2008 My Hillary Headache
posted by July 10 at 15:20 PMon
I’m finishing up a column for this week’s Stranger about how Hillary Clinton is doing in Washington State. In the piece, no surprise, I mention Bill Clinton.
So now I have two Clintons that I’m working with, which means I have to differentiate them as I’m writing, all within the confines of a short piece that can’t get too wordy. I could use the construction that her campaign seems to like and just call her “Hillary.” But there’s a sense here that this sounds demeaning, even if “Hillary” likes to be called “Hillary.”
Another option: “Sen. Clinton,” clearly distinct from “former president Clinton.” But, as you may have noticed, The Stranger is more chatty than that. We tend to drop the honorifics and just call the presidential candidates by their names, assuming everyone knows who they are and what they do. On first reference, we call former Senator John Edwards simply “John Edwards,” and after that we just use “Edwards.” Similarly, “Barack Obama” becomes “Obama” after first reference. But following this rule, “Hillary Clinton” becomes “Clinton,” which is identical to what “Bill Clinton” becomes—also just “Clinton.” Which can sometimes be confusing.
Still another option: Every time I write their names, call him “Bill Clinton” and call her “Hillary Clinton.” This sounds like an easy solution, but it looks weird in practice. I’m writing her name a lot more than I’m writing his, so the repetition of “Hillary Clinton” uses up words and starts to make the reader feel like I think he or she is stupid and wouldn’t get from the context that “Clinton” means “Hillary” when it does (which is most of the time), and doesn’t when it doesn’t.
Apparently, I’m not alone in angsting about all of this.
I’ll leave you in suspense about what I’ve decided, in consultation with the copy editors. Look for the story tomorrow—although, far more interesting than my “Hillary” vs. “Sen. Clinton” vs. “Hillary Clinton” conundrum will be a certain tidbit I’ve uncovered about her campaign in Washington State.