Thursday, April 02, 2009

Put an end to capitalism

One thing that always bewilders me about the Times and the Telegraph is their habit of using title case for ‘Left’ and ‘Right’ - and even, in today’s Times leader, ‘Centre’:

The Centre Left, by contrast with the Centre Right, has an opportune message and a clutch of would-be messengers. … There is a vacancy for a messenger with a coherent message for a global audience, waiting to govern from the Right.

These capitals make absolutely no sense to me. ‘The left’ and ‘the right’ are generalised, vague descriptions, not proper names of political movements. These terms should surely be treated in the same way as ‘socialism’, ‘democratic’, ‘moderate’ and any other number of other political labels.

To the best of my knowledge, they don’t use title case for ‘far’, so why it should apply to ‘Centre’ I have no idea.

And even in a narrower context, we still see (here in the Telegraph) the likes of “a Labour Right-wing anti-marketeer of the old school”.

To capitalise ‘Right’ here suggests that it’s a distinct grouping, some of whose members are Labour and some not. But the right wing of the Labour Party is, by the standard of the Conservatives, still left-wing. The Labour right and the Tory right are wholly distinct, not sharing any political beliefs that, say, the Tory left doesn't. This usage is category-dependent and can only serve to compare one part of that category (the Labour right) with another (the Labour left). You might as well talk about ‘a Tall office block’ and ‘a Tall man’ as if Tallness is the key identifying feature that both share.

The style seems archaic, but that’s not the problem: the problem is that it’s senseless.

Update: PooterGeek has replied, and in turn so have I.

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