bologna/Bologna connection is a crucial plot point. Is that not enough of a literary precedent for the copy editor?

Gail Gauthier said...

It's been years since I've read that book, and I think I saw a post about it at the Newbery Project. Perhaps this is a sign I should try to reread.