21 July 2006

The Beeb is watching you . . .

In The Editors blog Daniel Pearl, deputy editor of BBC World's Newsnight writes:
We often have students with us on work experience. Twice in the last 6 months I've come across blogs in which people trailing the programme have written things about the team. When I approached one of these people, her resonse was that the blog was supposed ot be just for her and her friends!

It wasn't the confidentiality issue that bugged me, but that anyone would think that we as programme makers don't have as much right as everyone else to read what you're all writing, especially if you are writing about us. So what do you think? Stick it on your blog and I'll respond.
Well, I do have one thing about the BBC that has bugged me for quite some time. I've never quite been able to find a reason for something that they do. I see this as my chance to maybe get someone to answer.

The only time I get to see BBC News on the telly is when it's on late at night for a half hour on my local PBS channel, so this isn't really something I've noticed on TV as much as I've seen it all over news.bbc.co.uk. It is the habit of writing "Nasa" instead of "NASA" which is what the US media outlets as well as NASA itself uses. I've even read the UK version of Eats, Shoots and Leaves, which I do know is a book on punctuation, but I was hoping it'd say something about acronymns and the usage there of in the Queen's English. But it didn't. And the New Yorker has given me doubt that that book even gets punctuation right.

But I digress. What I'm trying to find out is why the Beeb uses "Nasa" instead of "NASA" in print. If the Beeb is really watching the Blogosphere, maybe just maybe, I'll get an answer.

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5 Comments:

Blogger Matthew said...

It's a standard British newspaper convention.

The style guideline is this: if you pronounce the acronym as a word, use upper and lower case. (Nasa, Unesco, Darpa).

If you pronounce each letter, keep it all in capitals. (WHO, UN, USA).

04:51  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi, I can beat Daniel Pearl to tha answer...
The reason the BBC uses Nasa and not NASA is that Nasa is pronounced as a word rather than an acronym. To illustrate this... when speaking, we would call the organisation as "nasser" rather than "N.A.S.A.". In another example, we write ABC (as in the broadcaster) rather than Abc as we would, when talking, say "A.B.C." not "Abcuh" or someother sort of word.
Therefore the BBC style is to publish acronyms which have become used like names themselves as if it is the actual name. And that's why it's Nasa and not NASA on the BBC.
Hope you can see what I mean?

Iain Smith, Broadcast Journalist, BBC Scotland.

07:29  
Blogger writing_here said...

Well it still strikes me as odd. It seems the idea would be to use the style prefered by the owner of the name. (Though this doesn't always go in the U. S. A. very much.) Also, I've always heard WHO said "who" and rarely W-H-O.

I guess it is just one of those British quirks like using Ss in place of Zs in some words, throwing in a U between O and R in some other words, flipping the E & the R at the end of other words, and keeping left even when walking on the high street.

17:38  
Blogger Chris said...

What I'd like to know is when/why the spelling of the words to which your refer changed. Can it have been an early example of what kids do now in texting?

18:41  
Blogger writing_here said...

It could be and it could also be that spelling used to be much more fluid that it is now. I think as more of life has become automated, people have had more time to read - books, magazines, newspapers, blogs - spelling lost it's fluidity. Also with movies, radio dramas, and TV requiring scripts words had to be spelled in a standard way. I also think the telegraph and it's written messages played a part in the standardization.

14:25  

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