We begin Anno Domini 2014 with a momentous announcement at The New York Times: Nicholas Kristof has dropped the middle initial from his byline.
Please remain calm. Do not panic. Remain in your seats.
Mr. Kristof is at some pains to explain that the middle initial, once a mark of gravitas, has come to look too formal, a barrier to the audience. (Neckwear is also apparently a barrier; he announces as well that he has forgone neckties and now wears open-collar shirts to the office.)
This is so cute. To reporters, the byline looms as large as a billboard on the highway. Most civilians, in my experience, glide over bylines without giving them much notice. They pay even less attention to the way journalists dress, which is probably salutary for all concerned.
Here at You Don't Say, we are not letting down the side. The middle initial, which stands for Early, my mother's maiden name, and which I have been using in my byline for more than forty-five years, stays. (I might have styled myself John Early McIntyre, but, to speak of barriers, that would have resembled those three-barrel names of twentieth-century authors no one reads any longer, like Clarence Budington Kelland in the old Saturday Evening Post.)
Keeping the bow tie, too.
Copy editors pay close attention to middle initials, a minor fetish in the trade. Close attention to middle initials is supposed to prevent confusion and misidentification, though that did not stop some ass at Wikipedia* from identifying me as the John McIntyre of Real Clear Politics. Moreover, the middle initial alone will not be of much help in distinguishing me from the John E. McIntyre, head of preservation for the National Library of Scotland; the John E. McIntyre, a chiropractor in Texas; or the John E. McIntyre, a schoolteacher in Florida convicted on child pornography charges.
You will see mindless precision on the copy desk when a copy editor marks a proof to insert the middle initial in Secretary of State John F. Kerry's name, evidently so the reader will not confuse him with all the other John Kerrys who have served as secretary of state.
Anyhow, there's a good chance that Mr. Kristof is correct, that the middle initial and the necktie are both marks of the ancien regime. If so, call me a tumbrel.
*There's a pleonastic expression for you.