Tag Archives | Lapsus Linguae

Something Amiss

I’ve been reading several volumes in Flame Tree Publishing’s Gothic Fantasy series; each anthology collects a number of classic public-domain stories of mystery, horror, science fiction, etc., along with newer stories written especially for the series. The series is a lot of fun, though not without faults (the stories contain a number of misprints, and the newer stories are filled with grammatical errors).

But one feature particularly puzzled me. In the volumes I’ve read so far, the title “Miss” invariably appears with a period after it; for example, “I suppose you mean that you go about all day long with Miss Sybil Merton” becomes “I suppose you mean that you go about all day long with Miss. Sybil Merton.” (And comparison with the original stories confirms that the publisher is adding a period where there was none before.)

I think I’ve figured it out, though.

In contemporary British usage, abbreviated titles that end with the same letter as the unabbreviated title do not use a period (or, in British usage, a “full stop”), while in American usage they do. Thus where Americans would write “Mrs. Jones met Dr. Smith,” their British counterparts would write “Mrs Jones met Dr Smith.”

Yet although Flame Tree Publishing is a British press, these anthologies follow American usage with abbreviated titles. I suspect that’s because they’re marketed more for the American than for the British market (my local Books-a-Million carries large stacks of them).

So my guess is that the publisher, noting that Americans put a period after all abbreviated titles, and forgetting that “Miss” is not an abbreviation, must have assumed that those crazy Americans put a period after “Miss” as well, and duly did so throughout in order to conform to the supposed American usage.


Land of Enchantment

I asked my Spanish teacher whether “encantado” (“delighted,” as in “delighted to meet you”) was cognate with “enchanted.” He said no, that it was a false cognate.

Hmph, hpmh.


Lucifer: Threat or Menace?

From a recent episode of Lucifer:

“Well, what came first? Do angels’ powers shape their personalities, or are your personalities shaped by your powers?”

A related question: do these tv shows hire incompetent script editors, or are incompetent script editors hired by these tv shows?


Apostrophe Fail

Part 1: One of my pet peeves is when people substitute an opening quotation mark for an apostrophe – for example, when they write the abbreviation for 1973 as ‘73 instead of ’73.

This is a phenomenon of the computer age; I don’t recall seeing it when I was growing up in the ’70s and ’80s, but I see it all the time now. The reason is that it’s a product of auto-correct; in most word-processing programs, if you try to type an apostrophe at the beginning of a word, auto-correct will assume you intended to type an opening quotation mark, and so will change it to an opening quotation mark, and you have to make a conscious effort to change it back.

But as a result, people’s brains have been warped to the point that nowadays, even when auto-correct isn’t involved (for example, when they’re hand-painting a sign), they still substitute an opening quotation mark for an apostrophe.

Goddamn reversed apostrophe

Goddamn reversed apostrophe

I think the most embarrassing (because most expensive and high-profile) example of the mistake that I’ve seen is in the 1973 posters of Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs flashed up at the 0:26 and 0:42 marks this new movie trailer. It’s particularly ironic because it’s a mistake that wouldn’t have been made in 1973.

Part 2:

Well, that example didn’t wear the “most embarrassing (because most expensive and high-profile) example” crown for long. Right after I wrote the above, I came across a much worse example in the following trailer (at the 2:15 mark), which features a gigantic apostrophe fail in the very title of the goddamn movie:

Embarrassing trailer

Embarrassing trailer

Thankfully, this empire of incompetence does not extend everywhere. This poster for the movie was evidently made by people who grasp the difference between apostrophes and quotation marks:

Non-embarrassing poster

Unfortunately, there’s another poster ….

Embarrassing poster

Embarrassing poster


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