Friday, January 29, 2016

Checkhov*, Checkov*, Chekov* (for Chekhov*)

"So many books, so little time," goes the plaintive refrain of the literacy advocates (and all of the rest of us biblio-baby-boomers). Some deal with the problem by having an unquenchable thirst for the written word (see Nancy Pearl and Book Lust). Others approach it with a rather more self-help-minded, not to say grim, methodology that promises you'll be able to check off 100 books a year from your reading list. And if one of those happens to be something by Anton Chekhov, you've got plenty of wonderful plays and short stories to choose from. But let's start by getting his name right, shall we? Checkov* shows up seven times in OhioLINK, and 98 times in WorldCat. It's arguably the cutest of all likely misspellings of this name, but it's certainly not the only one. Checkhov*, for example, appears ten times in OhioLINK, and 138 times in WorldCat. And Chekov* yields the greatest number of hits of all: 140 in OhioLINK and 1,214 in WorldCat. Note that there are proper names spelled precisely that way in the authority file, though, and even Anton's name itself is sometimes spelled without the second h (listed as a variant form in NACO). So use caution when correcting. Today, by the way, is Chekhov's birthday! Born in 1860 in Taganrog, Russia, he had a hardscrabble childhood, complete with abused mother and "despotic" father—who, it's widely believed, later served as his literary model for hypocrisy. Perhaps the great writer would have been pleased with our humble attention to detail here: he was also the author of the principle known as Chekhov's gun." "Remove everything that has no relevance to the story," he once wrote. "If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off. If it's not going to be fired, it shouldn't be hanging there."

(The Soviet Union 1960 CPA 2391 stamp, Anton Chekhov and Moscow Residence, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

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