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Monday, 21 February 2011

How Jessup became Jesus in four simple steps

CounterWell, I'm back at the keyboard again after a couple weeks off. I've had some things in mind to write about--primarily the latest advances toward universal identification--but for now I'll dash off a quick complaint about the poor editorial practices that pass for professional book publishing.

I was looking over the #3 NYT Best Seller (Fiction) and noticed a glaring *electrotypographical error. The name "Jessup" had been replaced with "Jesus." Now, given that the context was an ex-convict being pictured enjoying a surf in the ocean, it should have been obvious to any proofreader what happened. I'll reconstruct it here, using the power of Conjectural Emendation.

1. The author, typing his original draft, missed one letter, resulting in "Jesup." This is a common scribal error known as haplography, in which a textual feature, that should have been doubled, wasn't.

2. Spell Check, being familiar with the name "Jesus," but not with "Jesup," suggested the change.

3. Someone, probably a copy editor at the world famous publishing house, had left his or her brain at home that day and allowed Spell Check the privilege of doing the job for him or her.

4. All subsequent checkers imagined that in a story about a man named "Jessup" getting his picture taken and published, a picture of "Jesus" on a surfboard made perfect sense.

I don't have very high hopes that this will be changed in the paperback edition. If it does eventually get corrected, this will just go to show that by no means is the earliest copy necessarily the best one.

I remember writing earlier on how Spell Check changed 'grafitte' to 'graphite', but that post seems to have been lost in the mists of cyberspace.

*electrotypographical error (I term I just coined): An error in a text most likely to have been perpetuated when the text was composed and/or edited electronically; commonly a situation in which a computer program suggested an alternate spelling to an incorrectly spelled word, resulting in an even worse mistake, which was not subsequently corrected before publication.

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