Monday, February 2, 2015

Murmer* (for Murmur*)

April 10, 2013, was a dark day in proofreading history, and a seeming bummer for the "greatest magazine that ever was." The New Yorker is known far and wide for its wonderful writing and impeccable editing, though there must have been a few murmurs afoot that day as readers perused a story entitled "Animals" by Simon Rich.* The offending line, which was spoken by a neglected, starving, single-father hamster, was this: "When he walks by my cage, I peak [sic] at the engraving on his trophy." And no, he was not "talking about the level of his excitement," as one friend wryly suggested—although he was awfully excited for a hamster. But probably no more so than another friend was, the one who had actually spotted this blot on the magazine's famous reputation. ("Look at this," he announced, in dire tones: "The New Yorker has fallen and it can't get up!") Typos in the New Yorker, as it bemusedly turns out, though, are not as rare as you might think. And confusing the homonyms peek and peak is pretty common too, as we once pointed out in a blog entry from 2010. Unlike peak for peek, Murmer* (for murmur*) is more of a misspelling than a wrong word choice or typo in the classic sense. We're featuring it here today in honor of our beloved New Yorker; its hilarious (and erstwhile?) "Shouts and Murmurs"; and our shared dedication to the principles of good editing and the proposition that apparently nobody's perfect. There were 30 examples of this typo found in OhioLINK, and 367 in WorldCat.

*I'm still not sure of the date of the print edition, or whether this piece was even published in print. It seems that it may have only appeared in the online "Daily Shouts" column. In any case, the typo was corrected in the book Spoiled Brats, published in 2014.

(Hamster, by August Gaul, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

1 comment:

marc_t said...

"And confusing the homonyms peek and peak is pretty common too, as we once pointed out in a blog entry from 2010."

To which you can add the word "pique", which I often see rendered as "peak", as in: "She said something that peaked my interest."