Archive | February 18, 2018

Something Amiss

I’ve been reading several volumes in Flame Tree Publishing’s Gothic Fantasy series; each anthology collects a number of classic public-domain stories of mystery, horror, science fiction, etc., along with newer stories written especially for the series. The series is a lot of fun, though not without faults (the stories contain a number of misprints, and the newer stories are filled with grammatical errors).

But one feature particularly puzzled me. In the volumes I’ve read so far, the title “Miss” invariably appears with a period after it; for example, “I suppose you mean that you go about all day long with Miss Sybil Merton” becomes “I suppose you mean that you go about all day long with Miss. Sybil Merton.” (And comparison with the original stories confirms that the publisher is adding a period where there was none before.)

I think I’ve figured it out, though.

In contemporary British usage, abbreviated titles that end with the same letter as the unabbreviated title do not use a period (or, in British usage, a “full stop”), while in American usage they do. Thus where Americans would write “Mrs. Jones met Dr. Smith,” their British counterparts would write “Mrs Jones met Dr Smith.”

Yet although Flame Tree Publishing is a British press, these anthologies follow American usage with abbreviated titles. I suspect that’s because they’re marketed more for the American than for the British market (my local Books-a-Million carries large stacks of them).

So my guess is that the publisher, noting that Americans put a period after all abbreviated titles, and forgetting that “Miss” is not an abbreviation, must have assumed that those crazy Americans put a period after “Miss” as well, and duly did so throughout in order to conform to the supposed American usage.

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