www.baltimoresun.com/news/language-blog/bal-fussy-fussy-fussy-20130501,0,5056769.story

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Fussy, fussy, fussy

By John E. McIntyre

The Baltimore Sun

8:42 AM EDT, May 1, 2013

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My colleague in the mysterious East Gary Kirchherr writes of a "thread on Twitter by someone who insists on using the title 'athletics director,' because said position-holder is the director of athletics, not (necessarily) a guy who's athletic." Mr. Kirchherr describes this as "idiotic pedantry."

I took a quick look at Google's Ngram viewer, which shows athletic director appearing substantially more frequently than athletics director. The former usage also appears to be the older. The Corpus of Contemporary American English brings up 188 hits for athletics director, 1,170 for athletic director. Beyond the statistics, if anyone in the audience would read athletic director, in context, as a director who is athletic rather than a director of athletics, please raise your hand.

There is a parallel pedantry about people who sell antiques. You will be told that you must call them antiques dealers, because an antique dealer would be a very, very old dealer in something or other. Once again, the Ngram viewer shows antique dealer to be the older and more frequent usage. The Corpus of Contemporary American English gives the margin to antiques dealer, 121 to 59; if you look, you will see that Country Living appears to have its thumb on the scales. Could we have another show of hands from those who would find this distinction important?

Not my business to tell you how to run your shop; I've got my hands full in my own. But if these distinctions are the sort of thing you spend time on in your shift, it may be that you are not showing those folks at corporate that your wages are money well spent.