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Hillary Yoghurt Rodham Clinton – Wikipedia and Titles

by Cornpone T. McGillicutty

 

It’s that time of year again, when the sun shines brightly in the sky. A time of burgeoning hope and celebration.

Time to decide again for another year whether the Wikipedia article on the previous U.S. Secretary of State, former Senator from New York, wife of former President Bill Clinton, candidate for President of the United States, should be called ‘Hillary Rodham Clinton’ or ‘Hillary Clinton.’

…and you thought you had spent a few days without doing anything useful?

One participant in this bun fight earlier wrote an essay called the Yogurt Principle.

Not only does this essay describe a seven-year battle to decide whether the popular fermented milk product should be called Yoghurt or Yogurt, listed therein are several more titular wrangles, such as city names, powerful and fabulous people (Napoleon and Beyoncé) and movie titles.

Oh yes, movie titles. *guffaws*

A nasty recent one not mentioned in that essay was Star Trek Into Darkness vs Star Trek into Darkness.

*squints*

No, you haven’t gone blind. It was about…

xkcd and 'Star Trek Into Darkness'

Now you might well be asking why an online encyclopedia would have so much everlovin’ trouble picking the title of an article. Your actual problem is confusing Wikipedia for an actual encyclopedia. Actual, real-life encyclopedias, online or not, have an editorial staff.

Wikipedia does not have an editorial staff. Had it one, this would have been resolved quickly, and a ‘redirect’ from the name not picked would have made.

I do not use the term ‘editor’ here because you might retort that “Wikipedia is absolutely lousy with editors.” …and portions of that sentence are stunningly correct. Especially the ‘lousy’ part.

But a Wikipedia ‘editor’ does not resemble your traditional member of an editorial staff in function or appearance nor behavior.

A member of an editorial staff has experience, accountability, and a paid job. They often use soap. They get along with co-workers.

A Wikipedia ‘editor’ is anybody with an opinion and five minutes available to create a free anonymous account. They have opinions. Don’t we all?

Now at the moment, the roller derby at Mrs. Clinton’s Wikipedia article has slammed into the floor in favor of Hillary Clinton (THL), based mostly on references in campaign stories and official websites.

But I do warn you, friend, I do, the day of reckoning is fast approaching, in the present Wikipedia culture that Miz Clinton’s article title will have to change at least one more time, and based on what happened to that great entertainer Beyoncé Knowles, the final outcome will be, after a bruising civil war, all too obvious: Hillary! (THL)

The ‘culture wars’ continue. If you pry the lid off Wikipedia, don’t be too grossed out by what you find. Expect an interesting aroma.

 

Image credit: Randall Munroe  ~  licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.5 Generic


Editor’s note: for another fun edit war about what to call gasoline, click here. Wikipedia also maintains a special page for cataloging edit wars over article names.

4 comments to Hillary Yoghurt Rodham Clinton – Wikipedia and Titles

  • After settling the title, the denizens of Miz Clinton’s talk page then had a shorter battle about which name to use in the infobox, which is, as it suggests, the box of information to the right inside the article.

    You can’t make this stuff up.

  • The problem arises because Wikipedia has not only crowdsourced its content creation, but has crowdsourced the editorial rules the content should follow. Imagine the chaos if each rule on Strunk and White’s “The Elements of Style” was made by the most powerful group of contributors to each page. The rules be impossible to follow because they’d be constantly changing, and there would be no consistency across pages. Imagine the different factions vying to add or remove the Oxford Comma!

    This does not happen in a traditional publishing system, which usually has a person called a “publisher” or a “managing editor” at the top of a hierarchy. The Publisher, along with the professional editorial team creates a style guide that everyone in the hierarchy has to abide by or they get kicked off the project. This means that everyone knows where they stand. But wikis are not about consistency, or simplicity, they are about power. When everything is up for grabs, everyone wants to grab something. And if that means gaining power by arguing endlessly about the spelling of Yoghurt, then so be it. It’s a feature, not a bug.

    These discussions give zero benefit to the reader and suck everyone’s time. Time is the most wasted commodity on a wiki because they runs on the idea that there is an infinite amount of time to perfect the system. The wiki system is the most inefficient way to create content yet imagined, and has resulted in millions of hours of lost productivity. Yet as more people leave the site, who will be left to keep these useless discussions going?

  • A,V.

    Clearly, you’ve never seen the fun of the page for the Chevalier d’Éon, where they were so tired of having a quasi-permanent tug-of-war over pronouns that they cut the Gordian knot by avoiding pronouns altogether. (The French wiki, probably wary of all this gender-versus-sex twaddle, follows biology and has him as male.)

  • Blurgle

    The problem also exists because Wikipedia is lousy with right-wing mega-extremist culture warriors intent on outlasting other editors in order to introduce plausibly deniable sexism and (above all) homophobia into articles. This is especially true with respect to history, where people considered to have had a positive influence have their articles straightwashed, while those considered negative have their articles gaywashed or even manipulated to conflate homosexuality and pedophilia. Happens all the goddamn time.