Why does The New Yorker hold out for "venders" and "focusses"?

As much as I like The New Yorker, I’ve noticed that their editors insist on the spellings “vender” and “focusses”, where most people would probably consider “vendors” and “focuses” to be correct. I find this extremely grating.

A cursor search in Google for both variations for each of the two words indicates that less than one out of a hundred would spell it the New Yorker way.

Is it just a case of the magazine doing something because they can? Were these spellings more common years ago? Does anyone else do it?

It’d be foci in my magazine…then again I “most people” was nothing I ever aspired to.

I should have been. I meant as a third person singular verb, not a plural noun. I’d say foci for the noun; since the plural only appears, AFAIK, in scientific or technical contexts where everybody would expect “foci”. In more everyday usage, it’s one of those words where the plural almost never comes up. Sort of like “penis” in that regard. There’s hardly ever any occasion to talk about more than one.

Most publications and publishers use one of a number of style guides. The New York Times, the AP, the Chicago Manual of Style are the most common. Virtually every publication also has a “house style” in which it customizes the standard style guide to its own tastes. On one book I wrote I was told I had to use the Chicago Manual but then was sent a sheet with about 50 exceptions to those rules. Not being an idiot, I quickly realized that the easiest thing for me to do was to ignore the issue entirely and let the copyeditor make the changes.

Style guides do change and update regularly, but it’s an immense burden for everyone involved. You have to learn all these incredible picky details and then unlearn them and learn new ones. That’s why good copyeditors are so prized.

And The New Yorker has always prided itself on its incredibly good, finicky, anal, obsessive, nutsoid, take your pick copyeditors. And it developed it own “house style” many years ago which, understandably, it is reluctant to tamper with. Yes, they do it to be distinctive, and yes they do it because they can get away with it, but there are also good underlying reasons for minimal changes to house styles whenever possible.

Don’t forget “coöperate” — but it’s best not to get me started on that one.

The New Yorker also likes to spell out numbers (“five thousand eight-two”), and to put titles of books, films, etc. in quotation marks instead of italicizing them.

Yeah, that’s the real noticeable oddness.

What’s so odd about using a diaresis mark to indicate that a vowel is to be pronounced in a separate syllable? Sure, most folks probably know how to pronounce “cooperate” anyway, but in other cases (for instance, the constellation Boötes), it might not be so clear. And it’s simplest to apply the same rule to all situations, or you end up having to guess which words the public knows or doesn’t know.

Isn’t it odd that no other major periodical seems to have that dilemma?

It’s odd because that’s not how the word is spelled in English - at least, anywhere outside the New Yorker. I’ve read that it used to be a relatively common thing in printed English, but it certainly isn’t anymore. But I’m willing to put up with the New Yorker’s little affectations, since it’s such a good read.

Google gives 23,600 hits for coöperate. That’s a fraction of a per cent of cooperate but hardly negligible. Especially online where most people would have to go out of their way to add the diaeresis to the o.

How do you search for that? When I try, I get the same results as for “cooperate”.

Besides, of those, what percentage of them are quoting the New Yorker or older texts that used that style or discussing the style specifically?

At any rate, with 3000 times as many hits for “cooperate”, it’s safe to say that it’s a tiny minority of usage. I’m sure there are a few other people who ostentatiously write “reëlect” and “coöperate” but it’s certainly not normal in written English. It’s certainly not taught in any school, and I doubt there’s many publications besides the New Yorker that require it in their style guides.