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Posts Tagged ‘mistake’

William Shakespeare.
Even the Bard made mistakes.

Blogger Asakiyume and I met in the 1990s when we were both copyediting at a management magazine where a witchy person taught us the nitty gritty of the trade. There was another person who would argue with our capitalization, wording, or punctuation decisions by saying she had a PhD in English. As if that had anything at all to do with the work-a-day craft! Those of you who value good copyediting may get a kick out of today’s article from a site called the Millions.

Ed Simon writes that the work of print setter is the old days was “laborious, and for smaller fonts, such as those used in a Bible, the pieces could be just a millimeter across. Long hours and fatigue, repetitive motion and sprained wrists, dim light and strained eyes — mistakes were inevitable.

“The King James Version of the Bible has exactly 783,137 words, but unfortunately for the London print shop of Robert Barker and Martin Lucas, official purveyors to King Charles I, their 1631 edition left out three crucial letters, one crucial word — ‘not.’ As such, their version of Exodus 20:14 read, ‘Thou shalt commit adultery.’ …

“Literature’s history is a history of mistakes, errors, misapprehensions, simple typos. It’s the shadow narrative of expression — how we fail because of sloppiness, or ignorance, or simple tiredness. Blessed are the copyeditors. …

“A 1562 printing of the sternly doctrinaire translation the Geneva Bible prints Matthew 5:9 as ‘Blessed are the placemakers’ rather than ‘peacemakers’; an 1823 version of the King James replaced ‘damsels’ in Genesis 24:61 with ‘camels,’ and as late as 1944 a printing of that same translation rendered the ‘holy women, who trusted God … being in subjection to their own husbands’ in 1 Peter 3:5 as referring to those pious ladies listening to their ‘owl husbands.’

“But not all errors seemed as innocent. … A 1653 printing stated that it was the unrighteous who would inherit the earth, a 1716 edition records Jeremiah 31:34 as telling us to ‘sin on more,’ and a 1763 volume replaces the penultimate word ‘no’ with ‘a,’ so that Psalm 14:1 reads ‘the fool hath said in his heart there is a God.’ … In a 1612 errata … Psalm 119:161 had the first word of the line ‘Princes’ replaced, so that it now read, ‘Printers have persecuted me without cause.’ …

“Depending on whether ambiguity is a mistake or a strength, the law often codifies uncertainty. The U.S. Constitution isn’t particularly long — only a few pages — and yet it’s filled with grammatical and spelling errors, as well as confusing syntax that bedevils contemporary citizens. … Significant are the idiosyncrasies in punctuation: commas are placed between nouns and verbs, errant commas in the Second Amendment makes it unclear as to whether the right to bear arms is reserved for individuals or only ‘well regulated militias,’ and a semicolon in Article VI seems to invalidate the Constitution itself. ‘The Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land.’ Strictly speaking, the end stop of that semicolon implies that ‘all Treaties made,’ and not the Constitution, shall be the supreme law of the land, and yet we’ve always just assumed it’s an obvious typo. …

“Theodor Dreiser‘s An American Tragedy describes a pair of lovers as being ‘like two small chips being tossed about on a rough but friendly sea,’ while Daniel Defoe tells us that Robinson Crusoe stripped naked, swam out to his sinking ship and retrieved supplies, which he then stored in his pockets on the returning laps. …

“For all his genius, the Bard was often uninformed or lazy, author of a veritable comedy of errors. The Winter’s Tale references landlocked Bohemia as having a coast. In Julius Caesar, Cassius uses a clock some 14 centuries before they were invented, and in The Two Gentlemen of Verona they sail from that titular city to Milan, a geographic impossibility. …

“In his 1816 poem, John Keats famously compares the experience of his first reading George Chapman‘s Homeric translations to being ‘like stout Cortez when with eagle eyes/He stared at the Pacific,’ except the first European to see the western coast of that ocean was actually Vasco Núñez de Balboa. Did Keats just not know this, or was this intentional? Does the purposefulness or not of the inaccuracy matter to how we read the lyric? …   

” ‘A slip of the tongue can be amusing,’ notes Sigmund Freud in The Psychopathology of Everyday Life. … While campaigning for Mitt Romney in 2012, Senator John McCain said, ‘I am confident with the leadership … President Obama will turn this country around,’ inadvertently endorsing the governor’s opponent.”

Some of this is too funny! Read it all here, at the Millions. It’s a long article. No firewall.

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Photo: Samuel West
Harley Davidson Eau de Toilette was never a big hit with the general public. Perhaps folks assumed it would smell sweaty.

There are creative people out there who become obsessed with a topic, collect memorabilia related to the topic, and end up starting a museum.

Back in April, Derek Hawkins wrote about one such museum at the Washington Post. “In his years as an innovation researcher at Lund University in Sweden, Samuel West got sick of hearing the same story over and over — the tired narrative of the nerdy innovator from humble beginnings whose brilliant idea made him a millionaire.

“ ‘Everybody in the innovation business knows that 80 to 90 percent of projects fail,’ West, now an organizational psychologist, told The Washington Post. ‘So where are all these failures? Why do we only read about the successes?’

“To chip away at those questions, West started buying failed products online. At first, he did it for his own amusement, but it quickly turned into an obsession. Eventually, he said, he amassed dozens of items.

“Now, his one-of-a-kind collection of flops is getting a permanent home.

“In the coming weeks, West is set to open the Museum of Failures in Helsingborg, Sweden, celebrating some of the corporate world’s most extreme misfires. The goal, he said, is to show that innovation requires failure. Every exhibit offers ‘unique insight into the risky business of innovation.’ In other words, we can all learn a lot from bad ideas, so we should stop pretending they never happened.” For more, see the Washington Post and also Business Insider.

To hammer home the point about failure, I think the museum would be well served to include a section on failures that led directly to successes. Perhaps a Swedish reader will go to Helsingborg and let us know if West has done that.

By the way, since we’re talking about unusual museums, here’s the link for the Museum of Broken Relationships and an article about the now defunct Museum of Questionable Medical Devices, which my husband and I always took guests to see when we lived in Minneapolis.

12/8/17 Adding another article on the same topic, here. This Museum of Failure is a pop-up museum in Los Angeles. Guess it’s an idea whose time has come.

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