Point of the post: What the hell's going on with "America"?
No, not like this: Allen Ginsberg's America. (Maybe it's not a great poem, but it's a killer rant.)
Rather, a number of my publishers insist on replacing "America/n" with "United States" or "U.S." In scholarly work, especially dealing with international relations, using the actual name of the country is more precise. The more obvious and underlying reason is an emotional one: people throughout the Western Hemisphere are "Americans," but they are not U.S. citizens. They were Americans before there was a United States, no?
I'm liking this approach more and more, although it's sometimes a pain to implement after the fact. But if authors did everything correctly to begin with, copyeditors could mostly fold their tents.
Now I'm trying to sneak in "United States/U.S." on manuscripts.
What I'd like to get a handle on, now that I have British punctuation all sorted out (see "British as a Second Language"), is what the hell's going on with "Britain"?
Here's a lesson for you newcomers: One of the best things you can do as a copyeditor is admit your own ignorance and not be afraid to display it to others. Queries get it off your mind and put the responsibility on someone else.
(Frankly, as a copyeditor, proofreader, or indexer -- and this is beside the point entirely -- I'm not paid to do the author's research. If I happen to be sitting at the computer while I'm working on a bibliography, I'll check a publisher's city name or an incongruous date. But I'm not going to spend a bunch of time doing consistency-making based on Internet searches when the author presumably has access to originals.
I will, however, query all day long. Unless the author or publisher just seems ignant.
And I'm also not, as a copyeditor, going to check to see if all the websites mentioned in the manuscript are still live. FYI.)
So, does Britain = Great Britain = United Kingdom = England? I ask because many authors appear to think so. Are the terms entirely interchangeable? Does "Britain" or "Great Britain" ever = "England"? Always? Why or why not? Are dates tied to any of the different terms? And going with the "America" thing, are there cases when "United Kingdom" is used, but it includes people who don't want to be invited to the party? Does "British" = "English"?