[EDITING] A question about italics

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walton
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[EDITING] A question about italics

Post by walton » Thu Jul 05, 2018 8:06 am

I am working on a client's book and a question about italics has come up. The book involves people in Sicily. Sentences, phrases, even single words of Sicilian/Italian are italicized. Generally, the reinforces the visual "sound" of the words, and it is typographic tradition. The problem comes in with foods, and plants. "Pizza" and "spaghetti" are now English words and are not italicized.

The author has "gelati" italicized, but "gelato" not. "Cannoli" is not, but "pecorino" is. Why, "Everyone knows cannoli," Do they? I think that the some are and some aren't approach (regardless of rationale), creates a sense that there is a hierarchy and since it isn't obvious, creates a nagging question that distracts from simply reading.

I've been cooking Italian food since I was five--long story--so I have no idea what is or is not a "known" word.

I think excepting "obvious" words like "pizza" makes sense, but otherwise I think either every Italian word should be italicized, or none. None: does having "carciofo" set in italics contribute anything to the reader's understanding of it? However, in "“Truly I am sorry, but we’ve had bomb threats. Non è possibile” the italicized words certainly add to the "sound" of the person speaking.

The "Manual of Style" answer is rule based. It's failing is in the "familiar words" exception, "the author or editor has to make up his own mind about this."

I lean towards all Italian words in dialogue, to suggest the sound of the speaker. Whereas in narrative or description, no italics except if the author wants the reader hear the word.
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Re: [EDITING] A question about italics

Post by Seisa » Thu Jul 05, 2018 9:31 am

There was just a thread on this topic in an editing email list to which I subscribe. This article may help: https://quartzy.qz.com/1310228/bilingua ... ish-words/.
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Re: [EDITING] A question about italics

Post by walton » Thu Jul 05, 2018 9:52 am

Interesting article, thank you! I had not thought about the monolinguistic vs the bilinguistic point of view. I also hadn't thought about the this-is-not-a-typo rationale for using italics.

Food for thought.
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Re: [EDITING] A question about italics

Post by David Wake » Mon Jul 09, 2018 12:57 am

To my mind gelati, gelato, pecorino and cannoli, and I'd even suggest making a case for pizza and spaghetti. Clearly, like all typographical elements, you need a rule and you need to stick to it consistently. I'd probably go for a 'sound' rule, if I feel tempted to use a 'funny' accent, then it's italics. Probably a good idea to generate a dictionary of all possible Italian words, including pizza and... no wait. Stet!

I no longer agree with myself. I watched the video in that article and the bloke completely convinced me - no tener pelos en la lengua as we'd say without italics.

And I've not done it myself. It happens that I started rewriting my novel set in Ancient Japan last night.

I've got:-
He was a big man, muscled despite his age beneath his sodden outer kimono; an obvious presence as he adjusted his two swords, the long Katana and the shorter companion sword, the Wakizashi, in his belt.
To my mind, I've introduced the words 'Katana' and 'Wakizashi' (with a reminder a little later), so these are now words that exist within the world of the novel and I can just use them. This is just the same as Captain Kirk drawing his phaser.

I have used Capital letters, which perhaps I shouldn't. What do you all think?

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Re: [EDITING] A question about italics

Post by Seisa » Mon Jul 09, 2018 4:16 am

David Wake wrote:
Mon Jul 09, 2018 12:57 am
He was a big man, muscled despite his age beneath his sodden outer kimono; an obvious presence as he adjusted his two swords, the long Katana and the shorter companion sword, the Wakizashi, in his belt.
I have used Capital letters, which perhaps I shouldn't. What do you all think?
I probably wouldn't capitalize those two, but I haven't edited much that used Janpanese words, so I don't know what the conventions are. Are those two words treated like proper nouns in Japanese itself? If not, if they're just regular nouns, then you probably don't need to cap them.
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Re: [EDITING] A question about italics

Post by walton » Tue Jul 10, 2018 10:54 am

In James Clavell's Shogun, he used italics in a very clever way. The book starts with lots of Japanese words, all italicized. As the main character learns Japanese, there are less and less Japanese words and less and less italicized words. So in the beginning, we are made nervous by the number of words we don't know. As the character learns and relaxes, so do we.

I just glanced through six Japanese books, translated into English, two used italics, four did not.

I coming around to this (for the Sicilian story), no italics. But it is not my decision.
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Re: [EDITING] A question about italics

Post by David Wake » Wed Jul 11, 2018 2:03 am

I think it should be katana and wakizashi, lower case, no italics, because that's how the point of view characters would think of the words. I do use capitals for the Book of Prophesy and the Art of Writing, so it makes sense to reduce the Number of Capitals.

I do like the James Clavell Shogun idea - very clever. Not one I can steal^H^H^H^H^H be inspired by for this current one.

One other point to make is that English steals^H^H^H^H^H^H borrows so many words from other languages and makes them its own. I could possibly make a case for 'katana' being an English word now, although not for 'wakizashi'.

Actually, English doesn't steal or borrow as the original language still has the word or we've no intention of giving it back. It's more like plagiarism.

Thanks to Walton for bringing this subject in such a usefully timely manner and to Seisa for advice.

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