Nerd Out: Top 13 Foodie Tidbits from the New AP Stylebook

The plural of "bialy" is "bialys," apparently.

The newest version of the Associated Press Stylebook showed up in the Weekly’s offices today, courtesy of Laura Dudnick of the Examiner, who may never get this particular copy back. It’s 517 pages, not including the lengthy index, and word nerds could easily get lost in it during an after-lunch food coma. 

SF Weekly uses a slightly modified version of AP style, with a couple of key differences. For instance, “Wi-Fi” reads as slightly anachronistic, like Mr. Burns enjoying “this so-called ‘iced cream.’ ” So we just write “wifi,” which we’re pretty sure everyone will be doing in 10 years, anyway — just as the AP officially de-capitalized “internet” last year. It also doesn’t have a listing for my favorite (read: least-favorite) non-word word, which is “impactful.” It’s not a word.

But food writing is full of quirks — farmers market never takes an apostrophe, for example — and judgment calls. For example, I’ve found myself stymied by “chile”/”chili.” No one disputes that the plural is “chilies,” but “chili” sounds like a bowl of bean stew and “chile” looks like a mistake stemming from the gringo pronunciation of “Chile” the country. It turns out that the preferred singular form of the pepper is in fact “chili,” with the exception of the Hatch chile from Hatch, N.M. 

Here are some other good ones:

bialys. It’s apparently the plural of “bialy.”

Broccolini. It’s capitalized, because it’s a trademarked name. (Same with “Bing cherries.”)

bloody mary. Not capitalized! But “Bellini” and “Negroni” are.

Dr Pepper. Were you aware there’s no period after “Dr”? I was not.

french fries. Although French bread, French dressing, and French toast are all capitalized, “french fries” is not, because in that case “french” refers to the style of cut, not to France itself. (Mind. Blown.)

IHOP. Normally, AP style insists that acronyms be spelled out on the first reference, but apparently “IHOP” is OK. So is “MSG.”

kitchen parchment. Don’t you dare call it “parchment paper” or “baking paper.” This is the proper term.

molly. You can refer to MDMA by this slang term and still abide by the standards of journalism.

Monterey Jack cheese. Both words take capitals, but if you’re talking about “pepper jack,” neither does.

nan. I have spelled this Indian flatbread with two a‘s my whole life.

pimento/pimiento. The former is a tree and a berry, the latter a sweet pepper.

scotch. It’s not capitalized unless you’re referring to it as “Scotch whisky,” in which case it is. (Also, it’s “whiskey” if the country that produced it has an e in its name, and “whisky” if it doesn’t.)

zip-close bag. Just as you can’t refer to a tissue as a “Kleenex,” calling all bags “Ziplocs” confuses a brand name with the generic object. However, the AP is cool with “dumpster.”

Also, under the entry for “espresso,” the AP gently reminds us not to call it “expresso,” which feels almost passive-aggressive (in a good way) since, while people say it wrong all the time, you very seldom see it written incorrectly. Oh, and there’s an entry for avocado toast. Just sayin’.

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