or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Monday, January 26, 2009


From a recent Slate.com blog posting about plush dolls modelled after the daughters of President Obama:

The cheerleader Exciting Emily comes close to having your hair, Emily, but her eye color is a little upsetting. Apparently her "team colors (lavender and teal) really bring out the color of her eyes." Oh right. Her lavender and teal eyes. And the Sweet Sammi doll that I can only assume was named after me has a similar octal malfunction. Clad in an orange hoodie, blue-eyed Sammi is also, apparently, benefiting from an outfit that "really brings out her eyes!"

The writer, Samantha Henig, isn't just some random blogger: she's a journalist who writes for Newsweek. And she apparently thinks that the word "octal" has something to do with the eyes.

How can she think this? And if she doesn't and made an honest typing mistake (and didn't re-read her piece before publishing it), how can there possibly not be an editor at Slate who caught it?

"Ocular" is the adjective she's looking for. "Octal" means "having the number eight as a base", and it's from Latin "octo", "eight", as in "octopus". "Ocular" is from Latin "oculus", "eye", as in "monocle". Nothing in common.

Edited to add, some hours later:

I see from the comments that Ms. Henig corrected the error (after something called Google Alert, which I must investigate further, told her about it), and this confirms my suspicion that it was merely a typing mistake of the kind I'd made a thousand times: you begin typing a word, your fingers take over and complete the word differently, and you don't even notice, at least not right away. (I wrote "alone" instead of "alike" two paragraphs below.)

But that puts the blame squarely in the lap of Slate and its nonexistent corps of editors, which forces me to say, for the thousandth time (and you should imagine this next rant illuminated with various levels of italics and bolding because most of the words, if I were saying them out loud, would be stressed in one way or another):

Every single word meant for any sort of official publication beyond a readership of one, every article for a magazine or a newspaper or a website, every coin and banknote, every advertisement and sign and placard, every book and pamphlet and broadsheet, everything that contains as much a solitary word: every single scrap of it requires the oversight of some sort of editor. Failure to provide this does a tremendous disservice to readers and writers alike, and I would be hard-pressed to say which of them suffers the more. It is nearly impossible for writers to copy-edit their own work: they see what they intended to write rather than what they actually did write. Readers cannot be expected to do the work of editing, nor to try to winkle out the meaning of a piece which contains unnecessary errors. This is the job of the publishing body, and if they cannot be bothered to do it, then they have no business publishing.


Anonymous Samantha said...

Luckily my google alert picked this up. Thanks for catching the mistake -- I fixed it on the post.

Monday, January 26, 2009 10:55:00 AM  

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