or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Monday, September 22, 2008


There are three levels of published errors in advertising or other forms of public notice, and even if there aren't, I'm going to say there are, because I happen to have three illustrative examples, ranked in order of excusability.

First is the sort of error that you might as well just laugh at, because there's hardly any chance it's ever going to be avoided; that error crops up when English is being rendered by someone whose first language isn't English and who doesn't have reliable access to a proofreader. The cruelly hilarious website Engrish Funny is jam-packed with such things, and here's a representative example

which, it is clear, came about because someone with a smattering of English looked up the words in a dictionary and didn't understand that the words that preceded them (probably in italics in the original) denoted the parts of speech and weren't part of the words themselves.

The second level is the kind that occurs when something is written by native English speakers who might be pressed for time or money and don't have (or don't feel they have) the time or the staff to do a proper spellcheck and edit, as in this poster for a drag show:

"Ukele" is not "ukulele".

The third level of error is the unforgivable one; large blocks of elaborate copy are produced, by English speakers, and not spellchecked or proofread or vetted in any way, for no conceivable reason.

A new line of British niche scents named after the Celtic warrior Boadicea (the name was presumably selected because it begins with the name of the designer, Michael Boadi, and not because women want to smell like a Celtic warrior of the first century C.E.) has arrived in the usual rush of publicity, but that publicity doesn't appear to have a copy editor attached to it. Here's a snippet from their website

and here's another from the same brochure

and damned if they didn't spell the word "its" twice and get it wrong (in different ways) both times.

There are other errors, too; grammatical mistakes, punctuation errors, typos. The whole thing seems as it it got tossed off in a long night and immediately typeset; nobody seems to have to combed it for the purpose of correcting it.

It doesn't appear to be on the fragrance's website (nor anywhere else on the Web), but here's a description of one of the scents, courtesy of Now Smell This:

Explorer ~ "As bright and sharp as freshly squeezed juice - Explorer is an enervating citrus scent containing acidic aromas of Sicilian lemon ripened under the Mediterranean sun. Subtle notes of citron and cypress lend it a full bodied, succulent potency."

"Enervating"? Does whoever wrote this even know what the word means? Rhetorical question: they clearly don't, but think it means "invigorating" or something along those lines. "Enervating" actually means "sapping the strength of: weakening." In other words, the writer chose exactly the wrong word for the text, the word that means more or less precisely the opposite of what was intended.

Would someone over in the UK like to give Michael Boadi a slap with an editor's glove? Please?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not that I'm excusing the use of the word "enervate", but I can think of one very famous source that uses the word in precisely the way it is meant in the excerpt.

It's used as a spell in a Harry Potter book, to resuscitate someone who has been Stunned.


Wednesday, September 24, 2008 3:21:00 AM  

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