or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Thursday, December 13, 2007

White Knuckles

I've been busy these days; in the world of retail it is, of course, complete insanity, with Christmas less than two weeks away, and I've been reading a lot (The World Without Us, which is pretty good, and The Meaning of Everything, which is generally stupendous), and I just got this new game and have been playing it a lot. I've been writing plenty of pieces for both blogs; I just haven't been finishing them. Nothing, it seemed, could stir me from my winter torpor.

But this! This thing! This thing!

From a recent Slate.com article about gift-giving guides:

Consider this guide, then, perfect for folks who blanche at the mawkishness of those ubiquitous Kay Jewelers ads: Sometimes a miter saw says "I love you" more effectively than a sapphire-encrusted brooch.

I was going to let it go--see how laissez-faire I am these days?--and then I realized that I just couldn't.

Not only is "blanche" wrong, it isn't even an English word. If you capitalize it, then it is: it becomes a woman's name. Otherwise, no. "Blanch", on the other hand, is a word; it means "to whiten", and it is from Old French, where, in the guise of Modern French, it remains as "blanc" (the masculine form) or "blanche" (the feminine).

It shouldn't matter, I suppose. The point was still made; the piece was comprehensible, even with this mistake. But it is a mistake, and it ought to have been edited away, and it wasn't. Are there copy editors any more? Not at Slate, it would seem. And it's a mistake in exactly the same way as using "clothe" instead of "cloth", or "breathe" instead of "breath", would be a mistake. They're wrong. They're just wrong, and no two ways about it.

Mistakes slip into all writing. That's the way of it. But when you make a mistake that looks as if you honestly don't know one word from another, and there isn't anyone around to fix the problem...well, that looks very, very bad indeed.


Anonymous carosgram said...

I appreciate precision as much as you do. It just makes the world a more orderly place.

Thursday, December 13, 2007 9:03:00 PM  

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