or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Saturday, January 29, 2011


There are two types of people in the world, that is clear: the kind who either don't notice typos and errors of usage or do notice them and just don't care, and the kind who notice these things and are enraged by them.

It is not a secret that I am one of the latter types, and I do not expect the former types to understand or sympathize. They probably, in fact, think that I am insane, or at least too thin-skinned. But I was reading a most interesting article in Slate--it's always Slate, isn't it?--about chicken meat, slouched way back in my very comfortable office chair with my right leg extended across my desk, when I read the following sentence:

In fact the chicken industry has already started courting Mexico and China as well as Eastern European, Latin American, and smaller Asian nations with a similar palette to the Russians.

I whipped my leg off the desk and propelled myself upright in my chair while thinking in a white heat of fury, and I am not exaggerating, "Oh no no NO they did not just write that!" But they did write it.

The palate is the thing in your head that, though containing no taste buds, is synecdochally associated with a sense of taste (think "palatable"). A palette is the thing painter use for arraying and mixing their colours. While we're at it, a pallet is a broad wooden platform on which goods are secured for shipment. These words do not mean the same thing. I don't understand how professional writers mix them up. There is no excuse for this.

The reason such mistakes are so dreadful is that they haul the reader--or at least some readers, or at least me, which in the end is all I care about--out of the text and into a mindspace of questioning the author, doubting one's own understanding, thinking of a number of things which are not related to what's being read and not conducive to further reading. How am I supposed to follow an argument when I am distracted--or worse, exasperated--by a stupid, avoidable typo, a grammatical mistake which makes me wonder if the writer understands English, a misusage which casts doubt on the whole article? This is not trivial: if you cannot even use the language properly, if you cannot be counted on to edit your work into a shape fit for your readership and take every effort to see that it is free from errors, why should I trust what you're trying to tell me?


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