Friday, November 03, 2006

Fainting Spell

I've had the privilege both of being an editor, and of being edited.
Being edited is hard, because it means somebody else gets to fool around with your prose.
A common remark at newspapers is that you should try to get your copy edited by two people. The first one changes what you wrote, and the second one changes it back.
Then there's copy editing. Now, that's something any writer really shouldn't scoff at, but these days it seems like copy editors are mere 12-year-olds with no actual world knowledge and little inclination to ever open a dictionary.
I worked as a copy editor at a big paper for a while, and the rest of the crew laughed at me for always having an open dictionary on my desk. Their thinking seemed to be "The buck stops with me. If I don't know what that word means or how it should be spelled, then why the hell would any of our readers know?"
That's too bad. When I had my own copy edited, I always told the guys "Make me look good!" And sometimes they saved my ass.
Other times, no. Spell-check was their friend on a rushed late shift, but it was seldom my friend. We all know that a computer can't tell whether you meant "to," "too" or "two."
So, just for the heck of it (and I hope I don't make any enemies today), here are some of the words I've seen misspelled on food blogs.
Palate. It's in your mouth. It is not spelled "palette," which is an artist's paint board. It is also not spelled "pallet," which is a wooden cargo platform. You don't want those things in your mouth.
Pore (as in "pore over a book"). It is not spelled "pour," which seems a lot foodier, but how (or what), exactly, would you pour over a book? Syrup?
Caesar (as in salad). I know, it just looks wrong, but "Ceasar" is wronger.
Shiitake. Ubiquitous mushroom of Japanese origin, now part of the American food landscape — but we haven't yet earned the right to drop that second "i." Not "shitake." Also not "shittake."
Spaghetti. You may think that "h" is useless, but Italians know what it's there for.
Mascarpone. Yummy, melty, slippery, creamy cheese of Italian origin — you knew that. But did you know it's not "marscapone"?
Artisanal. Pooty, trendy word used to describe food made by hand. I think one of the reasons it's misspelled as "artisinal" so much is that it's usually mispronounced with the accent on the second syllable. But no lessons on pronunciation today. Besides, the adjective is more commonly being shorted to "artisan" nowadays, which works just fine for me.
I'm gonna stop now. Feel free to contribute any funny spellings you've seen.
By the way, there's a whole other category or two of food misspellings: Menu writing, and produce stand signs. Cute as can be. My brother told me yesterday about the "Mandrain Chicken" on his cafeteria's offerings. And how many times have we seen "avacados" for sale at roadside vendors?
(Actually, I have a theory about that "avacado" spelling. I think they do that to seem bumpkinly adorable. I said to my brother, "It's like calling your moving company something sweet like 'Starving Students' when it's actually run by thugs." He said, "Why not just call it 'Two Guys What Will Move Youse' ?")
OK. Moving along.


Moonbear said...

You are so clever and entertaining~ I loved "molecular gastronomy" and I really enjoyed this blog entry. You are kinda strickt about spelling, aren't ya?
I hate two words, in particular: Utilize, and methodology. Why not say "use" or "method" instead? When people use these words I instantly don't like them.

chilebrown said...

Wow, that is a portrait when you are being edited or not. I would be Mad and Ubiquitous !!Peace,Paul

johng said...

You're swimming upstream against a tide of misspelling, Cookie! Reminds me of back when I was a Hollywood script reader (sounds almost glamorous doesn't it? Yeah, sure it is, but you make more money and get more respect working as a busboy) I use to read script after script by people who couldn't tell the difference between there, their, and they're to save their lives, or bear and bare, or you're, your, and yore, and its or.... well you get my drift.

And of course I would cut these illiterates down a notch in my comments, but that didn't stop the execs from paying them millions if they liked the hook.

Dagny said...

Cute. I have a friend who used to be a copy editor locally. The tales I would hear from her.

I also remember my first real job. I was typing a memo for my boss. He wrote "complement" when it was clear from the context that he meant "compliment." I made the change and he sent it back to me, arguing that it was incorrect. I then explained the difference to him. Idiot! I so deserved a raise.

Love the food references. And whenever I see you write "molecular gastronomy," I think of that one guy on "Top Chef."

sfmike said...

I know it's a hard one, but the difference between "its" and "it's" really needs to get figured out by many more bloggers without the assistance of copy editors. When somebody screws up the usage a bit too consistently, I stop reading them.

And I used the word "apostasy" recently on my blog, about Arianna Huffington of all people, knowing it was the perfect word without knowing exactly how it was spelled or if it even was the correct word, and a dictionary proved indispensible. (As it turned out, I had misspelled it "apostosy" but the word WAS perfect.)

Shauna said...

Excellent! Not only was this brilliant -- as a former high school teacher, now-writer, and editor, I say brava! -- but it was useful. I had just misspelled shiitake in a chapter I was working on. Before leaving this comment, I went on a search for it and rectified that situation!

Greg said...

Language is kewll miss kookie. The young ones spell fat/ phat and exhibit/Xhibit. u down wit tHat?? Awright that's what Im takin bout!

jen's mom said...

...or "feigning" spell?

Great post :) My favorite other favorite editor, other than you...feels blessed and cursed by this gift.

Your theory about bumpkinly adorable being calculated is spot on. I remember reading an article during the 70's in I think Entrepreneur Magazine about this marketing ploy. The article could have been called "Roadside Psychology 101."

Sean said...

Brava! We grammarians and spelling sticklers gotta, er, simply must stick together. I forget where I was recently that, repeatedly throughout the menu, they were offering "proscuitto." Ugh!

Melissa said...

My pet peeve is 'portabella' mushrooms. Aaargh!

NS said...

Great post! There are two common errors that drive me crazy. The first is the inverse of the one mentioned by Dagny above, namely when people write things such as "The fish complimented the wine perfectly." Unless you're in a Sopranos dream sequence involving a talking bass, you're using the wrong damn word! The second is the maddening and nonsensical use of "peaked," as in "The mushroom risotto on the menu peaked my curiosity." For crying out loud, it's piqued!

cookiecrumb said...

Moonbear: Again, good editing is good. Good editing frequently results in fewer, or sometimes shorter, words.

Paul: Need a little help with your punctuation? XOXO

JohnG: I don't think I can change anyone. Just wanted to yammer about it.
I had to laff, thinking about execs buying poorly spelled scripts... As long as the words are pronounced all right!

Dagny: It's really hard to tell a boss you're smarter than him or her, even if you are.

SFMike: It's such a simple rule, really. Possessive pronouns don't take apostrophes. Contractions do. Plurals don't, unless it's "avacado's." :D

Shauna: We are a loving and helpful community!!

Greg: Ew. Texting spellage. ;-)

Jen's Mom: Believe it or not, "feigning" came to me right after I posted this. Or how about "Spelling Faint"?

Sean: I find you're righting impeccible. I do. Thanks for the "proscuitto." Even though I said menu misspellings are cute, they're not, and that one drives me NUTS.

Melissa: That one too. Thanks.

Jack said...

My #1 misspelling: Artisanal. Just furgit about it! I get restaurant correct about 95% of the time.

cookiecrumb said...

NS: Thanks. Ooh, I hate that too. (Also, when you wrote "peak"? I thought you were going to complain about "sneak peak," which bugs me too. Easily bugged, but still...)

Jack: I would probably forgive you if you wrote "restauranteur" instead of "restaurateur," however.

One more misspelling I can't abide: "alot" is not aword.

mrs d said...

How about one no one agrees on: Chile vs Chili. Damn spice aisle at the store is a mess of conflicts on that one. I was taught chile for the crunchy thing that grows on a bush, and chili for the stuff in the bowl you don't want to eat too close to bedtime, yet at the gourmet shop where I used to work, my boss insisted that only the country is chile and everything else is chili.

Oh, and about that pooty "artisanal?" I'm banning that and "artisan" from my food vocabulary. With places like Quiznos gabbing about using "artisan" bread in their sucky, over-priced subs, it's lost all meaning.

Teresa said...

One of the rolls I like to order at my favorite sushi joint is the "daragon roll." They unfortunately caught their mispelling; subsequent reprinted menus list the less-amusing "dragon roll."

As for more annoying misspellings: I can't stand "definately."

KathyF said...

Just don't call it a "chili" in New Mexico. You will be tried, convicted, and shot before you even finish your chile.

Sam said...

I was feeling pretty snug in my knowledge til I reached the last one and now I am thoroughly ashamed.I have been sepelling that wrong all my life.

You rock cookiecrumb!

have fun with Dagny.

Anita said...

oops, I know I am guilty of "artisinal" -- I actually used it recently. And I should know better! :)

Sam said...

I just had to go and edit 7 old posts with the wrong spelling of artisanal.
Thanks! Except two where I couldn't because the mispelling was in the comments so I couldn't change them.

I agree with Mrs D it is overused. But sometimes it is necessary and I like to support real artisans, despite the fact corporate scumbags have tried to hijack the word.

Sam said...

PS - when it comes to sepelling, I hope you realise there is a difference between mispelling and typos!

cookiecrumb said...

Mrs D: On chile/chili, you have it right in my estimation, and your boss was wrong. But, then, see my reply to Dagny above. :P

Teresa: I kept trying to decipher "daragon" and came up with tarragon. Oops; wrong. And I'm definately down wit dat.

KathyF: Sounds like we have an expert on the premises.

Sam and Anita: Just shorten it to "artisan" and you probably won't go wrong.

Sam: You are a subtle, wry wench.

Stacie said...

thanks for the spelling/editing lesson. I work at a small weekly paper and I'm lucky if one person edits my stories... keeps the readers laughing and feeling smart!

cookiecrumb said...

Stacie: Between writing stories, raising kids, knitting socks, baking bread and pulling people from wrecked autos, I'd say you're VERY busy. Screw the typos, eh? :D

Tea said...

You make me so happy!

lucette said...

Sorry for commenting so far back, but I couldn't resist adding my pet English-teacher peeve: flourescent for fluorescent.

cookiecrumb said...

Ah, Lucette: That's worth a reply! Bingo. Spot on. And thanks.

Tea: ;-)

Anonymous said...

this comment stems from a more recent blog about celery, mirepoix and the fabled mirpoux?
*it is eye-roll-worthy, this attempt to impress*

cookiecrumb said...

Anonymous: Yeah, that one was pretty cute. Speaking of mangled French, I like what Dr. Biggles calls his mise en place: "meez."

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