Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Burgler* + Burglar* (for Burglar*)

Burgler is a funny typo, suggesting almost a sort of middle-class citizen (burgher) who plays a brass instrument (bugler), rather than that infamous guy in prison garb and a ball and chain, carrying a big bag of loot with dollar signs printed on it. (I don't think they even use the term "cat burglar" anymore, but generations of children must have imagined those bags as being full of felonious felines!) It also prompts the obvious, if seemingly silly, question: Do burglars "burgle"? Well, actually, they do. The dictionary defines burgle as "another term for burglarize." (This fact—that errant E—could possibly even be a contributing factor in today's typo.) The painting shown here has got quite the story behind it, which I am quoting in its entirety, if only to include the glorious word "burglarious." A picture from Puck magazine, it's titled "Helping the rascals in—a burglarious scheme that may be suddenly spoiled." The abstract helpfully explains: "Illustration shows James G. Blaine wearing a top hat with three plumes, a sack labeled 'For the Plunder' hanging from his neck, and a paper tied at his waist that states '20 Years on the Make,' attempting to break into the 'White House' through an open window; he is being supported from below by Benjamin F. Butler who is sitting on the back of Charles A. Dana, who is holding 'The Sun' newspaper dated 'June 16, 1884,' on which is written 'Turn the Rascals Out!' Puck's figure for the Independent Party has just come around the corner carrying a stick labeled 'Independent Vote.'" We apprehended six cases of this combination-locked typo in OhioLINK today, and 38 in WorldCat.

And by the way, speaking of burglars, I'm reading a wonderful children's book at the moment, Eleanor Estes' The Alley, which was published in 1964, with illustrations by the great Edward Ardizzone. I solemnly swear (on a "grade-six speller" while the "judge" bangs on a trash can with a borrowed ice mallet from Connie's kitchen), it's simply burglarious!

(Puck centerfold, vol. 16, no. 398, 1884 October 22, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

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