My all-time favorite was a sign on Nixon's hq in Kingston, NY, "Committee to
Reelect the "President"
----- Original Message -----
From: "Trey Bunn" <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Thursday, July 12, 2007 10:09 PM
Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] quotation marks in lists?
Thanks for your input, everyone. I knew about song titles being put
in quotes (and albums in italics); my question was whether or not it
was right to do so in a numbered list. It looks clunky and
unreasonable, plus it hits too close to one of my pet peeves: the
overuse of quotation marks. You know, like when you go to the
grocery store and the sign says, TODAY'S "SPECIAL": BOILED PIG'S BUTT
But really, the bottom line here is if my supervisor wants it done
that way, then that's how it will be done. I was hoping to be able
to counter her with something I might find (from you guys or
elsewhere) saying that such a practice was incorrect, but I never
really did. In fact, the quotations might not be so bad in a track
listing considering that some of the tracks aren't in fact songs or
don't have titles, such as in this excerpt:
1. introduction and short bios of J.C. Brock and Maurice Langley
2. Garfield’s March
3. untitled song Brock’s grandfather used to play
4. Little Birdie
5. June Rose Waltz
6. Farewell to Trion
So I don't know. It seems like it's a toss-up, one that will
probably have to bow to authority (or "we've always done it this way").
In case anyone is interested, Steve Green of the Western Folklife
Center emailed me off-list and had much to say about this, and he
gave me permission to repost to the list:
Your question is interesting to me as I've been compiling various
kinds of lists of folk music titles (especially fiddle tunes) for
many years and I've had questions too about how best to present
things. I hate to say it but I DO often use quotation marks, for a
couple of reasons, though I'll be the first to admit that nailing
down hard and fast guidelines can be a little tricky. When entering
titles directly into a database you have to know whether the quotes
are going to affect any searching and sorting aspects. In a typed or
word processed document (like a typical finding aid), I think the
quotes convey something specific.
But first it's good to think about where titles can come from:
spoken by the performer
spoken by someone other than the performer but heard on the recording
not spoken on the recording but found on accompanying documentation
(tape box, lists, etc.)
not spoken on the recording and not found on any documentation but
perhaps known to the person compiling the finding aid (for instance,
you recognize the tune as "Ragtime Annie" even though it's not listed
as that anywhere)
I like to try and make a distinction between titles that are actually
provided by the performer and those that are supplied by a third
party including the archivist.
An approach I've used at various times is to place in quotes titles
that are actually spoken or written down by the performer. Use no
quotes if the title comes from some kind of written documentation
that is directly linked to the recording (perhaps a box list or
fieldworker's field notes). Use square brackets to indicate titles
that have been supplied by the compiler from some other unidentified
source (including personal knowledge).
I'm sure you're aware that different fiddlers have different names
for more or less the same tune. By using quotes, the user of the
finding aid can see that the given title derives from the performer
directly—it's what they called the tune. Titles in brackets show that
the archivist or someone else knew what the tune was (or thought they
did) and added it.
So to answer your question, punctuation can actually convey
information about where the title came from. Using no punctuation at
all leaves the user of the finding aid trying to figure out if the
title came from the archivist or the performer. I realize that
incorporating punctuation into a computer-based finding aid may have
unintended consequences when it comes to searching and sorting—not to
mention that you may have to go back and add those quotation marks,
as you said.
I don't have any hard and fast rules that I follow—I see it more as a
desirable convention, but unless you explain the system to users in a
headnote, the subtle meaning of the various quotes and brackets may
not come across.
Alabama Department of Archives and History
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