& n’ and ‘n’

Anyone can see the difference in the present entry’s headline. But is the difference among the symbols one that makes a difference? And, if so, what does the difference mean?

Rolling Stone, the venerable chronicler of rock’s (first draft) history, prefers the ampersand: Rock & Roll. Sometimes, maybe always, with double uppercase Rs.

Currently available for purchase, the magazine has been the music genre’s diary and diarist for a half century, nearly since its invention. A pretty darn good run under single ownership. Most would call it a career.

While the magazine has had a full career, the genre is creaking and wheezing into old age. From tentative guitar licks in the 50s to simple but melodic chords (and even simpler lyrics) in the 60s, rock and roll turned angry in the 70s. Later in the decade, it became soupy and syrupy and synthy; one of those bad fashion or haircut choices one lives to regret. Or deny.

The 80s didn’t seem to differ much from what came before. Though critics will cite selected examples proving precisely the opposite. Grunge was a flash in the pan; rap and hip hop seemed like another one, but we were wrong about that.

As music became digitized, we no longer knew what a real performance or singing was. There was so much doctoring and fiddling, few were able to discriminate between talent and studio magic. Maybe it didn’t matter. Manipulating one’s voice has the same level as talent as manipulating a control board.

But through it all, RS persevered.

Rock ’n’ Roll doesn’t look “right”. Two apostrophes seem a bit too fastidious, if there is such a thing. Isn’t “fastidious” like the word “unique” – one to be used alone and without such modifiers as “very unique”? “Rock ’n’ Roll” with the double apostrophes seems the kind of presentation one might expect in the New York Times, but not a periodical focused on the subject.

Rock n’ Roll appears somewhat incomplete. Probably because it is. Though we’ve seen it used, it also seems lazy, as though pronouncing the “a” part of “and” was too much of an effort. Which it probably was in the age of slacking. An age that began young.

The ampersand has a certain elegance, one supposes, is well understood and lacks the façade of inscrutability presented by apostrophes.

Let’s go with that.

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