Friday, September 28, 2012

Torward* (for Toward*)

You probably wouldn't want to see the so-called "Super Swedish Angel" pictured on the right coming toward you in the middle of the night, but Tor Johnson was considered a very gentle giant by those who knew and loved him. That would include his fellow professional wrestlers (Tor topped out at around 400 pounds), along with various B-movie makers such as the infamously bad director Ed Wood and his eccentric cast and crew. (Actress Valda Hansen, who appeared with Johnson in Night of the Ghouls, said: "Tor was like a big sugar bun.") Tor Johnson (originally Johansson) was born in Sweden on October 19, 1903. Although he mostly played "movie monsters" and the like, Johnson also appeared in the W. C. Fields film Man on the Flying Trapeze, and had a small part in Carousel in 1956. There were two cases of today's typo in OhioLINK, and 56 in WorldCat. You can go a long way toward improving your own library's holdings by wrestling with this one in your own catalog.

(Tor Johnson as the dead Inspector Clay raised again by an alien race to fulfil their evil plans of conquering the Earth, in Ed Wood's cult movie Plan 9 from Outer Space, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Havest (for Harvest)

I run across a lot of whimsical articles online, but one recent headline especially caught my eye, having the shy though striking air of an autumn leaf as it falls to the ground. "Why is autumn," asks Slate, "the only season with two names?" At first the answer appears as inevitable as the changing of the seasons, and perhaps even a bit too obvious. I mean, what else is there to say besides leaves fall in the fall? (That really oughta, um, do it.) But of course there's more; there's always more. Summer and winter apparently were long considered the most important seasons of the year, with the other two just filling in between them with various nomenclature. In the 12th and 13th centuries, spring was known as lenten and fall was called harvest. A century or two later, spring would also be referred to as ver, from the Latin, or primetemps, from the French. By the 1600s, the two lesser seasons were going by the phrases "spring of the leaf" and "fall of the leaf"; over the next few centuries, those leaves would fall off and leave us with simply spring and fall. However, it seems that those who hesitate, lexicalogically, are lost. The Fowler brothers, in The King's English, claimed that it was too late for Brits to adopt the word fall: "We once had as good a right to it as the Americans, but we have chosen to let the right lapse, and to use the word now is no better than larceny." Thanks to Forrest Wickman for allowing me to harvest and sow this lovely bit of info before it falls between the cracks. There were five cases of today's typo in OhioLINK, and 86 in WorldCat.

(Leaves, 11 November 2011, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Mulsim* (for Muslim*)

In a moment of lassitude the other day, with seemingly nothing better on the tube, I decided to kick back and watch Sex and the City 2, despite some decidedly mixed reviews. In this sequel to the 2008 movie Sex and the City (itself a sequel to the popular HBO series), four female friends, three of them solidly married by now, decide to escape the monotony of their upscale Manhattan lives and take an all-expense-paid trip to Abu Dhabi. (Samantha's apparently doing business with a sheikh.) Of course, it's 100%, Grade A, over-the-top fabulous, even for Abu Dhabi. But then it's still "Sex and the City" and therefore still all about sexual freedom and shoes. Frankly, the film is more than a little silly and trades in certain stereotypes, but its feminist heart is definitely in in the right place: "I am woman, hear me roar..." the ladies belt out one night in an Arab karaoke club. While many women in the Middle East sadly still have a long way to go, there's heartening evidence that a growing number of them might be willing to give Carrie & co. a burqa-covered wink and a nod—just like they did in the movie before introducing our girls to an underground "book club." (This appeared to be a reference to Reading Lolita in Tehran, although in this case the work under discussion was the latest Suzanne Somers bestseller). While some critics were offended by SATC2's sort of simulated version of Muslim society, others will see it as a fun-filled shout-out to women everywhere, no matter what they're wearing. Today's typo comes courtesy of a friend who sent along the misspelled Gawker headline (now corrected): "Innocence of Mulsims Director Jailed, World May Never Hear What He’s Got to Say for Himself." There were 15 cases of Mulsim* (for Muslim*) in OhioLINK today (although nine of them were mentions of MulSim, a "multiprocessor simulator for Unix systems"), along with 69 in WorldCat.

(Muslim girls at Istiqlal Mosque in Jakarta posing in front of the camera, February 26, 2006, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Ilsand* (for Island*)

No woman is an island, but Madeline L'Engle really stands out in a sea of young-adult and adult fiction authors. And if you happen to possess a copy of her second book, Ilsa, published in 1946, it looks like you may own a very special work indeed. (Ilsa is a young teenager who lives with her naturalist father in a beach house somewhere in the Deep South; later she moves to Charleston, South Carolina, with its many coastal islands.) I first fell in love with L'Engle when my sixth-grade teacher read A Wrinkle in Time out loud to the class. Soon after that, I found a copy of Camilla (1965) at the public library, and have remembered it fondly, if somewhat vaguely, ever since. Just the other day I stumbled upon a paperback copy I'd picked up somewhere and decided to read it again. The story of Camilla Dickinson, a fifteen-year-old girl who lives in Manhattan with her beloved but troubled parents, the book introduced me to a number of "grown up" problems and issues. And reading it again has briefly brought me back in time, the actual "wrinkle in time," so to speak, in which I can see myself standing in a smallish room at the back of the smallish public library of my youth, and the shelf where I first laid eyes upon this book over forty years ago. That's just the kind of writer Madeleine L'Engle is. In order to read Ilsa, however, I will probably have to avail myself of ILL. According to Wikipedia: "Unlike virtually all of L'Engle's other novels, Ilsa has never been republished or reprinted. Although no official explanation has ever been given, the book's continued unavailability appears to stem from the author's own reported dissatisfaction with the book... Nevertheless, this is one of the most sought-after titles for serious collectors of Madeleine L'Engle's work." There are only five copies listed on AbeBooks, all of them upwards of $300. We found three instances of today's typo in OhioLINK, and 22 in WorldCat.

(Book cover and dust jacket of Ilsa by Madeleine L'Engle, first and probably only printing, Vanguard Press, 1946, no ISBN. Cover art credited to "leslie." Courtesy of Wikipedia.)

Carol Reid

Monday, September 24, 2012

Conpany (for Company)

Two's company, three's a crowd. The letter m, much like the best of friends, is basically two n's pushed closer together. A typographical "em dash" (—) is twice the width of an "en dash" (–). And whereas a fish (the glyph for the letter n) might not need a bicycle, it definitely does need water (the glyph for the letter m). The two of 'em fall almost right smack dab in the middle of the "alphabet song" and are arguably the most fun part of it to sing: L-EMENO-P. Speaking of fun, I experienced a couple of funny coincidences while composing this blog entry the other night. With the television on in the background, I heard a character say, just as I wrote the word company: "Is company coming?" And then a minute later, as I was putting down the word best, another suggested that they'll "just have to make the best of it." Let's make the best of our typo for today (found 13 times in OhioLINK and seven times in WorldCat) by cleaning up all of our library catalogs. Company is coming.

(Publicity photo from Three's Company series premiere, with Joyce DeWitt, John Ritter ,and Suzanne Somers, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Friday, September 21, 2012

Shephard* + Shepard* (for Shepard* or Shepard*)

Creator of the iconic nanny Mary Poppins, although not the coiner of supercalifragilisticexpialidocious (nor, frankly, very much at all in the Walt Disney version, which she personally disdained), P. L. Travers wouldn't have been pleased with today's careless typo. Travers, who was born in Australia in 1899, wrote the "practically perfect" children's book in 1934. While not the author's first choice, a young, inexperienced person called Mary Shepard ended up doing the drawings for it—of course, now we can't imagine Mary Poppins looking any other way. Mary was the daughter of Ernest Shepard (who famously drew Christopher Robin and friends, as well as the riparian habitués of The Wind in the Willows) and was just twenty-three when her father found himself too busy to make the pictures for Mary Poppins. Travers then noticed Mary's sketches on a Christmas card of an acquaintance (they had "a happy imperfection, a sense of wonder") and invited her to take his place. (Such a marvelous present from Papa Shepard, an unintended push toward professional immortality. As the verbally challenged Oxford don William Archibald Spooner might have said: "The Lord is a shoving leopard.") The author of Mary Poppins was  a great admirer of J. M. Barrie and her first publisher was actually Peter Llewelyn Davies, the childhood model for Peter Pan. Travers enjoyed several careers during her lifetime: she dabbled in poetry and performed in the theater before turning to journalism and settling into a routine that would culminate in more than twenty books, written over a span of almost fifty years. There were 59 instances of today's combined typos in OhioLINK, and over 400 in WorldCat.

(P.L. Travers, appearing in the role of Titania in A Midsummer Night's Dream, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Proprety (for Property)

I was lucky to have grown up in a rambling, ramshackle, and rented three-story house on a sprawling piece of amazingly pretty property. Within view of the Hudson River (originally called the North River), it boasted almost every bucolic cliché in the book: a beautiful old barn that housed some donkeys for a while, a rickety chicken coop out behind it, and a free-ranging goat or two, although it wasn't really a working farm. There were apple trees and pear trees, a silver weeping willow, a large cluster of lilac bushes, a cunning little covered well, and an empty "cee-ment" pond—to mention only a few of its many charms. But the best part of all was the "Love Garden," a stone-walled world of wonder, with a trellised gate at one end, a tall tree swing at the other, a field of daffodils, and a carved marble bench on which we would sometimes sit and hold hands for the occasional game of "Wedding." (I mean, it was just too pretty not to.) Prettify your bibliographic property by correcting today's typo, which was found twice in OhioLINK and 37 times in WorldCat. You can try expanding your search to Propreties as well, but please take note of the following title (properly spelled or not?—I get pretty much the same number of hits on it spelled either way): A boke of the propreties of herbes called an herball, published around 1550.

(In the Country by Leon Kroll, 18841974, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Sytle* (for Style*)

The way that some people dress sometimes (myself included), you'd swear they have no sense of style. (Or in typospeak, Sytle.) To cite ol' Quentin Crisp in his 1975 book How to Have a Life-Style: "Style, in the broadest sense of all, is consciousness. More specifically it is a consistent idiom arising spontaneously from the personality but deliberately maintained." Susan Sontag (who may have maintained the coolest hair streak in literary history) penned the classic "Notes on Camp" in 1964 (along with an essay entitled "Styles of Radical Will" in 1969). Nina Garcia, editor of Marie Claire magazine, wrote The Little Black Book of Style in 2007. And in 1993, the somewhat snarky style-related word "fashionista" was admitted to the OED. The subject, it seems, covers a lot of ground. Simply put, though, style is in the eye of the beholder, and maybe even more so, in the mind of the beheld. I've turned quite a few heads in my time and, what's more, they haven't all been appalled at my apparel. (I was once told by a coworker: "It's not that you wear weird clothes. It's that you wear clothes weird." Hey, I resemble that remark!) The yellow pages have separate listings for clothing and apparel, which makes me wonder which side'll eventually win out. Clothing, apparel, and style ("I'm stylin'") can be verbs as well as nouns. Apparel can also refer to a ship's sails and rigging, for example, in addition to something that clothes or adorns ("as," the dictionary sweetly adds, "the bright ~ of spring"). Brighten up this fading summer's day by sidling up to today's typo and giving it a style makeover. Sytle* was found ten times in OhioLINK, and 183 times in WorldCat.

(Camille Styles, from Wikimedia Commons, sampling a plate of macarons, the stylish little pastries featured in yesterday's blog entry.)

Carol Reid

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Ingrediant* (for Ingredient*)

A new bakery has opened in Albany and I stopped in the other day to try my very first macaron—that's French for macaroon, sans the shredded coconut and the second letter o. But despite the name, it's really a different cookie altogether: two delicate meringue wafers surrounding a sweet, creamy filling. The delectable dainties are light as a feather and small, round, and shiny as a half-dollar coin, if rather more expensive ($2.50 a pop or $2.00 for five or more). The TC Bakery features these tiny treats, which look like colorful little dollhouse hamburgers or wee flying saucers; some say the best of the batch are those laced with the bakery's homemade caramel. Their classically trained chefs use top-notch ingredients like Plugrá butter and Valrhona chocolate and make their own flavored extracts. The macarons come in varieties such as pistachio; lemon; maple-walnut; lime and basil; orange; raspberry; "chocolate infinity"; salted caramel; pecan praline, Earl Grey and milk chocolate; the intriguing ube or "purple yam"; an equally enchanting "rose garden"; and (still in the works) vanilla and olive oil. They're notably difficult to make well, but if you're a home baker and want to give them a try, there are videos and recipes online. Back when I was younger, I used to have a problem with the spelling of ingredient, unsure if it ended in -ent or -ant. A friend handed me this helpful mnemonic: Ants like picnics, but you don't want to find them as ingredients in your food. Which is undoubtedly the case, notwithstanding the edible "chocolate-covered" kind. Although if anyone could make them taste très bon, it's the folks who brought you the macaron! Today's typo turns up twice in OhioLINK, and 44 times in WorldCat.

(Pierre Hermé's "Olive Oil and Vanilla" macaron., 2009, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Monday, September 17, 2012

Cookbok*, etc. (for Cookbook*)

While some typos may be relatively harmless, minor speed bumps on the road to reading, other ones have proven to be recipes for disaster. Take, for example, cookbook errors. It looks like too many cooks would spoil the books (to "b" or not to "b" becomes a critical question, for example, when dealing with tsps and tbsps) and are only saved from icky ignominy by the seasoned eyes of a diligent subset of proofreaders. Despite the best efforts of these fastidious folks, however, such typos have caused heartbreak in the kitchen, and cost publishers thousands if not millions of dollars whenever fooked-up cookbooks have to be recalled. Most of these mistakes are too boring to make the news, but definitely not all of them. And some bakers' blunders are just a little fruity. One writer tells about the time she purchased a pastry made with sultanas and mistakenly labeled "Sultan Cake." Her sister declined a second helping, she says, pointing out that "sultans can be very rich." We found two cases of Cookbok* in OhioLINK today, and 22 in WorldCat. There were a handful of hits on Cokbook* too. You can play around with this one and check for other versions as well, although Cockbook* and Cookbock* only turned up one time apiece.

(Photo from Wikimedia Commons by Paddy Patterson of Ayre, Scotland, 2005, and rather mystifyingly captioned: "i couldnt find anything with 121 written on it, so i made it out of some leftover sultana bread and stuck it in the office scanner (which is all sticky now).")

Carol Reid

Friday, September 14, 2012

Herioc* (for Heroic*)

Not all heroes are perfect. Or perhaps I should say, no heroes are perfect. At any rate, I actually prefer mine to be a bit flawed. After all, Achilles would be kind of lame without his famous bum heel. And for a few more contemporary examples: Superman's got that pesky Kryptonite allergy; the Green Lantern is no match for the color yellow; and Wonder Woman is, well, a woman. (Just kidding, nerds! Wonder Woman is perfect.) And then of course there's Underdog, a sort of second-stringer for the savior set. According to this patriotic picture of him in a suit that looks several sizes too big for him, he's only got four fingers with which to make a fist. But then that's pretty much par for the paws. (A dog's digits are sometimes called "toes" and number five in the front and four in the back. And most cartoon characters have four fingers because they're easier to draw that way.) In any case, Underdog's worth is not in his appendages; it's in his attitude: There's no need to fear, Underdog is here! Wally Cox supplied the voice of Underdog in the cartoon series that ran on television from 1964 to 1973. An array of villains regularly tested his mettle, but Underdog's favorite cause was the valient protection of Sweet Polly Purebred. Underdog was rather klutzy as well, often colliding with something as he attempted to land: "Not plane, nor bird, nor even frog. It's just little old me ... [crash!] ... Underdog." Nonplussed by such contretemps, however, he would mildly add: "I am a hero who never fails; I cannot be bothered with such details." We catalogers are different, however, and need to attend to such small matters as typos. Today's is an imperfect version of the word heroic*. There were seven of these found in OhioLINK today, and 95 in WorldCat.

(Underdog, from Wikipedia.)

Carol Reid

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Figth* (for Fight*)

Children's author Else Holmelund Minarik was born on September 13, 1920, and died this past July at the age of 91. She was born in Denmark, but moved here with her family when she was four years old. Like everyone else who has ever read them, I adored her Little Bear books, with their gorgeous illustrations by Maurice Sendak. (A publisher had wanted her to change the bears to people; however, said Minarik, "all children of all colours would be reading the stories" and "all children love animals... I love them because Mother took me to the Bronx zoo every day, and I fell in love with the cubs. My bears were a family.") But as the eldest of four children, I especially enjoyed the hilarious No Fighting, No Biting! in which the author wryly compares a squabbling pair of siblings to a suspiciously similar set of restive young reptiles. This 1958 classic begins with a young woman named Joan sitting on the sofa, trying to read a book. Her little cousins crowd in next to her, jostling and needling as only such creatures can. Joan repeatedly implores them to cut it out, but to no avail. Then she gets an idea. She tells them a shaggy alligator story about "Light-foot" and "Quick-foot" who are constantly "fighting and biting and hitting and spitting," until finally Willy and Rosa get both tired—and the point. An "I Can Read" chapter book comprising four gentle cliffhangers, it's kind of like an Arabian Nights for naughty kids. Minarik, who was a first-grade teacher on Long Island, New York, said she began writing children's books (which she always did in longhand since she couldn't type) when she realized that children needed more to read than the sort of "Dick and Jane" primers so ubiquitous back then. This reminds me of my own earliest visits to the library where the children's collection consisted of a single shelf of volumes, which seems hard to believe by today's standards. Yet that one small shelf contained books that are now known as classics of the genre, Minark's own included. There were six cases of today's troublesome typo in OhioLINK, and 94 in WorldCat.

(Cover of No Fighting, No Biting! by Else Minarik.)

Carol Reid

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Deoart* (for Depart*)

Demeter, sometimes known as Deo, was the goddess of the harvest, according to ancient Greek mythology. She was like the head of the Agriculture Department. Demeter, whose Roman analogue was Ceres, was responsible for the success of the fall crops, especially the grains, and is associated with the poppy flower, which blooms brightly in the barley fields. In Homer's Odyssey, she appears as the one who separates "the wheat from the chaff," as we still say today about a person who can see the true value of things. Her daughter Persephone was famously abducted by Hades and made to stay underground until her grieving mother, who had called a halt to any further fruits and vegetables, got her back with the eventual help of her father, Zeus. It's rather an odd story, but the upshot is that since young Persie had hungrily eaten a pomegranate seed while living in the underworld, she was forever punished by having to spend a third of each year with Hades, and two-thirds of it aboveground with her mom. Despite the fact that Deo is also said to have presided over the "sanctity of marriage," this detail reminds me of the back-and-forth dilemma of many joint-custody children of divorce. I'm kidding of course. The legend of Demeter is clearly intended to represent the growing cycle of the seasons. I hope you've all got your grains harvested by now, or at any rate that you're able to separate the wheat from the chaff when it comes to today's typo, which turns up 11 times in OhioLINK, and 46 times in WorldCat.

(Demeter Mourning Persephone, by Evelyn de Morgan, 1906, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Librarin* (for Librarian*)

Most librarians I know are pretty happy with their jobs, but there was a time not too long ago when librarianship—along with teaching, nursing, waitressing, sales, and secretarial work—was one of the only occupations open or friendly to women. Therefore, there were very likely females in our profession who might have occasionally wished they were in another one. In any case, I love this photo, in which a former "salesgirl, librarian, and sixth-grade school teacher" is shown positively beaming as she works on a car during the WWII "Rosie the Riveter" days. I imagine there's something about standing when you're supposed to be sitting, making noise when you're used to being (and making others be) quiet, and getting your hands dirty instead of keeping them clean that really must have felt quite freeing. This pre-women's-lib "liberation," however, was very ephemeral since the moment our "boys" came back from the war, women were promptly returned to their traditional places, most of them ending up at home, not working for a paycheck. I was just visiting a library over in Hillsdale, New York, that had an assortment of free books available in the lobby. A first paperback printing of The Feminine Mystique caught my eye. It had originally sold for 75 cents and I was oddly gratified to see that the copy had a man's name written inside its tattered covers. Published in 1963, this feminist classic by Betty Friedan will mark its fiftieth anniversary next year. The Feminine Mystique was the first book of its type that I had ever read and therefore it made a huge impression on me; I read it toward the end of high school in the early 1970s. Friedan discusses "the problem that had no name" and gives plenty of examples of the kind of sexist propaganda being dispensed by so-called "women's magazines" during the postwar baby boom. I still remember the time I had to look up the word inferior in the dictionary after puzzling over an article in one of my mother's mags entitled: "Are Women Really the Inferior Sex?" Never has a definition felt more deflating. While there are certainly individuals and even entire cultures who still believe this, women as a rule are not considered inferior anymore, but are definitely in; you can read all about the history of the women's movement today in virtually any library in the country. Librarin* was found once in OhioLINK this morning, and 30 times in WorldCat.

(Photo by Ann Rosener, circa February 1943, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Monday, September 10, 2012

Astair (for Astaire)

Adele Astaire (born Adele Marie Austerlitz) was born on September 10, 1896. (She died in 1981 at the age of 95). Adele was the older sister and long-time dance partner of Fred Astaire; they performed in theater and vaudeville together for 27 years, starting at the ages of eight and five. Adele was actually the more well-known of the pair during their professional association and was especially well-liked by British royalty. She was even asked by author J.M. Barrie to play Peter Pan onstage, but had to turn the offer down. She was considered to be more outgoing than her relatively shy brother and she enjoyed saying and doing outrageous things. According to Fred's son-in-law, Richard McKenzie, Adele and Fred were playing Scrabble one day when he noticed her laying down the letters C-U-N. Aghast at this "emerging vulgarity," Fred demurred. However, as she later told his daughter Ava: "I could have been spelling anything! Like cunnilingus." And of course she was correct: there are several different words that begin that way (cuneiform, cuneal, cunning, and even the rarely used cunctative, meaning "characterized by delay; tardy; dilatory), though none of them nearly so eye-catching as the infamous "C-word"—which has been around for ages, but which the Scrabble dictionary and many others have pointedly omitted. (At least until fairly recently.) There were seven cases of Astair (for Astaire) in OhioLINK today, and 83 in WorldCat. It's possible some of these may be correctly spelled names (NACO gives one example: Astair Gebremariam Mengesha), so be sure to check your sources.

(Publicity photo of Adele and Fred Astaire, 1919, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Friday, September 7, 2012

Oilv* (for Oliv*)

I love olive oil, you love olive oil, who doesn't love olive oil? Especially since we've been told for years that it's one of the healthiest fats to cook with, plus it comes in such pretty glass bottles and decorative containers. But it appears that love, like power, can corrupt, and there's a lot of corruption going on right now in the olive oil business. Actually, it's not just now; according to a 2007 article in The New Yorker by Tom Mueller: "Olive-oil fraud was already common in antiquity." But as consumption of the oil has increased ("thirty-five per cent in southern Europe, its traditional market, and more than a hundred per cent in North America" over the past decade), adulteration, marketing scandals, and other forms of false advertising have risen as well. The website Truth in Olive Oil contains some helpful information to guide the consumer, but in general you should look for a deep green oil, bottled in dark glass, certified organic, and of course "extra-virgin" (although this term is often applied to a less than virginal product). Your best bet for where to place your money would seem to be, if counter-intuitively, California. One of my favorite insights from Mueller is that real olive oil is "fruit juice." Not-so-real olive oil is an inferior mix of improperly prepared olives mixed with other types of oil. OhioLINK reveals six impurities with regard to today's typo; there were 63 found in WorldCat.

(Italian olive oil, from the city of Manerba del Garda, northern Italy, July 2007, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Covention* (for Convention*)

Taking a break from the Democratic convention on TV last night, I was checking out a classic sitcom when I suddenly heard Batman say: "If you can't trust the voters, whom can you trust?" Well, for starters, I'm not sure whether we can trust that "whom" there or not. Frankly, I've always found the matter of who versus whom, especially in certain contexts, a little confusing. It's not a problem when the word follows a preposition (in, for, to, etc.), but how about in a question like Batman's? Shouldn't that "whom" be "who"? Isn't that how most of us mere mortals would say it? After consulting Google, it looks like Batman (channeling his inner Bruce Wayne) is right; however, his way may be taking the highway. In fact, according to Henry Hitchings, author of The English Wars: A History of Proper English (2011), that war may already be lost. Hitchings, for whom many grammar "rules" are simply conventions, tells us that "whom seems to be receding." So whom shall we turn to for guidance? Can we convene a group of grammar geeks to come to our rescue? Consult the nearest copy of Who's Who for some names? Or should that be "Who's Whom?" Just kidding, I'm voting for "who," but you're free to vote for whomever you like. Seriously, though, here's how to remember it. If the word in question comes in the form of a question, just supply a plausible answer. If it's "I can trust him (or her)," it should be whom. There were 24 cases of Covention* in OhioLINK, and 544 in WorldCat.

(Photo of Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward as Robin, 1971, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Carlina + Carolina (for Carolina or Carlina)

I've blogged about Loudon Wainwright III before, but seeeing as how today is the old chap's birthday, here's another shout-out to someone I consider to be one of the finest singer-songwriters in the country. Wainwright was born on September 5, 1946, in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. His mother was a yoga instructor and his dad worked as a writer and editor for Life magazine. Wainwright the elder also played piano and enjoyed writing songs. Loudon followed in his father's footsteps and learned how to play guitar, but after moving to San Francisco in his early twenties, he sold his instrument in order to afford yoga lessons. Nice tribute to his meditative mom, but Loudon's true calling was louder. While working in a boatyard in Rhode Island, an old lobsterman inspired his very first song, "Edgar." Soon after that, Wainwright bought another guitar and wrote almost twenty songs in less than a year. Since that time, he has scarcely let up, with 25 or so albums currently to his name. Here's wishing a very happy birthday to North Carolina's native son, along with a poignant farewell to summer, a season best summed up by one of my favorite Loudon Wainwright tunes, "The Swimming Song": This summer I went swimming / This summer I might have drowned / But I held my breath and I kicked my feet / And I moved my arms around / Moved my arms around... I held my breath and I kicked my feet and I found ten cases of today's combination typo in OhioLINK, along with 103 in WorldCat.

(Swimmer at Carolina Beach, North Carolina, 14 July 2012, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Foward* (for Forward*)

Journalists and grammar experts have been engaging in a rather pointed political debate lately over the Obama camp's minimalist new campaign slogan: "Forward." That's with the period included. "Forward. Period. Full stop"as the president himself has apparently joked. The stalled buzzword's been getting a bit of flack from both sides of the aisle and for a couple of different reasons: it's wrong because it's an incomplete sentence, or it's right because it's an imperative. Newspaper columnist June Casagrande agrees that there is something slightly off about this slogan, but it may not be what the critics think. She argues that "Forward." is not an imperative nor a declarative sentence (unless you mean to forward an email, for example, and it would still need an object: forward what?), but explains that legitimate sentence "fragments" can and often do end in periods. In any case, she thinks that the period here looks a little odd and out of place. (I see her point. A one-word sentence in a book or article, surrounded by other sentences, needs a period after it, for obvious reasons. But this is more like the door of a restroom reading "Women." or a directional sign saying "Left." or "Right.") Even the sentiment behind it is kind of lame, it seems to me. It's clearly meant to evoke exhortations like "Onward and upward!" but "Forward." just sounds sort of grim and resigned. In any case, it does make you ponder the question of what periods are actually for. (And to wonder, perhaps, what the next one in our own country's history might be like.) I suppose forward is better than backward, though (except for when it isn't), so rather than resign ourselves to 29 examples of Foward* in OhioLINK, and 595 in WorldCat, let's move forward today and try to correct this error.

Note to irony lovers: Casagrande's otherwise excellent column contained a rather unfortunate period-implicated typo of its own: "Because 'Forward.' Is not a complete sentence, it's an error to end it with a period."

( Copy of the figurehead statue "Forward," which was created at the Columbian World Exposition in Chicago in 1893 by artist-in-residence Jean Pond Miner. The title of the statue adopts the motto of the State of Wisconsin, and funding was provided by the women of that state. From Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Monday, September 3, 2012

Transced* (for Transcend*)

"The sharp edge of a razor is difficult to pass over; thus the wise say the path to Salvation is hard..."—taken from a verse in the sacred Hindu text the Upanishads. I caught the 1946 film adaptation of the book The Razor's Edge on TCM the other day and I thoroughly enjoyed it. As did guest programmer Drew Barrymore, who thanked host Robert Osborne (he claimed it was one of his top three all-time favorite films) for introducing her to it. (I myself had my good friend, and classic movie fan, P. to thank for the fortunate heads-up.) The book, written by W. Somerset Maugham, traces the spiritual voyage and search for transcendence undertaken by World War I veteran Larry Darrell. Larry is played by Tyrone Power in the movie, which also features Gene Tierney, John Payne, Anne Baxter, Clifton Webb, and Herbert Marshall as Somerset Maugham. Like life itself, this story has got it all: love, death, personal identity, travel abroad, romantic entanglements, societal expectations, drinking problems, and the quest for God. And it's wonderfully written, expertly directed (by Joseph L. Mankiewicz), and beautifully acted to boot. According to some, the protagonist was based on another prominent author, Christopher Isherwood, who nevertheless repudiated the link in the pages of Time magazine. Maugham was a highly regarded author and travel writer with an unusual empathy for women and their sexual natures. He is perhaps best known for the semi-autobiographical novel Of Human Bondage, which was made into a film starring Bette Davis and Leslie Howard in 1934. The typo Transced* was found 16 times in OhioLINK, and 426 times in WorldCat.

(Cover of The Razor's Edge, by W. Somerset Maugham, 1946 paperback edition, Triangle Books, from Wikipedia.)

Carol Reid