Sunday, November 16, 2008

Is Dr. King "late"?

I saw the term "late" used in print to refer to someone who had been dead for decades. I wondered about that and tried to look up its proper usage in the AP Manual of Style. I couldn't find it. Studs Terkel is certainly "late." He died within the past 30 days. President Reagan? I guess. He died in 2004. President Ford died and Saddam Hussein was executed in the final days of 2006. They're probably late. What about people who died in the 1990's? Princess Diana died in 1997. Is George Burns "late"? I think he died in 1996. Rudolph Nureyev died in 1993. Speaking of Soviet natives, is that miserable bastard Leonid Brezhnev "late"? He died in 1986. There certainly should be a statute of limitations on usage of the term in reference to how recently the person died. That seems to be the whole idea; "late" refers to someone who died recently. The most famous death in the 70's was probably Elvis Presley obm. He died in 1977. I don't think he's ever referred to as "late." Come to think of it, he's rarely referred to by anything other than his first name.

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