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k.d. lang – Lowercase Name, Uppercase Talent

k.d. lang

k.d. lang has racked up a number of remarkable accomplishments in a quarter-century-plus recording career that’s led to the release of her 12th studio album, Sing It Loud (now available at Starbucks).

Restlessly creative, she’s nevertheless found consistent commercial success. She’s a four-time GRAMMY® Award winner who has been called “the best singer of her generation” by no less an authority on the subject than Tony Bennett. I recall being genuinely awestruck the first time I heard her sing at the Fillmore in San Francisco. She’s got rare pipes and she absolutely knows what to do with them, as her latest album attests.

But she’s pulled off something outside the music realm that’s quite noteworthy. Somehow the woman born Kathryn Dawn Lang 49 years ago in Alberta, Canada, has convinced editors the world over to allow her to be referred to as k.d. lang – all lowercase, e.e. cummings style. I did a quick search and, sure enough, the New York Times persists in following standard guidelines for “Ms. Lang” (as she’s referred to by the Old Gray Lady after the first uppercase reference). But pretty much everyone else has fallen into line.

Trust me, that’s no easy accomplishment. I’ve been editing for a long time and I’ve had to deal with plenty of dustups with copy-desk purists who go by the book, be it The Chicago Manual of Style or the Associated Press Style Book. Copy editors don’t really want to hear that Matchbox 20 had become matchbox twenty sometime between their debut and sophomore albums. And “Because he said so” is not a particularly well-received explanation for why the name is T Bone Burnett – no period or hyphen between “T” and “Bone.” Back in the day when N.W.A was the biggest thing in hip-hop, it took true diligence to make certain someone didn’t insert a period after the “A.” And I have no idea why the first two letters are punctuated and the last one isn’t.

Kudos to k.d. lang for becoming the exception to the rule, on stage and on the page.

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