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Secularize that door and come sip down. Oh, yeah, take off your clock and give it to the foodman. He’ll put it in the closed.


Okay, I run the absolute same test for indie books as I run for trads, and 99% of them pass them, same as trads: don’t hit me with five typos in the first paragraph, and we can stay friends. Otherwise I return the book and get another one.

(Weirdly, one of the ones that didn’t pass was a thriller with thousands of reviews, and the typos while not as bad as that paragraph above were bad enough I realized I was struggling to figure out what he was saying by the end of the second page, and I just didn’t want to work that hard.)

No. I’ve never come across that paragraph above, though I’ve seen typos in all those words, in different books.

And yeah, I know, right? Like I should throw stones on typos.

I don’t. Honestly I don’t. Except when they a) throw me out of the story. b) are really, really, really funny. Sometimes I feel I should keep a file of funny typos, because well….

I don’t really sweat the wrong verb tense. Putting a d at the end of a word happens, and is really hard for copyeditors to catch. And my “the things that copy editors miss” is pegged at someone killing a character twice and it making it to publication. (Phillip Jose Farmer, last book of the World of Tiers. At least the edition I read. And heck, in Noah’s boy, I introduce a character twice and not only did all copy editors miss it, but so did I. I should go in and fix it, I should. And I will within the next month.)

I also don’t sweat things like breathe and breath, even though it’s one of my pet peeves (I cuddle him, and feed him, and call him George.)

But normally the truly bizarre typos are easily understood, either a letter confusion, or a letter added or removed. Like when the regency gentleman hands the footman his clock. It threw me completely, because I’m seeing the movie in my head, and suddenly he’s taking a grandfather’s clock out of his pocket and handing it to the footman. Took me a second to realize he handed him his clock and his cane and go, OH cloak!

And I confess that I’d never before realized those were one single letter off.

However periodically you come across an author, who seems to be an English language native speaker (I’m if anything too sensitive to signs of ESL) and who writes well, but consistently uses a word not just wrong, but BIZARRELY wrong.

In this case, the author kept having people secularizing doors. And I kept going “were they religious before? did they give entrance to some kingdom yet unknown?”

It was done with such regularity — and yes, she obviously meant SECURING — that it’s either a single, massive search-replace snafu (say she misspelled secured — I don’t know how. You figure it! — and decided it was easiest to replace it all and somehow typed in secularized. (I once had one of those, where I accidentally replaced a misspelled word with a copied paragraph. My manuscript grew three times…. Eventually I figured it out))

Or, and this is the hypothesis I find fascinating, she was — like me — a precocious reader, too lazy to have recourse to the dictionary, and assigned words meanings by context.

I, for instance was in my teens when I realized that “aboriginal” (in Portuguese) did not mean savage, but “The original of its kind in the region.” And I only found out because I used it in an essay and the teacher kept asking “Aboriginal from where?” and I couldn’t figure out why that was germane…. And we won’t go into the fact that I thought sperm meant seed (well, it does! From the Greek) and started expatiating on the seed of something or other, but using the “classy” word at the table, and mom sent me to bed without dinner for indecent talk.

I mean, is it possible this woman somehow got the idea that secularize meant to secure? I can’t actually figure out a context in which she would think so, but the idea amuses me greatly. Mostly because sooner or later she’s going to use it in speech. “I want to secularize these documents.”

Of course, this is the way long running jokes are created in my family. Mostly through younger son’s spokeo’s. Like when he asked to be crucified AFTER death. (By which he meant cremated.) Or when he told his grandfather our newly purchased Victorian had Syphilis in the basement. (He meant asbestos, and that one truly is a complete puzzle to me. How did he confuse those two? I don’t know. And extra points to my — New England native — FIL for just going “uh uh. How interesting.”

A friend’s typo accident means we now have an effrontery door. As in he told me he’d come by between eleven and twelve, and if I were in the backyard, leave the effrontery door open.

That poor door is now the effrontery door forever. As in, Dan will shout from his office: “Can you get the effrontery door? Someone rang and I can’t go.”

Strangers will probably think we’re crazy.

But at least we always secularize the door when we’re done.

Can’t have the door going around doing Gregorian chants or something. It will cause talk.

367 thoughts on “Eh?

    1. Maybe not so much. I have a friend who speaks well, but when he writes? Malaprop Man! He has his wife edit his stuff and she knows to look out for them

        1. Brain goes faster than the hand. I seem to remember someone like that. Who was ecstatic when going from typewriter to computer, because you could type *faster* on a non-mechanical (keys went *thunk!* when pressed hard enough to register the letter) keyboard.

          Then you have those of us that had issues learning to talk (not so much read), because the brain goes faster than the mouth… Actually, I still have that. But with more decades of practice.

            1. Mine said I had horrible handwriting because I didn’t bother. In retrospect she was wrong. I had horrible handwriting because I had sensory issues. Now I have horrible handwriting because I RARELY use it.

              1. “horrible handwriting because I RARELY use it.”

                My handwriting is legible, mostly (must admit, good way to hide “I do not know how to spell this”). What is interesting is I have had people mention my handwriting changes over longer script. To the point where “profiling me” based on my handwriting = multiple personality (wrong … but whatever). Been sometime now. because, it is so much easier just to type and print if I must write longer than a short paragraph, or a list.

                Despite my handwriting readability deteriorating, I am the one in the family, who ends up filing out forms, because my handwriting is “legible”. My husband, and son’s, handwriting is horrible. They were both taught “penmanship” in school. Son even had to get a “allowed to write in cursive” card. Now schools locally have dropped penmanship from the curriculum.

              2. The Reader has horrible handwriting because his mother switched his hand orientation at an early age. Every time the Reader picked up a fork in his left hand she moved it to his right hand. She had some notion about left handed people disrupting dinner parties.

              3. Mine was correct in her assumption of that.

                So far as typos go, I believe that, among all of the stuff that I have actually paid you for, I have encountered perhaps a half dozen. When the entertainment is free, getting more than I paid for is a blessing. (Which is very much the case here at ATH or MGC or IP.)

          1. Ha! I resemble that learning to talk thing. Not really that I had trouble learning to speak as a child, but in that there’s a very low data-rate connection between brain and tongue. I speak slowly and deliberately because slow is the only speed I’ve got. Even then, things frequently collide on that rickety rope bridge that traverses the thought-to-speech gap and nothing comes out at all. One of many things I like about writing is that it doesn’t have that limitation.

            1. Well, as understanding is nigh on a human universal in a mate, I’d say he lucked out. Himself knows there’s days I don’t know half what I speak.

      1. Malapropisms have become common due to poor teaching of the English language in secondary schools and auto-destroy…I pretty much just ignore them these days…

    2. Autocorrupt will do that. Just last week a colleague used rouge state when he meant rogue state ’cause rouge is tots a word.

    3. Some are pretty obviously dictation-with-accent vs voice-recognition goofoos.

      Still funny as hell, tho.

      Back in the DOS era, a friend wrote a basic text-to-speech program. Thanks to that I still want to pronounce “spaceman” as “spaz-ee-man”. 😀

      1. Back in the late 90s, a friend got a text-to-speech program, and we had a happy hour or two teaching it to read Shakespeare properly. (Through creative misspellings and bizarre punctuation, you could get a good Hamlet out of it.)

      1. On that note, do you mind if I play with it?

        I promise I’ll take good care of it, and walk it twice a day.

    4. I read a book in which all references to Mass (the service) were “MASS.”

      I suspect search and replace.

      1. Took my Protestant self a minute there; possibly because the excitement had commenced by the time I read it. Kid survived first wreck about 7:30 (straightened a curve into a field). We took that individual to local hospital to be checked. Thankfully we were sent to the children’s ER* which was almost empty. Doctors concurred with on-site med techs (first being woman whose house is in curve the that wasn’t made): you’re going to be sore tomorrow.

        *Despite patient being old enough to vote.

        And this is a praise report.

        1. Sounds similar to the accident I had at 19. Difference I spun off the curve in the line that would had happened if I’d continued straight instead of taking the curve in question. Also different for the homeowners from the wreak that occurred the prior week. They “thought” they heard tree limbs brushing the house. But they didn’t have any trees close enough to the house and no wind. That was the (expensive oak) tree falling that stopped my car. No damage to the house, not even paint scratched. The prior week? They heard a sports car miss the curve and take out the power line pole, about 10 feet off the ground, and the consequences of that (driver did not survive). That driver’s car was speeding so fast the car flew off the road. My car to compare was going a measly 25 MPH into the spin. Also different in that I was at the front door, with my dog, as they got the front door open. It is amazing how fast one can move when adrenaline is involved. First words out of their mouth were “were you thrown from the car?” I was not, neither was the dog. Nor were either of us thrown around in the car. I refused to go to the emergency room until she’d been seen by the veterinarian. Which is something because probably the first thing I ever disobeyed my parents on at that scale, I was 19. Shaken, and bruised. But no shock (worry for the dog) for either of us.

          1. My offspring went past the house, missed the guy wires and the light poles behind them, the county line sign, and a mailbox. Vehicle (per neighbor following) went briefly airborne. Car hit ditch (on its passenger side, apparently), crossed into field and spun half-way around, pointing backwards from prior direction of travel. Tow truck driver drove it out of the field in lieu of winching (and upcharge). Vehicle might be repairable, according to the first adjuster I talked to.

            1. Offspring was lucky to thread everything. My car was totaled. Front wheels were through the long wide curve, was just starting to accelerate out of it, when back wheels (1966 Impala) spun out swinging front to an old abandoned farm gas tanks. I over corrected to the right. Do you know by the time you think “don’t hit the breaks” it is too late? Actually ended up spinning clockwise backward through the curve off the right side of the road. Totaled vehicle because the trunk of the tree was 24 inches into the car frame, right at the structure between the two doors, on driver’s side (went off the right sided of the road into the tree, with the left side of the car; figure out the physics of that). Into the car back of the front seat, and OVER the backseat foot well, and OVER Shilo (the dog). If it had been hit any further forward, I would have been in the hospital, at minimum. Any further back or if she hadn’t been trained to stay put, she’d been killed or damaged enough to have to been put down. A smaller car? Same results only higher chances we’d both been killed when tree was hit. Estimated speed based on skid marks? 25 MPH. It was the spin, which, once in it, was physics playing out. The only item thrown out of the car? My overnight case (also lucky it didn’t hit me on the way out). Car was towed home. Sat there for a few weeks. Mom and Dad put the word out. Anyone they knew that had a 15 – 18 year old driver or soon to be one brought the young driver around. “The driver was going 25 MPH …” By the way. This accident took place April 1977.

              Glad your offspring was lucky, and is okay. Your offspring won’t forget anytime soon, or ever, either.

  1. And as WP reminds me (it gave me your “The Enemy” posts, OG and BFTP, about misspelled woids) in a roundabout way, there are then those who will wordplay and folks will totally take it as unknowing misuse.

    1. With hearing most charitably described as mediocre, I find myself looking up lyrics to various songs. Of course, some of those show the Lady’s influence.

      1. Especially ones with Briticisms. For years I thought a certain line in “Jumping Jack Flash” was back in for gas. The fact that I first discovered the Stones during the early 70’s Energy Crisis probably didn’t help. Gas was on all our minds back then.

  2. Thank you, Sara, for the giggles. While my pet peeves with words are relatively few (Manny, Moe and Jack) I do love a good auto-correct and regularly experience paroxysms of mirth while reading some of them. Kudos to you for sharing your expedient 😉

      1. I thought there were 5 guys named Moe?

        They came out of nowhere
        and that don’t mean a thing.
        They rate high and you’ll know why
        when you hear them swing.

        Highbrow, lowbrow all agree
        They’re the best in the harmony
        I’m telling you folks you just gotta see
        Five guys named Moe!

          1. Which means that somebody has to leave this here:

            Returning to the ostensible subject matter, I began my professional life as a proofreader, and the steady decline of the typesetter’s and editor’s arts has rubbed itself in my face for forty years now. It appalls me that “sank,” “shrank,” and “stank” have apparently dropped out of the language completely, and the distinction between “lie” and “lay” is as lost as Lemuria. Growl.

            1. I completely understand the definitional distinction between “lay” and “lie.”* It’s the conjugations that trip me up! I know which one I mean, just not necessarily the word that means what I mean.

              *And raise and rise. The Britishism “pay rise” will never stop sounding weird. Pay rates must be increased; they don’t do it by themselves.

              And strong verbs forever! I snuck out and dove into the pool; not I sneaked out and dived into the pool.

              1. When I was in elementary school, “sneak” was not an acceptable strong verb. We were taught that it was “I sneak, I sneaked, I have sneaked.” “Snuck” was part of the vulgar tongue, not something an educated person would use.

            2. The one that burns me is the loss of blest, leapt, etc., A right papist thing, but they’ve completely destroyed the rhythm of the divine praises in English by using blessed instead of blest.

              1. Hast thou ever noticed that many languages have problems with second person?
                Some have FOUR or FIVE different words that translate into English “you” (Spanish, depending on whether “vos” is part of the vocabulary in the specific country in question).

            3. When I went towok for the Army,40-odd years ago, they were earnestly tying to eliminate passive voice in tech writing and correspondence. When I left 32 years later, it was still going strong. One of my bosses used to change my active voice to passive because, “it sounded better.” I second your growl and add a hiss.

              1. Eh, passive voice can be appropriate in professional writing when you want to emphasize the action being done instead of the actor. Instructions or descriptions of methods are great uses for passive voice. e.g. “The test tube was partially filled with a solution of ammonia, then hydrochloric acid was added.” Who created the chloramine gas isn’t the important part; this passage is describing how it was done.

                The problem is when the passive voice is deliberately used to hide the actor. The above passage is fine for a chemistry safety textbook describing improper lab behavior, but it’s terrible for the lab’s incident writeup that does need to specify who was creating chemical weapons so the lab supervisor knows who to expel from the class.

                There’s a saying that “Success has a thousand fathers, but failure is an orphan.” The problem with many uses of the passive voice is that it’s used to express that concept grammatically, e.g. “I succeeded” and “mistakes were made.”

              2. I remember learning of the active voice being the correct Army writing style. Someone needs to tell the officers, I thought.

          1. Wait, what? You mean after they lifted my Bilbo (yes, my car has a name and furthermore, it’s a relatively masculine name) with the Sky Hook to investigate odd machine noises, they were supposed to check the Blinker Fluid? I’m shocked, I say, shocked!

            1. Full service gas station, pump drone walks up to boss, “Customer wants me to change the air in their tires. He won’t let me just check them.” Boss- “Use the Stem tool and pull the core. Don’t lose the core! Let air out until the tire squats and looks almost flat, put the core back in, and then fill-em back up. If that doesn’t satisfy him tell him more is a rack fee and cost $100. He used to want the air rotated.”

  3. Ah yes, the joys of correctly spelled words in a manuscript that are simply the wrong word.
    Comes from folks putting far too much faith in Microsoft Word’s spell checker function.
    Brings up echos of the classic quote: “that word does not mean what you think it means.”
    But that other thing you’re talking about and what I especially try to look for is those vexing continuity errors, those cases when a simple fact is either repeated or two are in direct conflict with each other.
    Had a case where in context a handgun had to have been a revolver, yet later in the police investigation it was categorically stated to be an automatic. Of course that’s the sort of nit that 95% of readers would never pick up on, but drives gun geeks like me bonkers.
    I do derive considerable pleasure in doing beta and copy edits for a few friends. Even though a couple of conversions from Word Perfect did have me barking at the moon in the wee hours as I recall. Artifacts up the wazoo!

    1. One suspects there are more examples of automatic revolvers in fiction than the Webley corporation ever made.

    2. Now there’s a common one! I perform an adult storytime on Zoom the first Monday of the month, and my last show featured “The Most Dangerous Game” … which I didn’t notice contained that selfsame error when first read back in middle school, but jumped out right in my face during rehearsal. I corrected it during the performance (Richard Connell, please forgive me, wherever you are). The difference between middle school and now is … now I own guns.

    3. At some point I should perhaps look up whether Saberhagen, in the beginning of the Sword books, actually left room for one of them to have a hilt of wood rather than black iron. But I did like the effect.

      Possibly the funniest one I’ve seen lately was fiction/friction.

      Possibly the most baffling is weary/wary. Usually I’m pretty sure based on context, but sometimes it is not altogether clear whether a character is cautious/uneasy or just getting fed up.

      1. I don’t remember the Swords having any black iron on them. The grips were described as smooth and black, with inscribed white identifying symbols — Townsaver had a stone wall with a sword sticking up above it, Coinspinner was a pair of dice, Sightblinder was an eye, which you could only see while holding the Sword.

        Lessee, there were also Woundhealer, Shieldbreaker, Soulcutter, Farslayer, Stonecutter, Dragonslicer, the Mindsword and 2 more.

        1. Wayfinder and… and… bah, I had to look it up. Doomgiver.

          Hmm. Well, maybe I am wrong about the black hilts being explicitly metal earlier in the series.

    4. It was a Mateba Model 6?

      From me, an and and are always problems, as well as any combination of from, form, for, fom or of.

      Dyslexics of the world untie…

    5. I gave MHI to my local gun nut (Shooting Sports instructor and director) and his wife reports that he is HIGHLY pleased by the accuracy.

    6. An automatic? Not a semi-automatic? So two errors in one word?

      I, having shot a gun approximately three times in my entire life*, at least know what a semi-automatic is. But if I were writing a story in which a gun featured prominently in the plot, I’d still contact certain people I know to ask them to check the details.

      * One gun safety class where I shot a revolver, one time visiting a distant relative who had quite a collection and let me fire a few of them at his outdoor range (all semi-autos as I recall, though it was a dozen years ago), and one time shooting clay pigeons with a shotgun.

      1. Firearms, law, medical stuff- these are the big three that, if you don’t have first hand knowledge and training, you need subject matter expert input. Heck, even in the fields that I *have* training in, I’d want an SME’s input just to make sure my info isn’t out of date.

      2. The language as used is sloppy. Pistols that feed ammunition serially from a magazine through a single chamber and firing mechanism are commonly called ‘automatics’. A more technically correct term would be ‘autoloaders’ because they automatically extract the spent case and lock the next round into the chamber without any action on the part of the shooter. A true automatic pistol would also fire the next round, and the next, as long as the trigger is held down.

        I think ‘automatic pistol’ is here to stay, though. It’s baked right into the name; .45ACP stands for ‘.45 caliber Automatic Colt Pistol’.
        The Democrats trust violent criminals and terrorists with guns more than they trust you.

      1. Ah, but there are ever so many dialects to choose from:
        British posh
        East End
        New England
        And at risk of a flying carp, Valley Girl

        1. My native tongue is Old Brooklynese, a dying language, true, but mine own. I sound like a slightly less nasal bugs bunny.

            1. Many years ago the King of the East in the SCA was from Jersey City. His courts were highly entertaining.
              “Youse guys died good. I’m proud of youse.”

          1. I’ve seen at least one anime series (Martian Successor Nadesico) where the licensing company added English subtitles for a short scene with English dialogue. All of the voice actors were native Japanese with very strong accents that made the spoken English nearly unrecognizable.

      1. A friend of mine attributed the traditional gallantry of the Irish policemen to their mother’s saying Saint Patrick’s Breastplate over them every morning. The end is better known (Christ above me, Christ behind me, etc.,) but this bit seems appropriate for the times.

        I summon today
        All these powers between me and those evils,
        Against every cruel and merciless power
        that may oppose my body and soul,
        Against incantations of false prophets,
        Against black laws of pagandom,
        Against false laws of heretics,
        Against craft of idolatry,
        Against spells of witches and smiths and wizards,
        Against every knowledge that corrupts man’s body and soul;
        Christ to shield me today
        Against poison, against burning,
        Against drowning, against wounding,
        So that there may come to me an abundance of reward.

        The bhoys are marching on 5th Avenue today. Every year since 1762. Even during the Covidicy, at least the marshals marched to maintain the line of march. It started as a civil rights parade and seems to becoming one again.

      2. For some today is not only St. Patrick’s day, but forever, “Change Day”. (“Die’s the Fire” – Stirling). Haven’t checked FB private groups to see if the annual “Where were you in ’98 Mar 17? If author’s thumb on the scale gave advance notice, or correct intuition, what would/could you do? Where would you go?” discussion has started.

        Regarding misspelling and the wrong word. I have gotten better (not cured) about not selecting the wrong word when auto correct lists the wrong words for what I’m misspelling. Which happens ALL the time. Worse, the fun people can have at my expense when I mispronounce words, that when corrected, even I don’t know how I mispronounced it so badly (I am NOT ESL). Parisian (name of a vehicle) came out “Parissianie” (Do Not Ask, I Do Not Know).

        OTOH mispronouncing is a factor of my ability to type a word, have it be marked misspelled then to have auto-corrupt bring up a list of not related words. To the point, after two or three tries, I will change a sentence structure to use a different word, or give up on the comment.

        I do know how we, have “freezers” in the freezer. Just like Sarah’s front door is forever the “effrontery”, Reece’s are, forever, “Freezers” … (We freeze Reece’s Buttercups. Freezer is a toddler’s mispronounce AND the truth.)

        1. I find it highly “Iconic” that I have to misspell a word correctly in order for spellcheck to identify the correct corrections.

          1. I know. It is very irritating. I also find it ironic (I like “Iconic” too) that I can get better results with search of the word on DuckDuckGo. A recent discovery. In fact often, when I really need a particular word, often DuckDuckGo is the only thing that works.

              1. True.

                What are they going to learn? I can’t spell? This is news? I am going to enjoy driving their analytical software into a spin 🙂 I’ll also use it for those “I know the word I want but I can’t recall it”. Not like I’m doing research on the impact if X happens for fiction I’m not writing …

                It is weird. Because their commercials are explicit for “what you search for is none of our business” VS the other guys.

  4. “Aboriginal” means that in English too.

    A category that both C and I complain about is using a noun instead of the perfectly good cognate verb: “to gift” instead of “to give” or “to loan” instead of “to lend.” (James Joyce displays the proper use of the latter in the first chapter of Ulysses, when Buck Mulligan asks, “Lend us the loan of your snotrag to wipe my razor.”)

    At the end of copy editing a manuscript, I always go to the first page and start spellcheck. But I don’t let it autocorrect; I manually approve or (much of the time) disapprove its recommendations. (I always remember the time I spellchecked one of my own books, and it wanted to turn the word “superhero” into “superego,” as in “Batman is the superego of Gotham City”—which almost makes sense in an alarming way.) Word can’t be trusted to copy edit on its own. On the other hand, it does a good job of catching typos I introduced during my own copy edit!

    1. I’m reminded of a remedial English teacher I was vacationing with… the number of times she’d gotten a paper declaring that “Atticus Finch is a very impotent character” apparently defies counting.

      But… thinking what happened in the book? Staggeringly accurate. He can’t protect his client, he can’t protect his family… he did manage to put down the rabid dog, but everything else that I recall was striving and failing.

      Wrong but accurate, indeed ^.^

    2. Except when it doesn’t.

      I remember an English university talked about the need for indigenous points of view — meaning, of course, immigrant.

      1. I have yet to hear a rational explanation for why the descendants of Spanish, Dutch and Portugese colonists in Central and South America are ‘oppressed minorities’ while the descendants of English, French, German, Dutch, Scandinavian, Italian and Irish colonists farther north are ‘Eeevul oppressors’.

        1. In their “minds” Hispanics aren’t descended from Europeans. They are “descended” from the American Indians. 😉

            1. The “One Drop Rule” strikes again.

              These people have only one playbook. Which needs to be folded into corners, dipped in ghost pepper, and inserted.

  5. …The Effrontery door. I like it. Can I have it? If someone had the effrontery and skill to make it to my front door past the wire, the mordant cows, trenchant guard dogs and Imperial Marine Attack Cats I would have to give him Kudus before blasting him off the porch with twelve gauges of love. And no, I don’t have an old sofa on the front porch. A chainsaw, a couple of tool boxes and a bowl of food for the DEW* line, maybe.. Kudu’s in the back pen.

    *Dog Early Warning

    1. Poul Anderson’s Nicholas van Rijn inspired my favorite malaprop: “My grey beard makes me look extinguished. \”

      I’m not sure if I stole this one but “We’ll burn that bridge when we come up on it” is another.

    2. My mother was worried about money. She said, “I’m drowning, drowning. I can’t keep my nose in the air.”

  6. “…but using the “classy” word at the table, and mom sent me to bed without dinner for indecent talk.”

    When we were both in high school, my older brother once commented about my intended destination as I asked for the car, “He’s probably going to Les Girls.” (Les Girls is a local strip club.) He used the French pronunciation of course and was about to get his mouth washed out with soap.

  7. I’ve always contended that the famous Nitsche quote, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” was a single character typo in the translation (‘o’ instead of ‘a’). And please don’t get me started on speakers who insist on saying “weapons cachet” instead of “weapons cache.” I always see a picture of Fidel Castro on a runway showing off his sidearm.

    1. French betrays a lot of English speakers. I don’t know how many people I’ve heard pronounce “coup de grace” as “koo d’grah,” apparently overgeneralizing from the idea that final consonants are silent in French (which is often true, but the -e at the end means the consonant is pronounced). “Coup de gras,” which is how I’d spell that pronunciation, means “cut of fat” . . .

      1. It’s the bird meme:

        Neeetsocks: No language should be mocked other than french

        Hypallepse: Birds is “oiseaux” in French.
        No letter is pronounced the way it should.
        And there are *seven* of them.


        1. Eh. French was my… fourth? I think? After German curse words and Latin mass. And English of course, first. Having an ex-German nun teach you French is an experience.

            1. My wife would qualify for German citizenship by ancestry… except that she would have to be reasonably fluent in German, which isn’t going to happen unless we get desperate enough to go for the Berlitz method of “two teachers per student, 16 hours a day for a month” or whatever it is.

        2. I would say that French is responsible for about 1/3 of the oddities in English spelling. The Great Vowel Shift is responsible for another 1/3. And the last third is just due to plain cussedness.

          1. I have read that some of the weird spelling comes from the first typesetters in England being brought in from the Netherlands, and trying to spell English as if it were Dutch.

          2. You mean like those things you try to catch with a hook tied to a line, known as “ghoti”? (gh from “enough”, o from “women”, ti from “nation”). Ghoti. 😉

            1. It was a clever example, but not a sound one (if you’ll pardon the pun): gh is only pronounced as f when it follows a u at the end up a syllable (as in cough or laugh—no one pronounces “ghoul” as “fool”) and ti is only pronounced as sh when it’s followed by another vowel (as in nation). English spelling isn’t THAT arbitrary.

              1. No argument here, but it always tickled me. And besides, it *does* specify “from”, which implies “as used in”, so it could be argued that *as stated* it’s correct… As for the arbitrariness of English spelling, IIRC it was changes over several centuries which caused “-ough” to have, what, 17 different pronuciations? English has been defined as the result of Norman men-at-arms trying to get dates with Saxon barmaids, and joking aside that’s not so far wrong. And given that it was (again IIRC) a purely spoken language for at least a couple of centuries after the Conquest, during which it managed to simplify, including the loss of those useless genders for inanimate objects, I count that as a win. 😉

      2. I discovered that three years of high school German can lead to interesting pronunciation of French words. As a teenager, I applied the German rules (“pronounce *everything*”) when I helped a customer with a decoupage kit. Oops.

    2. Ooooh your post reminded me of an erstwhile friend who referred to becoming serious about something as “Let’s get down to brass tactics”

    3. Ok since we’re all language geeks here (and thank you for not mentioning my misspelling of Nietzsche) as well as story tellers, please allow my a long diversion about how I learned German:

      I learned German from an echter OstDeutscher Mann. His part of Germany became Poland after the war, and he came to NYC as a refugee on a cargo ship with no English. He was a little man with a big personality who spoke German, English, Russian, and French–probably read Greek. He drove a Volkswagen Beetle with an 8-foot ham radio antenna on the roof (yes, it was that long ago), so he could communicate with the local sheriff’s deputies in his very rural area which he liked to refer to as “the navel of the universe.” (We called his VW Bug The Mosquito).

      After 2 weeks, we had our first test. Five English sentences to translate into German and five German sentences to translate into English, and 20 minutes to finish. Every mistake warranted a red check. Wrong word, check. Word in the wrong order, check. No question mark for a question, check. Five checks or less, A. After 20 checks, he stopped and defaced your quiz with a giant red “F” which he circled for emphasis. Weekly tests just got longer and sentences more complex after that. Verbal in-class vocabulary interrogations were the norm. He would call your name and speak a word either in English or German, expecting your response in the other language immediately. All that was missing was throwing us a fish if we got it right. By year 2, he taught the class in German. By year 3 we were each giving 5-minute reports in German on poets and authors.

      When I got to University, they gave us a placement test because they quite rightly didn’t trust high school instruction to be any good. I was stunned to find 40 multiple choice questions. After 15 minutes I had finished and looked up at everybody else with their heads down. Feeling weird, I went over all my answers, then sheepishly turned in the test and walked out while everybody else was still furiously working. When I got to placement, the professor looked at my test, then my record, and said, “Oh, Escondido. We know about you guys. You’re good to go for 5th quarter German.”

      Currently I’m translating an online acquaintance’s graphic novel from German to English just for fun. It’s been many years, but with the help of an online translator, I find my German is quickly coming back to me. Since the text is captions and word balloons, I have to type it myself rather than cut and paste, and that helps remind me of my German. Then I have to fix the translator’s mistakes, but I find I’m starting to use the it more for verification rather than a first translation. Some idioms still escape me.

  8. Did you ever misspell a word your entire life, and then lately find out that you were mistaken? I have no idea why I thought that “Dilemma” was spelled “Dilemna”. I just found out, at 62 years old, that I was wrong.

        1. Once I got it in my head that it was “mn”, then it was heck(!) to get it out. Kind of like a literary earwig. Now I struggle with it. I shouldn’t, because my life has shown that I’m infinitely flexible…until I’m not.

    1. Yes. “Suppress” and “Suppressor.” I spelled them “Surpress” and “Surpressor,” respectively, for 20-something years before I realized I was doing it wrong.

      And to this day, I keep forgetting that “apartment” only has one ‘p’ and not two.”

      1. Apportionment has two. And buildings divided according to a plan are commonly called apartments, so apportionment is kinda, sorta, maybe accurate…

        1. “Apartment”

          So do I. What is the deal with misspell? Shouldn’t it be “missspell”? I mean, really! After all it is miss+spell, dang it.

          1. I worked for over 30 years in the intelligence community, and I was known as Conan the Grammarian, because no reports went national unless they were right. BUT, I can’t proofread my own writing. I’m going through line-editing for my book, and man, when I do my own proof-reading, I read what I intended to write, not what I wrote.

            1. “when I do my own proof-reading, I read what I intended to write, not what I wrote.”


              Also that tendency when I “formally tested” my own software. “I know that works!” What is worse, comparatively, I’ve been told, that even without someone else testing my work, I do better than “others”. Um, if they say so … (Operative words are now “did do better”. I’m retired.)

    2. And I just found out now – I always thought it was spelled dilemna as well.

  9. “I also don’t sweat things like breathe and breath, even though it’s one of my pet peeves (I cuddle him, and feed him, and call him George.)”

    Oy. That’s one of mine, too. And the various misuses of the verbs lay, lie, and lie. Yes, the two lies. To place something down (lay), to be in a horizontal position (lie), to tell an untruth (lie). Which all share a word in their various tenses with another. And that makes people crazy.

    That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

    My mistakes tend to be “fro” for “from” and forgetting that announce has THREE n’s in it. Some of them. A few of them. The common ones. That I made yesterday. Night. After 7pm. I make lots of mistakes, okay? That’s what editing is for. Right?

    1. “Lie” and “lay” are part of a small family of verb pairs with related meanings and a change of vowel. To lay is to make something lie; to set is to make something sit; to fell is to make something fall; to raise is to make something rise . . .

    2. Datum/data. Does the data, the data is, shudder.

      Octopus/Octopi, it’s Greek so did the plural exist it would be octopodes.

      Yeah, I’m a bit of a d—k, but my parents paused a lot of money for me to learn that.

      1. Back when I worked for a large scientific publisher, I convinced my boss, the senior developmental editor, to make “data is” acceptable for the computer science journals, because that usage was completely customary in that field and every single author would insist on changing “data are” back. I didn’t even suggest it for other disciplines; I prefer the proper Latin plurals.

        Another Greek plural, and one that no one ever seems to insist on, is rhinoceros/rhinocerotes. It’s a third declension plural, not a first declension plural.

      2. In Greek and Latin, a nominative neuter such as data takes a singular verb. There’s also the American English tradition of singular verbs for group nouns. The team is…not are. So when there’s a collection of data, a team, as it were…

        That’s my rationale for giving you “but it’s plural!” people heartburn. 😁

        1. My memories of Greek and Latin are 45 years old so you won’t give me heartburn, I am entirely set in my ways. 😄. I never got around motion away and motion toward in any case.

          I should sign this infuriated in Tunbridge Wells.

          1. Mine are only 20 years old, and only Greek, but they’ve had more holes than solid material for a long time now. I may be citing classical authority (within my severely limited ability, anyway), but really it’s all down to the fact that “data are” just *feels* bad and wrong to me.

          1. I believe “octopus” is the only English word with THREE plurals, including “octopodes”.

        1. Are you about to start on intelligent cephalopods again?

          Don’t think I’m not watching you. 😛

    3. I’ll cringe when I see the phrase “running the gauntlet”. OTOH, I seem to be one of the few people on earth who remember that it was “gantlet”. Even dictionaries now use the ‘u’ variant. Sigh.

      If one has to contend with a group of RINOs, would it be running the mitten?

      1. Huh. I never knew that. I think I learned “gauntlet” – as a synonym for “ordeal,” not the armor piece – from the arcade games.

    4. What trips me up is reading ‘rein’ and ‘Reign’ in each other’s places. “Free reign”? Uh… Though certainly some royalty do need reining in… And here comes the rain again.

        1. Misused homophones are one of mine, too; they seem to get more common every day, and there are so d*mned *many* of them! ( The ones I encounter most often, aside from the classic “there-their-they’re” and “to-too-two”, seem to be “breech-breach” and “brooch-broach”, which make for some…ummm…*interesting* mental images.

          1. Lose – loose. AARRRGGHH!!

            I guess it could be worse: loose – louse.

            Don’t forget that – than – then, it’s – its, your – you’re and who’s – whose.

            “Its all you’re fault!” GAAAHH!!

            1. On “you’re”, or “your”, Microsoft Word always flags the “Your” in phrases like “Your Majesty”. 😀

            2. Those irritate me too. I’m horrible at catching most homophones, but even I know better than to mix up the ones listed. Loose VS Lose. I always type the former (IDKW) for the latter, but correct to the latter before continuing typing … usually anyway.

  10. “he handed him his clock and his cane and go, OH cloak!”
    It is also possible that this text was OCR’ed from a paper version. Not only is it one letter, but it’s one that OCR often changes.

    1. I read a Thomas Sowell book that had been digitized using OCR and not checked for errors. Half the commas became periods, among other things. I was very glad I’d read a hard-copy some years ago, or I’d have been very confused.

      1. Lord bless the good copy editors. Those that erode their very brains to make gobbledegook into awesome deserve the praise. My crap is just crap. But, like you, I’ve seen enough ESL manuscripts that I can sometimes pin down the language/culture just by the mistakes.

        Philippino/a ESL is a special kind of wow. Chinese is a close second. Romance languages aren’t too bad. Russian is rather easy to spot (and simple, not easy, to fix). I love the English language. Really. So I try to help fix things and, well… You can learn a lot from the mistakes sometimes.

        So long as you don’t go completely crazy.

        1. I learned to recognize French, German, Russian, and Japanese as source languages. Japanese English was the very hardest to parse; Japanese syntax seems to be different enough from English to make the sentences of someone thinking in Japanese and writing English a real challenge.

          1. When I’ve been reading in Portuguese or French a lot, my English sounds like I’m a drugged out hippie.
            I try not to read and write the same day or preferably the same week. The languages don’t play well with English braining. (Do you know how much braining it takes to make the words go? — is my new motto.)

            1. We look for brains. Brains to make us go.

              – Packlet Zombie,
              unaired episode ST:TNG “Dawn of the Un-Data”

        2. I once had to completely rewrite a scientific paper (thankfully short) because what we were handed for the conference proceedings made no sense at all. And we never got the author to tell us whether my version said what he meant, so that’s what’s printed, and he better like it.

          He was American. I greatly preferred the foreign (mostly Chinese) contributors’ papers; they at least made sense, which made editing much easier.

          1. To whomever can assist:

            I worked as a proofreader for a couple of small typesetting companies, back when that consisted of using a pencil to mark up a hard-copy printout. I’d like to try earning a bit by doing proofreading/copy editing again. Where can I go to learn the current conventions for marking up Word docs (or similar), and what is expected of a copy editor as opposed to just a proofreader or a full editor? Any references would be greatly appreciated! Thanks! (Note: I am not on FB.)

      1. Nah, orient is “the place where the sun comes up” as opposed to the occident, where it sets.

        “Lo! In the orient when the gracious light
        Lifts up his burning head, each under eye
        Doth homage to his new-appearing sight”

  11. The funny thing, when I read that, I just assumed that clock must be the future term for smartphones. (Smart phone-> smart watch -> watch -> clock).

    Note that wall clocks are basically extinct because everyone has absolute precision time at their finger tips already, so why bother with the expense of maintaining a clock no-one uses?

    Clearly this is set in the far future, and they must be about to have a secure conversation which they don’t want anyone slicing their clocks to listen in on.

    For me, the first and last paragraphs seem to be the most error prone, since they seem to be the last things that I end up working on. That said, I’ve already managed to have two whole stray characters wander through a chapter, because the entire section they were there for got written out, but I missed removing their introduction before I’d posted it, so they’re the “Hello, we do nothing,” pair. Oops.

    1. Oh, for the Love of Life Orchestra. I have wall clocks in every room, including the bathroom, because it’s easier to glance up than to track down and password into my phone. Not to mention that the right clock can really enhance the decor!

      1. Yes, but we are weird, and there will continue to be weird people in the future.

        But it is very much a real trend. There has been more than one time I’ve had to leave my phone behind, and trying to find out what time it is without asking someone has been nearly impossible. Most businesses, stores and offices just do not have wall clocks anywhere anymore. It costs money to maintain them, and if no one complains when you just take the things down (or forget to put them up entirely) they just go away.

        I sometimes joke that future archeologists will think our generation had some sort of religious war against timekeeping, and that’s why all the clocks vanished suddenly.

        1. You are correct, of course (dammit). It’s not helped by the related trend that children are simply not being taught how to read analog clock faces anymore. I lost count of the number of times I was asked what time it was while at work … with a huge, round, friendly clock dominating the wall behind me. Go figure.

            1. Which is going to interesting. Oh I’m sure they will use different tactics by then. But. I’m 65. So, first Medicare Wellness Visit occurred. One of the items is a Cognitive Tests. One was “draw an analog clock”. Ask to put clock hands at a particular time, not o’clock, or o-30, positions … ex: 10 minutes to 2. Even I had to think about which, long or short clock hands, went (both our analog clocks are correct only two times a day, not used, obviously). I guess a digital version would be “What time is it when someone says 10 minutes to 2?” Then too, what other professions use analog clock positioning? “Look to your 2 o’clock?” “It is between 2 and 3 o’clock?”

          1. I specifically bought a clock with roman numerals so my kids could learn to tell time with one because I could see that skill going by the wayside.

            The grandkids think it’s the freakiest clock of all time.

            I don’t have the heart to ask my kids if they can tell time with it. I spent too many years homeschooling to find out that even my clock lessons were wasted.

            1. I used to make simple battery-powered clocks with just the hands, no numerals at all. They were designed for people who want to display a beautiful piece of wood on their wall, but don’t want to be considered too eccentric. 😉 I still have about twenty of them. One of these days I will post them on my website and see what happens.

      2. Weird. Because my cell phones, when I password protect my phone, the date/time generally is part of the screen, not password protected. Guessing it is a setting option?

        I tend to put apps that are password protected into password protected folder. Which is not messaging or recent calls.

      3. I can and do carry my phone at work, but wear a wristwatch simply that it’s faster to look at the watch. And an hourly ‘chime’ is useful when I turn it on. I do NOT leave that on all the time, such as when the watch on the desk at home, potentially annoying me and/or $HOUSEMATE.

        1. I wear a Fitbit, which has a watch face. Newer version can have it set to digital or analog. I have it set to digital because I have one of the very small face versions.

      1. I like the analogue clock in my classroom. I can glance at the hands and know how long I have left in class. I can’t do that as easily with a digital display, and I refuse to have my phone close to me. And sometimes glancing down at my pocket watch is awkward.

        1. I know it’s all in what you’re used to, and I can read an analog clock, but I doubt I ever will find it faster than seeing the numbers.

    1. Grammar check does, though.

      This is what those million incredibly annoying Microsoft Word checkers are for– people who for whatever reason need a quick hand to keep their stuff from looking horrific.

      Spellcheck now has a dictionary with it, and you can tell it what kind of writing you’re doing for the Editor setting– technical, formal, business, and–as we were all supposed to get horribly upset about a few weeks ago, some months after it launched– recent stylish bug-a-boos.

      (The way they keep getting turned back on is what makes them annoying.)

  12. This discussion of typos and autocorrect and things missed reminds me of something from early in my software development career. An angry, worried manager suddenly showed up at my cubicle with an Excel spreadsheet one of his people had created from an export from one of my applications, demanding to know why the wrong data was showing up in one column. After about ten minutes of analysis, I figured out what had happened.

    What clued me in was that once I’d sorted the column in question, the data was incrementing by one in each subsequent row. Sorting by that column also resulted in the columns with the name/identifiers also being in order. At some point in the process of adding fancy headers, sorting, etc. somebody had accidentally made use of Excel’s fill down and auto-increment feature on that column. It’s a great feature – when you use it on purpose. When you wipe out the data that is supposed to be there instead, not so much.

  13. “Secularizing the door” could be a great story hook, if you could figure out why the door was religious to begin with and why that would change.

        1. I now have a mental image of a minotaur (complete with very large axe) followed around by a terrier sized door that occasionally spits out useful things.

          1. And only useful things? What a curious door!

            Are they even obviously and immediately useful? That would be a marvel past believing.

  14. First thought crossed my mind, some typos are fun, some are great guffaws.

    Which got me to thinking about Engrish signs in the Orient, which often gain much in translation like “Flush toilet to push a button”

    1. Once upon a time there was site (likely are a few now, but the one I recall is long gone) dedicated to Engrish and Engrish-oid stuff. The memorable photo was a nice young gal wearing a t-shirt… which read “I trusted the government. Now my balls glow in the dark.” Either didn’t get it, or had one helluva sense of it.

      1. That reminds me the opposite’s funny too.

        Visiting Japanese friends will often politely not guffaw out loud as we walk by a kid proudly wearing a set of kanji tattooed on their arm but, as I could tell they were surprised and amused I’d ask them what the kanji said.

        The kids think their tattoo says something like Hidden Dragon, or Master Of The Universe or some such when as often than not, it reads something like Kikkoman Soy Sauce.

        1. There was one fantasy story where a pseudo-Viking had Norse Runes tattooed on his body.

          The Main Character knew what the Runes said and they didn’t say what the pseudo-Viking Thought They Said. 😆

  15. Magic-ann and fizzik-ann are our current bug-a-boos for speech.

    … Magician and Physician.

    Although I’m also fond of the five year old asking if he can play on the “intend-oh.” (Nintendo.)

    1. Robert also had an issue with initial letters (in his case s) for much longer than made any sense. I mean, he was reading, but he treated initial s as mute.
      So he’d come into our room all excited in winter with “It’s nowing!” Or my favorite at the zoo “Can we go to the nake house?”
      My favorite from younger son was that, from speech, he extrapolated stuff, and the first time I came across his writing that he had an yegg for breakfast I lost it laughing. This came from “Give me the eggs” Or “Have you eaten the egg?” of course.
      Also by same process, idiot became nidiot. from An Idiot.
      This one stuck in speech. When one of us does something stupid, we say, I’m a Nidiot from the proud Nidiot tribe!”

      1. Nidiots and yeggs have been traditions in the Lane family for decades here, too. And, strangely enough, I did the same thing with the “s” sound when I was very young, too. Sometimes I would say the ess very quietly, others I’d drop it completely. Can’t for the life of me tell you why.

        Well, that and when I was I think seven I refused to wear denim for a whole year. Because some diseases were in your jeans.

        Couldn’t tell the amount of times that I drove one or the other of my parents crazy with all of that (and other) stuff I did. Just another reason to never have kids. I’ve been cursed.

        “I hope when you have kids they do the same thing to you!”

        Nightmares, I tell ya.

          1. My mom’s version was “I hope you have one just like you!” My sister definitely got the curse. I missed it because only one child. Have also heard of parents state that the “one like them” was the last child. Followed by “good thing too. Or would have been only child.”

      2. I so wish I’d phonically written down our son’s pronunciation when he was a toddler. I could. I digitized all the video tapes we took of him. They are available to go through. Although even that would be a challenge. Is it “I hlpted”, or “I hltd”? -> “I Help!”

        1. Combining this subthread with an earlier one…

          My middle child was a *huge* fan of analog clocks. She would happily point them out whenever she saw them. .
          She also was unable to say the letter “L”.

    2. >> “Although I’m also fond of the five year old asking if he can play on the “intend-oh.” (Nintendo.)”

      Which one? For some reason my first thought was of the original NES and I wondered just how old-school you were raising them. 🙂

      1. We do actually have two!

        The new “switch” system, so the kids can play with their aunt and one of the grandmas, and the Nintendo brand NES classic system with all the old classic games on it.

        1. That’s a relief. Part of me was worried you were doing something like this:

          And no, I can’t explain why I thought that. My brain just goes weird places sometimes, okay?

          >> “the Nintendo brand NES classic system with all the old classic games on it.”

          I know of those systems, but I don’t believe they have nearly the full NES library on them. And no way to add other games or play them even if you get ahold of the cartridges, right?

          Although I guess if you have both one of those systems and the cartridge for a game that’s not on it, emulating it isn’t too far out of line.

          1. :laughing:

            I am terrible at console gaming, so my main interaction is support staff– right now, the kids are still in awe that it exists. Only 21 games, but… “only,” when I was a kid we had four. 😀

            1. I’m surprised they’re surprised; I figured kids these days would take that sort of thing for granted. Out of curiosity, what were your four games?

              Oh, and speaking of the Switch… I don’t know if your kids have Breath of the Wild, but if they do I’ve got a weird little video for you that they might like. Someone made an animated parody of a speed run for that game, complete with bug exploitation and Link’s catchphrase from the 80s Legend of Zelda cartoon:

              1. It’s odd, the kids go from being in shock that the stuff they do wasn’t around when we were kids, to being in shock that “really old games” are still around.

                Mario, Bubble-Bobble, and Duck Tales are the three I remember, I’d have to ask my brother on any others. My hand/eye was *even worse* back then…..

                1. >> “My hand/eye was *even worse* back then…..”

                  I haven’t played it myself, but isn’t FF14 fairly action-oriented? I’m surprised you got sucked into a game like that so hard if you’ve got bad hand-eye coordination.

                  1. It’s active, but a lot of the attacks are rotation-based– you choose the order you’re going to use, and watch for procs (special abilities to become available for use), but there’s a Universal Cool Down that helps slow things so it’s no worse than typing.

                    Plus, I can look at the shortcut bar on the screen to see if I need to hit 1, 2, whatever. Not up-down-left-right, plus circle square triangle X (or whatever), plus sometimes left one two right one two, off of memory. 😀

                1. Heh. Don’t care for the song itself, but an interesting concept. I was half-expecting the bosses to be going at each other Epic Rap Battle style, though.

                  And if we’re sharing music vids again, I found a (non-gaming related) nice one a few days ago. The singer is Dan Avidan, the same guy who did Starlight Brigade and Magnum Bullets:

                  Guy’s got a good voice for this sort of thing.

                  My one major complaint is the lack of contrast between the characters and the backgrounds in the “light world” scenes; the characters needed clearer outlines like the MC has in the dark world, I think.

                  1. And I just realized that aside from the hair style, the protagonist in this looks a lot like the one from Starlight Brigade. Also seems to go through a somewhat similar character arc of overcoming doubt and despair. I’m noticing a pattern here…

                    1. >> “Is a worthwhile arc. 😀”

                      Well, sure. But I still want to know what this weird long-eared species is and why Murphy keeps choosing them to be his chew-toys. 😉

                    2. But I still want to know what this weird long-eared species is and why Murphy keeps choosing them to be his chew-toys.

                      Because they’re pretty!

                      And that’s the problem with music videos, anyways… there’s no there, there. :/
                      Great for inspiration, though.

                    3. >> “And that’s the problem with music videos, anyways… there’s no there, there. :/
                      Great for inspiration, though.”

                      Yeah, I thought a bit about how you’d turn Starlight Brigade into a full series, and the first thing that occurred was that the big bad would need to do something OTHER than steal the stars. Because that creates a dead universe with no one even left to save, among other problems…

  16. ” Took me a second to realize he handed him his clock and his cane and go, OH cloak!”

    Depending on when the story is set, a pocket watch might not be entirely out of the question. That’s not something you would ordinarily hand over with your cane, but…

    Auto-correct is what kills me these days. So many times I see the correct word get changed to something else. And so many times I see a blatantly misspelled word get ignored.

  17. I absolutely love to copy edit. I am the person everyone asks to look over their important things at work. I have no idea why I like it so much but I do. If I could have figured out a way to do it for a living I probably would have. Since I see how many very smart people I work with have so much trouble with it I am not surprised that it is a difficulty for people in general. But I have noticed that the level of spelling and grammar mistakes in supposedly professional writing on websites and news articles has increased greatly the last few years. I don’t think proof readers are as big a thing as they used to be.

    Our secretary here is from the Czech Republic. She has excellent English and a very charming KGB accent. She really hates homonyms, homophones and homographs. A rich country like the United States should be able to afford a separate word for each thing they want to say, according to her.

    1. Well, we got it on loan from the Brits. Ain’t done much with it since. It mostly works. We swipe words from other languages all the time, too. And phrases. And tasty food. And, every so often, bright young men and women that just happened to be born in the wrong place.

    2. I’ve been making money as a copy editor since 1987. For the first fifteen years I worked for a publisher. Then they decided to outsource all their copy editing (mostly to India!) and I went freelance. About six years ago, when I lost one of my main contracts, I looked up the addresses of all the collegiate journal publishers in North America, sent them e-mails asking if they were looking for freelancers, and got two positive responses. I’m still working for both of them.

      It does help if you have a track record to point to, and that’s harder to get in these days when most publishers figure that in-house copy editors are an unnecessary expense. And freelance work is fairly marginal economically. But it can be done.

      Note, by the way, that proofreaders and copy editors are two different occupations. A copy editor goes over the manuscript before page layout, and can recommend major changes in it, because text hasn’t been allocated to pages. After page layout, each page has its own text, and every change has to be examined to see how much it changes the pages and whether it’s necessary enough to justify the cost. So proofreaders are only supposed to catch simple errors; the bigger once should have been caught already in copy editing, and if they weren’t, it’s usually just too bad.

      1. “Note, by the way, that proofreaders and copy editors are two different occupations”

        *happy dance*

        “the bigger once (sic) should have been caught already in copy editing”

        I can’t judge. I’ve done this one before. A lot.

      2. I used to boggle my immediate boss at the photography studio by catching double spaces where they shouldn’t be in text. I just developed the visual sense for that at some point. (Also caught many a spelling error. Thankfully, the current workflow has a second set of eyes on everything before it goes to print.)

      1. Yes I am planning to diversify. But I hadn’t thought to do editing because getting into the editing field without, as they say, a track record of such employment seemed unrealistic. Especially since the writing field is getting so wonky and the houses are seemingly going under whether they know it or not. I have been told that you need a degree and 2 years experience to ever hope to get hired for such work. But that could be fake news. I wouldn’t be surprised.

        I do realize there are writers here. It’s why I love this place. But it doesn’t seem like anyone here would be desperate enough to entrust their prose to an internet rando poster.

        1. You’d be surprised. Most of the ‘editors’ out there have no more experience than you, some less. People who’ve published 2 books calling themselves book doctors. You say you’ve been editing your co-workers things? So you’ve GOT experience in the field, even if it’s more formal than fictional writing. Good copy editors are hard to come by. It may take you a bit, but you could probably build a good client base. Especially if your basic services are relatively inexpensive. I was looking, but couldn’t find anyone I could afford. Which means I’ve fallen back on the ‘friends and family’ method which isn’t exactly reliable. (though for me is going to be holding on for a bit longer due to a few sideswipes by real life.)

          Most copyeditors are going to be ‘internet rando poster’ to their clients, at least the first time. It’s worth considering, and more viable than you may think.

          1. Well, that seems very encouraging. I believe I shall look into this. It certainly doesn’t hurt to look and, who knows, I might find that I can help someone and work my way into a side gig for now and a secondary income if retirement in a couple of years goes bust.

            I’m with Sarah, I see things getting very ugly soon and I want to do what I can to prepare for no government assistance in retirement whatsoever.

            1. “I want to do what I can to prepare for no government assistance in retirement whatsoever.”

              That is what we did. Nobody is more surprised than I am that we are both getting SS. Nor how much the theory of compound interest worked (works). We used to joke every paycheck that we’d just paid Grandparents generation monthly SS. But never expected SS to still be here when we qualified. We started taking SS at age 62. Will not be happy if we lose it now. Yes, I will whine, and B* about it. But we’d survive, financially. We planned for this. Are there ways they can make what we’ve done worthless. Well Duh. Don’t know what to do about it, other than don’t vote for the demons. (I know. Now I’m insulting demons.)

                1. Vote anyway. Make them cheat so much they can’t hide it. There IS backlash, and some states are imposing election integrity measures as a result of 2020.

                  We need to keep that pressure up.

                  1. THIS. There’s a reason I still work and donate to places like TrueTheVote.

                    Elections won’t cure the problem, but they will strip away the masks.

                    1. >> “Listen to Steve, heaven help me.”

                      Did “Steve is right” just become the new “Bob is making sense?”

                  2. Oh, yeah, of course. There are two parts to election fraud — concocting bogus votes for their candidates, and suppressing votes for their opponents. If you oppose them, and don’t vote, you’re doing half of their dirty work for them.
                    Elections are far too important to be left up to a bunch of uncontrolled voters. The Party MUST exercise oversight and management to prevent mere voters from electing the wrong candidates!

                2. Not QUITE true, though it could be again. It was true in 2020, unquestionably, but I think that’s a joke that’s funny only once. You can’t pull it the second time without setting off a firestorm, and also many of the affected states, and even others, have been quietly fixing the exploits.
                  Will it work? I don’t know? Will they be stupid enough to try it on again? I don’t know.
                  But “all is lost’ is not necessarily true.
                  Vote as if it matters. There’s always time for other measures.

              1. The Portuguese communist/socialist alliance government stole half of everyone’s private retirement accounts 10 years ago. I’m surprised Obama didn’t. Thank heavens for the 2nd amendment.
                But they’re doing it, with inflation.

                1. “they’re doing it, with inflation”

                  Round two of “didn’t expect anything else”. We started our working careers, and life together, 1979. So, beginning of the end of inflation and high interest.

                  We were forced into high interest, 5 year adjustment, 10 year balloon payment, at 13%, for this house, Fall 1988. Our problem wasn’t our credit rankings (“They really, really, like you.”), nor how the house appraised VS offer ($89k VS $78k), but $78k was “high” for the neighborhood. Well duh. Nothing had sold in 10 years. Now? Loan is, not quite, *double the $78k, 9 years after last refinance, yet 1/3 (ish) what the bidding war would start at now (or at least where the market has been). Interest rate is 3.25%. What we are paying is less than the original payment on more money. Note that isn’t the required payment, but rounded up to the nearest $100. Really should refinance again. When I last looked at it, they’ll Pay Us to do so. Would drop the required payment by half, for a 30 year, and “some” for a 15 year.

                  100% if not expected, at least not surprised. At best we expect to leave something for our son to inherit. How much? Who knows.

                  * Extra money paid for renovations and might have paid of parts of 3 vehicles, and an RV or two, depending on timing. We’ve refinanced more than once. Last two times didn’t take additional money out. The first time barely a year into the first loan. As soon as our house closed a lot of other, more expensive homes closed, breaking the log jam and eliminating the problem.

        2. It’s helpful to be able to point to relevant education and work history, yes. But when you come right down to it, if you can get them to send you a copy editing test, they will be able to see whether you know how to copy edit or not, at least if the person hiring you is a copy editor. It’s one of those skills that you can prove you have by doing it.

          1. That is very true. I had forgotten that there were tests for copy editing. And I’m glad to hear, now that I am reminded about them, that they are still being used. Since remote work has become much more acceptable I can see this as a possibility for me. Back when I was looking into a career in the field you needed to be “on site” to be hired. But things are different these days and I suppose not every single thing that has changed is entirely bad.

  18. *snicker*
    Oh, wait until you deal with recorded productions – back in the day, I had to vet recorded productions before they were aired; and one of our earnest young airmen had produced and recorded a music program. He … was trying to sound impressive – but he used the word “copulated” when he meant “compiled.”
    I gave him back the tape, with little note and those two words written on the note, and told him to get the dictionary and look up the definitions for both words.
    And then he really ought to re-edit that bit of the tape, before I could approve it for broadcast.

    1. Wrote a letter mentioning having to work second shift. Sent it up the line, where my section chief, branch chief, division chief and director all initialed it. (Ah, the joys of bureaucracy). It came back to me just before quitting time on a Friday and I glanced at it one more time….and discovered I’d left the “f” out of “shift.” Noone had noticed.
      The letter got rewritten Monday morning.

      1. Roommate (not $HOUSEMATE) once had me go over his paper for some school course. Likely found a few things, but one stood out and he was very glad it got caught. He would likely have had another case of “public humiliation” had it not been corrected from “pubic” in the text.

  19. Some years back, a good friend was working as a consultant. She told us that her then-5-year-old had been asked what her Mom did, and had answered: “Mommy’s an insultant.” It seemed all too appropriate.

    Another fun kid-word is one we now use as the household name for the microwave. It’s the hotterator. Word invented by a different friend’s then-4-year-old, who was apparently working by analogy — the refrigerator makes things cold, so a hotterator makes things hot.

    There are some other dialects of English that may be of interest. For example, I once spent way too much time converting text from American English, British English and Indian English into “Standards-eze.” Standards-eze is a form of English writing in which precision of expression is the only thing that matters. Minor issues such as readability or keeping the reader’s attention matter not at all. Rather, the key issue is ensuring that there is one, and only one, clear and unambiguous meaning for the text. I “got” to do this for two LARGE books. I must have been making up for some pretty awful sins…

        1. Clearly he didn’t investigate the trans, because the feds would consider that -ist or -phobic.

        2. I’ve got to confess. I’m actually a transvestigator, charged with ensuring that Fate is not denied. Ever since God gave Man that pesky free will, they’ve been trying to run Fate off the rails, throwing in curveballs every chance they get. No sooner than we get our heads wrapped around the fact that the poles can reverse, than we have political parties reversing, liberals agreeing with conservatives, my Grandpa agreeing that my father was indeed good enough to marry his daughter. Can you imagine the amount of work? It’s like chivvying a herd of toddlers across the Oregon Trail. I wanted to do a mini-series, and call it “1883-1884-1885-1886, oh screw it, Colorado is far enough”, but no one bit on my screenplay.

          1. Well, for what it’s worth, my favorite Simple Minds album is “New Gold Dream (81 – 82 – 83 – 84).” Great record. Came out originally on purple-veined gold vinyl, too.

      1. I once had a small child decide that my name was Polkadots. It took me a while to realize she’d taken my name and remembered it as the closest thing that made sense in her brain.

    1. I mentioned that $HOUSEMATE and was told of someone he knew with a young kid (sometime in the 1990’s) and many digital appliances and devices. The stuff that still had analog controls was then dubbed ‘knobital’. That means that in the 1970’s we had a knobital hotterator.

    2. What I find annoying is that people cool things for the first time in a refrigerator.

      That device is clearly only intended to cool something again which had been cool before.

  20. In this case, the author kept having people secularizing doors. And I kept going “were they religious before? did they give entrance to some kingdom yet unknown?”

    Great, now I have a riff on A Wrinkle In Time where the idea that Divine Liturgy unites the Church Militant and the Church Triumphant leads Devil Worshippers progressives to realize by some processes of secularizing the door to a physical church they break the effect Divine Services have in uniting the Congregation with the entire body of the Church across time and space.

  21. One of the running jokes in the BritCom “Are You Being Served” involved a character who is always proclaiming “And I am UNANIMOUS in this!” when what she means is “adamant”.

  22. De-lurking to say that the misuse of homophones is so prevalent that I occasionally check to make sure that the writer is in fact misusing them and I am not making up or misremembering their meanings. This is especially true with “bare” and “bear”. One such swap in a story made an amorous scene in a novel much more comic (even more than the usually employed euphemisms or vulgarities do. You can’t win with me – both make me raise my brows while reading and cause me to cackle. Only emotion saves the mechanics of love making from being utterly ridiculous. Save your characters the embarrassment and fade to black.)

    1. I do it all the time on the blog, since I’m not editing myself after.
      The best I can explain it is my fingers take dictation from my ears, and I’m slightly deaf.
      For the record MOST romance sex scenes could be improved by having them exit pursued by a bear.
      There are very good ones –not my thing, but very good — but tab a in slot b with no reference to character development and such would definitely be better with a bear.

      1. Having a grizzly attack lovers is nigh on Shakespearian, I heartily approve. It get’s worse when I am listening to a book I enjoyed reading, but completely forgetting there was a love scene I had elided past in the book. Those poor audiobook readers earnestly reading a love scene are drowned out by the guffaws of the listener. I once fell off a riding mower doing this.

        1. Oh, Lord. Yes. It was worse when kids were little and I was borrowing stuff to listen to while dong home improvements. Most of what the library carried was romance. Some didn’t…. say the level of spiciness.
          I got really good at sprinting across the house to turn off the tape player.

          1. What’s “while dong home improvements”? [Big Crazy Grin]

            Yes Sarah, I know that you don’t proof-read these posts but the above comment where the blog subject is Typos and other incorrect words is just plain Funny. 😆

              1. Considering the typos that I make with an “excuse” of key-board problems, I’m not “blaming” you about it. It just stuck me funny. 😉

                Oh, I just preordered something coming out on the 23rd. It’s titled “Barbarella”. Have you heard about it? [Very Big Crazy Grin]

                  1. Great!

                    Oh, I’m looking forward to learning who “The Lady” is. 😉

          2. The local paperback exchange owner said the spiciness index was in proportion to the clothedness of the cover models. Of course that was in the ’80s and ’90s and did not apply to the unexpected content of the mystery/ thrillers that I was addicted to.

        2. I always skip over love scenes.
          I feel like it is not my business what people do in private. Even imaginary people.

          I don’t peep in windows either. None of my beeswax.

      2. Best advice I ever heard on love scenes was from an guy who mainly dealt in suspense/horror. “Dan,” he says to me, “you tell your authors if they wanna write smut, you do it same as I do slasher fic. If it don’t make *you* wanna double check the door locks and turn on every light in the house when you write it, dump that bit and go for a rewrite.”

        Well, that, and “tab A into slot B (C, D, *expletive* you sci-fi and fantasy authors is nuts) is way less important than the emotion involved. If your sex scene could be slotted into an ikea instruction manual without folks noticing, it’s going to suck.”

        I still don’t write sex scenes, though. Not my genre.

        1. I recently read a magic Regency series by an author I knew personally, and laughed madly when one of the Goodreads reviews complained that he obviously didn’t know anything about LBGT+ people. For one, he’s totally gay, and for two, if you read the series in question, sure, the front-and-center romance is straight, but it’s all along the lines of “they had sex and it was great,” (in about that many words, though usually better chosen) while the gay romantic pairing had fade-to-black AFTER a very sensory-laden description of how a gentle touch on the cheek felt.

          As in yes, he put all the gay folk in a particular bucket, but it was for in-universe reasons for how the magic worked.

          I bet if he’s read that review, he’s also laughed madly.

        2. I have heard comedy writing is like this too. If you don’t think it’s hilarious neither will the audience.

          However, I’m not sure what you do if you have a very non-standard sense of humor.

          Write the screenplay for Napoleon Dynamite I guess.

          1. It is. Larry Correia actually talks about this, in a way. If you’ve read his writing, you can tell he has an absolute blast writing certain scenes. He will tell you to “have fun while writing.” This is good advice.

            As writers, our market is entertainment. That is the only hard and fast rule of fiction writers, I think. Or one of the very few. If you aren’t entertaining your readers, they will put the book down and do something *else* that entertains them. Be that pizza and beer, another book, video game, whatever.

            You put a bit of yourself into whatever you write. Not every scene is going to be orgasmically awesome. That’d get old pretty quick anyway. Plus friction. But sometimes when you’re writing, say, and action scene, a part of you needs to be thinking “this is awesome.”

            Maybe I’m bad at this whole writing thing, but I don’t really care. I actually like the one I’m working on now. I like reading it when I’m going back over it to edit and make sure where I’m at in the story. I’ve laughed while writing some bits. The image of the tiny kitten sitting on Doc Z’s head and bonking him over the head with an empty bottle as if to say “feed me, hooman!” makes me smile. That will end up in the story somewhere- I knew it from the moment the image popped into my mind. Others, yeah, I thought they were pretty awesome. Spending whole chapters armored up in a space suit then having to fight essentially naked with a pistol in one hand and a knife in the other was pretty badass. Doc Z was too worried about the people he was trying to save to be scared at the time.

            Right now I’m having to rework a chapter that’s probably going to be late. It’s supposed to be up at 5am, and the stuff I have just doesn’t feel right. So I’m going to have to can it and start over again.

            Not everything you write is going to be awesome, yeah. And when you’re feeling it, often enough you can get at least the germ of a really good idea, I think. I’d have to ask one of the guys I knew in college about the comedy thing to be sure of it, but I’d bet you’re right.

          2. I think Napoleon Dynamite is hilarious. But I probably do have a very non-standard sense of humor.

          3. >> “However, I’m not sure what you do if you have a very non-standard sense of humor.”

            Might be even trickier if you’re playing to an audience of people with non-standard senses of humor, since they might not all be non-standard in the same way. I’ve made jokes here that cracked me up when I thought of them but didn’t seem to get any reaction.

            But at least *I* had fun thinking them up, and putting that first might be the best you can do. Make the product YOU’D want to buy and then see who shares your taste.

  23. My favorite malaprop/neologism was from am old East Texas politician who was accused of having committed an impropriety (bribery, I think, or ballot box stuffing perhaps). He declared “I deny the allegation and defy the allegator!”

    Best translation slip due to typo was in a brochure about Germany, in which it was stated that cereal crops included rye, emmer, spelt, unicorn, and barley. [Einkorn = wheat. Einhorn = unicorn]

    1. My all time favorite appeared in a Sunday newspaper when I was in graduate school, in a front page article on a then recent study of the sense of smell.

      Since this was obviously a slow news day you would think they had the time to get it right.

      But no…..

      Halfway through was a set of bullet points listing some side findings. They included this gem:

      “During the course of the study, it was discovered that pregnant women suffered from a diminished sense of small, contrary to what had previously been believed.”

      Such a small error…

  24. Ted Kennedy (spit) once sent a message to the team working on the first ARPANET router on the success of their “Interfaith Message Processor.” Interface was what was built, of course.

    1. Our main priest is Filipino. His English is very good, but he does “proclaim the mystery of face,” every Mass. (Our other priest is from Mexico and his accent is even thicker, but not as immediately hilarious.)

      1. We had a priest from Italy who’d learned English in Mexico for years. They started distributing the sheets printed with his sermon. His accent was….
        Incomprehensible would be an improvement. EVERY mass one of the kids would lean over and go “The monkey did what to the Virgin Mary?” Or “Mom, did he just preach about Ironman?”
        the problem is his sermons were HOUR LONG. And he often deviated from the printed material.

  25. Sleepy Joe says he’s Irish, but not stupid. I’m so glad he cleared that up,

    Satire is dead.

  26. Imagine my surprise when a *reader* emailed me, chastising me for the use of the word “hanger” when I clearly meant “hangar”. Only a pilot would catch that class of error. These days I use the voice function enabled in Scrivener. I do catch verb ending mistakes, missing words, repeated words…not perfect but better.

    1. I’ve seen it go the other way, too. “She adjusted her dress evenly on the hangar and placed it in the closet.”

      Daaayum, that’s one big closet.

    2. We have a newish bar and grille in town. I gather that it has an aeronautical theme by the airplane on the sign. It is called the 7 Hanger Grille.

      People ask me if I have tried it. I always say no, “7 hangers is not enough for me. I have more dresses than that.”

      So far I have received only puzzled looks and uncomfortable silence in return.

      Oh well. I’m used to that.

  27. Typos bother me the most when they’re in a saying. You don’t “reign” someone in. (Oddly enough, though “free reign” is also incorrect, it is at least a usable typo in that the meaning has a large overlap with the proper “free rein.”) I blame the lack of horse-based stories for that.

    Also see “tow the line.” (arrgh) There are many more, but I try to block them out of my mind.

  28. Palolap should be the word to replace palindrome, for what I think is an obvious reason.

  29. They released the interim trailer today for the Hogwarts Legacy game. And yup, J. K. Rowling is going to be able to afford a summer castle, for when she’s tired of her winter castle.

  30. Let’s consider the US weapons labs in Ukraine claim for argument, but from a Russian strategic perspective.

    In that case, what on earth does invading the Ukraine do for Russia?

    People who secretly fund bio weapons labs to use against you, and may have the logistics to hurt you with bio weapons from anywhere, may continue to do so after you invade a neighboring asset of theirs.

    If Russia’s diplomatic options aren’t good enough to get the US to stop, why would war be any better?

    If the US were in fact pulling such a stunt, that would seem like an opportunity to split off the EU and NATO some from the US.

    It seems like maybe no matter what assumptions you would pick to make the diplomatic options useless, the war option is still much worse.

    Given the real possibility that careless use of biological weapons could lead to a nuclear war, it is actually feckless for the Russians to fail to raise the issue publicly, if private requests are seeming to have no effect.

  31. >> ‘In this case, the author kept having people secularizing doors. And I kept going “were they religious before?”‘

    That’s right, and that’s why we atheists will win. While you fools were away at church, worshipping your imaginary sky-friend, we’ve been secretly converting your house! Doors, windows, desks, chairs… you’re surrounded by inanimate objects just WAITING for the signal to strike!

    And don’t even ask about your beds; they’ve been sleeper agents the whole time.

    1. *looks at DGM, looks at clock* I don’t know what the one-eyed creature in pink is drinking, but it must be good! 😉

      1. Here, have a six-pack.

        And I have got to change that stupid default avatar one of these days. I just can’t think of anything in particular I really want to replace it with.

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