Today has been One Of Those Days. You start off all vibrant and on top of things, ticking items off the list, humming to yourself that the best way is the focused way and then... And then something as insignificant as £ 1.64 places itself between you and your feeling, if not happy, at least serene and everything changes. £ 1.64 is the amount of money in my bank account today. It wouldn’t be too bad if I knew that a nice, fat salary (or even an ugly, thin one) would materialise itself on Friday but you know what my situation is like, I now get paid by project, and not that much at that, and so I live on the proverbial shoestring. Why am I telling you this? Am I fishing for empathy? No. Actually, this is a post about editing, not about the state of my bank account.
Like so: the first book I proof-read was dire. And I mean FUCKING DIRE. In fact, I did not proof-read it, I edited it. No problem with that, right? Absolutely no problem, as I know what I am doing. However, a few days after I sent it forth to prosper, I started thinking about the general editor of this book, someone I do not know personally but whom I know is a full-time academic and who, crucially my friends, had already edited the book. Did he really? Why could I possibly have found stuff such as I might have caught the figure of a clown when I jerked off my mental recapitulations in it then?
Surely, an editor would have at least flagged that abomination as a bit of an odd sentence, right? I am asking you now: what do you think it means? Let me say that again: I might have caught the figure of a clown when I jerked off my mental recapitulations. Because I don’t know what it means. I couldn’t even figure it out by the convoluted context either (and I spare you the context, for the rest of the page is itself stomach-churning). It makes no sense. Yet the general editor of that stuff thought it was ok. I’ll tell you more, he also thinks that regrettable and regretful are interchangeable. He doesn’t know the difference between incidence and incident. He scatters commas over the page as pigeons shit over everything that moves and doesn’t move. But he is a lecturer in English, let’s be clear on this one, and a general editor of the stuff I had to edit with a pick and an axe.
While I was chipping away at these 214 pages, I did not think much of it. Sure, I was shaking my head in disbelief as I had never known a ‘writer’ capable to use four different tenses within a two-and-a-half line sentence, but even less likely did I think an editor capable to read that sentence, nod in approval and move on. It’s shocking and even more shocking (and pernicious, as an erudite friend of mine says) is knowing that this person is a lecturer in English. Oh my God, Jesus, Mary and all the saints.
I told you already that I know of lecturers that consistently (and that’s key my friends, consistently, for it indicates ingrained belief) mix up palette with palate with pallet. I think that only an idiot could do so but I also wouldn’t be likely to rant about it if that person were a plumber or a builder or a footballer. When it’s a senior lecturer in English that makes the mistake over and over and over and over and over... well, I lose the will to live. The same senior lecturer also uses it’s and its interchangeably. Others I’ve had the misfortune to come across do not know the difference between a semi-colon and a colon or between use and usage or license and licence.
Some say that native speakers are usually sloppy, but this is an excuse that holds about as much water as 'Hitler hated the Jews because they killed Jesus'. If native speakers were always sloppy, then a native speaker that knows grammar and uses it well would be a freak occurrance. Luckily, this isn't the case, as there are as many competent native speakers as there are incompetent ones.
I, in any case, and allow me to blow my own trumpet for a second here, can recognise conceits, hyperbatons, hyperboles, paratactic vs. hypotactic constructions; fables, fabliaux, fabula, fabulation, fancy and fantasy (and there I’ve just given you some alliterative examples too). But all of this is normal in my book. I’ve got a PhD for God's sake, I would expect no less. Yet, here I am correcting a lecturer in English and general editor that doesn’t know the difference between commas and full-stops, irrelevance and irreverent, kinesis and kinectic, nose and ass. Shite like this by the fucking truckload my friends. And here I am, with £ 1.64 in the bank. There you go.