9/06/2011

Mr. Rewrite loves pingpong, but not this much


Mr. Rewrite ran into a pile of trouble when a story he was editing mentioned someone busing tables. It seemed reasonable, since the person performing that work is often called a busboy. And in Mr. Rewrite's experience bussing, the only other possibility, means lighthearted kissing. But his rule is to dive into the usage guides when something makes him pause.

The AP Stylebook was no help, though it calls for busing when referring to work done by buses (also AP style). The few dozen uses indexed by Google News were divided between bussing tables and busing tables. Regular Google was its usual hellish tangle of no help at all.

So Mr. Rewrite did what he should have done after the AP Stylebook failed him: He opened the Webster's New World College Dictionary, where AP turns when its stylebook doesn't address something. The entry on bus as a verb lists busing first and then bussing as an alternate spelling. Mr. Rewrite's rule – AP's too – is to go with the first option listed, so busing it is.

If the economy continues its free fall, Mr. Rewrite may well wind up busing tables. At least he'll be able to use the term correctly.

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EDITOR'S NOTE: Mr. Rewrite combined two photos above for comic effect. In reality, the athlete was bussing a track after a race.

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