or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Isn't It Ironic

And why behold you the mote that is in your brother's eye, but consider not the beam that is in your own eye?

There was a piece on Slate a few days ago under the rubric of "Copy-Editing the Culture", ending with the exhortation,

Spot a grammar clunker in the cultural limelight? Send it to copyeditingtheculture@gmail.com.

and I thought, Oh, they should talk. But I let it go.

A few days later there was a Slate review of a new show, No Ordinary Family, and here is a sentence from it:

Given the way that the Powells brush off this vacation mishap, you might suppose that they had merely blown a fan belt on the way back from the Grand Canyon, rather than breaststroked through florescent waters that (it turns out) endowed them with superpowers.

Now, "florescent" is in fact an English word, so a spellchecker won't catch it if you misuse it. A quick examination will suggest to you that "florescent" has something to do with flowers*, which in fact it does: the word means "a period of flowering", so a tree can be florescent.

I thought, well, maybe the water the family swam through actually had flowers growing on or throughout it: not impossible if they were paddling through a lily pond. So I actually went the extra mile by watching the trailer, and here is a line of relevant dialogue:

"The water had a ....phosphorescence. That's the only explanation."

Phosphorescence is not the same as fluorescence, but they both involve the transmission of light, which is near enough for our purposes. It is abundantly obvious that the writer meant "fluorescent"**, and further that there is not much in the way of editorial oversight at Slate beyond possible spellchecking, and further still that anybody at that online magazine who is going to have their bit of fun ridiculing other publications for their mistakes might want to see that their own house is clean before swiping a superciliously gloved finger over everyone else's mantelpieces.

* Spanish "flor" means "flower", and Latin "flora" refers to all plant life, from Flora, the goddess of flowers.

** "Fluoresce" might call to mind "fluid" and "fluent" and "flux": they are all, of course, from the same source, Latin "fluere", "to flow".


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