Sunday, March 5, 2017

And His Wife

NPR has a husband-and-wife problem.

Twice in the past couple of days, I heard an announcer refer to people this way. I don't remember details about the first example, but the one from this morning concerned a pair of musicians who get away on a sailboat to write their music.

Was it relevant that they are married to each other? Not really. Did we need to be told they were a man and a woman? No. That became obvious as the story unfolded.

Even if it were relevant (which I think is the main issue), why is it always husband first, then wife? What if they were a married same-sex couple, would NPR say husband-and-husband or wife-and-wife? I doubt it.

Time to rethink this, NPR.

Meanwhile, I've been keeping snapshots of print media examples of "and his wife" or "husband and wife." Here are a few:

That one is easy to fix: why not just write, "Ask Peter Rachleff and Beth Cleary to explain their goal..."? It's completely irrelevant that they are married.

This is a classic example from the Star Tribune. Again, I question whether their mutual marital status is relevant information when they're dead. The newspaper's desire to include ages for each person prevents some options for combining more gracefully.

This one is particularly terrible, but since it's a quote from a Facebook page, I can't really blame the paper. David Crowley has a name but his wife and daughter do not.

Even globally recognized scientists get the "and wife" treatment. What would be wrong with "and a Norwegian research team"? Is the fact that they're married (and two different sexes) relevant?

You'd think since it was most likely Kristin who was bearing the baby in question, the Pioneer Press could have put her first and said "and her husband," but no.

This one from the Star Tribune is really stupid. Their ages are not really relevant, or could possibly be worked in somewhere else when they are quoted. "Now owners Bruce and Sue Kerfoot are hanging up their paddles..." The only thing that phrasing omits is the fact that they're married, which has no relevance to the topic of their retirement.

Why is John first? Or why not write "John and Roberta Frew and their son, John Jr., 47, had just..."

Even famous artists get the "and his wife" treatment.

This use of "and his wife" here particularly irks me because it falls into the old idea that men are farmers and women are "farm wives."

Hey, Pioneer Press, why not say "couple" in this case, as it does in the secondary headline above?

I have to note that it's not all bad news out there. Here are a few where it's reversed:

From Entertainment Weekly. This is the order their writing credits generally appear in, however, so all ET was doing was echoing that. Was "husband" a relevant detail? Probably not, or if it was important for some reason, it could have been introduced when that became necessary.

The woman got the blame in this case.

I don't remember how this story was framed, but for whatever reason, the photo caption focused on the woman and made the husband secondary.

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