Tuesday, June 05, 2007


I'm still reeling with doubt. Surely I didn't see what I thought I just saw.

Out of pure curiosity, I was looking up the word "Mandelbrot" in my 1999 Oxford American Dictionary and Language Guide. Of course the word is too specialized to be in a regular dictionary, and I found nothing between "mandatory" and "mandible." Anyway, because I am a certified dictionary retard and have hardly gotten over the excitement of the 2007 Scripps National Spelling Bee, I kept reading the words under M. Two pages later, on page 605, I found the following confusing mistake that somehow did not get corrected during proofreading. I tried writing this up by formatting it as it is in the dictionary, but Blogger wouldn't let me and refused to render my hand-coded HTML, too. Also, I could not find the proper code to make a schwa in HTML. So I scanned it from the dictionary page:

Anyway, my point is, the entire dictionary entry of the word "manor" is hanging-indented directly under "ma non troppo," as if it is a subset of the entry "ma non troppo." And there's the interesting matter of that poor little orphaned word "manor" inexplicably following the cross reference to "troppo," as if it's shyly rehearsing to be the next entry. [Aside: This is pretty ironic. As is typical, Blogger has goofed up my formatting for this paragraph and refuses to let me fix it. I frequently hate Blogger, with its myriad non-functional "exciting new functionalities," and its refusal to let me put the code for an RSS feed in my template, and its loss of my profile changes and not letting me put up a new profile image, and its refusal to put a list of labels where I want them. But I digress bigtime.]

But, getting back to the error. Honestly. I am shocked to my foundation. As in "troppo," it's just too much. Help me! This is the Oxford American Dictionary, people! My favorite book(s) in the world, which would be my choice if I were stranded on the proverbial desert island, is The Compact Edition of The Oxford English Dictionary. (Hee, it's two "compact" volumes as opposed to the 25 volumes of the full edition, but I would take both volumes, because who wants to be stuck with only A-O or P-Z?) Anyway, any English major--and I consider it a calling--knows that Oxford is the alpha and omega of authority. So why does the American dictionary have to have a proofreading error and be an embarrassment to us ignorant colonials? When I read Oxford, I expect impeccability.


It's one of those things that makes me feel conflicted and uncomfortable. On one level I think it's funny that I found perhaps the only error in a 1306-page book. On another level I feel a bit betrayed, and wonder what other mistakes might be in there that might mislead those who refer to it. On one hand I feel smug. On the other, I feel disappointed--crestfallen.

A lot of people--the vast majority, probably--would tell me I'm stupid and that I should just get over it. But it really means something to me. I haven't been this surprised since I was reading The Wall Street Journal and a writer, talking about a large number of some noun, said "gads" of them instead of "scads," and no one caught the mistake. "Gads" is not a quantity. The friggin' Wall Street Journal. Ever since then I read the Journal with slight trepidation. Sigh.

Labels: ,


At 6/06/2007 11:48 AM, Blogger chicklegirl said...

Kind of like catching the Pope in his underwear--and finding they're all grey and faded.

At 6/06/2007 9:01 PM, Blogger sputnik said...

chicklegirl--Now, THAT'S funny. And scary at the same time.


Post a Comment

<< Home