or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Friday, May 09, 2008


Yesterday I got an e-mail from Salon.com warning me that unless I renewed by May 29th, my Premium membership would end.

My reason for paying for another year is the same as my reason for wanting to let the subscription lapse: Salon is pretty much my number-one source for irritating typos. If I don't give them money, I won't have to read all those stupid and avoidable errors, but then I won't have stupid and avoidable errors to complain about!

Decisions, decisions.

Today's error is in this review of the movie "What Happens In Vegas":

Early in the film, Jack is canned from his carpentry job by his own dad (Treat Williams) and Joy is dumped by her fiancé (Jason Sudeikis) in front of all their friends, prompting both to beeline to Sin City for some healing Cirque du Soliel and Big Gulp-size libations.

There's no shame in not knowing French, but "Soliel" is the kind of mistake that could only happen in print if the writer took a stab at a word they didn't know and couldn't be bothered to look up, and if there were no intermediary between the author and the "Publish" button, no copy editor or proofreader or in fact any sort of useful editorship at all.

It's "Soleil". (It means "sun" and is from Latin "sol", the source of "solar" in English.)


The same review starts with this sentence:

Ah, Vegas -- the geographic manifestation of the collective id. It's the turpitude-soaked, neon-lit supporting star of countless films, from "Swingers" to "Ocean's 11" to "Showgirls."

Don't you love the word "turpitude"? So harsh and Victorian and judgemental! (Even better is the adjectival form, "turpitudinous".)

It means "depravity" and is, predictably, from Latin: from "turpis", "shameful, ugly". And that's where it stops: nobody quite knows where the word originated from, although the best guess is that it's from Greek, later Latin, "strephein", "to turn", in the sense of "that which one ought to turn away from". ("Strephein" is the source of the "-strophe" words in English, primarily "apostrophe", literally "to turn away", because it marks the place in a word where letters have been refused entry, and "catastrophe", literally "an overturning".)


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