Monday, June 09, 2008

Shallow Water

The Pond of Gylieu,
Charles Francois Daubigny,
o/c, 1853.
The Cincinnati Art Museum.

The picture above shows a road leading down to a ford. Before automobiles proliferated, such water crossings were common. They still are in those parts of the world without our convenient transportation infrastructure.
But it makes me wonder if some images, references, similies and metaphors drawn from the natural world and our older accommodations with its environmental imperatives such as "fording a river" (or the older "the northern marches") have entirely lost their resonance -- simply because many people have never done so.

And, speaking of automobiles -- which leads to the price of gas -- someone sent me this:

Lipton ice tea: 16 oz. at $1.29 = $9.52 per gallon.
Evian water: 9 oz. at $1.49 = $21.19 per gallon.
Peptol bismol: 4 oz. at $3.85 = $123.20 per gallon.
Printer ink = $5,200 per gallon.

I hope his muffler falls off.

While editing, I came across two incidents of eye-squinching homonym misuse: break instead of brake, and breech instead of breach. Geesus, I hate that. Because I know better. Can I blame the internet?
I do wonder if daily reading of the quick 'n careless tends to blur one's faculties and to erode one's grammatical precision. How many times does one read a redundancy like refer back ( my pet hate) or recall back before these slip with sly ubiquity into one's own prose?

MoonDear, aka Moonrat of Editorial Ass, to Celebrate Reading hosts a number of guest bloggers this month with reviews of books that have influenced her guests's lives in sweet and wonderful ways.


laughingwolf said...

i'm with you on all fronts, bernita

add to your list one of the [many] things i really detest: the constant use, especially by media-types, of 'light year' as a measure of TIME, whereas it's a measure of DISTANCE! grrrrrrr

StarvingWriteNow said...

My personal fave: using "grizzly" when you need to use "grisly". I was reading a romantic suspense a while back and the author used "grizzly" about five times--I was giggling so much the suspense just slunk away, tail between its legs, never to return.

Bernita said...

The one that annoys me unspeakably, Laughing wolf, is the media cliche, "tip of the iceberg."

"I was giggling so much the suspense just slunk away, tail between its legs, never to return."

Beautifully put, Beth!

Rick said...

Bernita - how about the reverse, metaphors you can't use in historical fiction because they haven't been invented in the period? There are minor ones, such as not being able to say 'somewhere along the line' before railroads are invented. But the most extreme and frustrating was wanting a character to play back in his head what another just said. People have always been able to do this, but until we had tape recorders we had no vivid way to describe it.

Homonym errors are always waiting to sneak out, or similar words that aren't even homonyms. Yesterday on a forum I wrote about how hard it is to determine the competition of space fleets, when I meant composition. The one thing computers have made worse is that people think spellcheckers look for the word you meant to use.

suspense just slunk away, tail between its legs, never to return - brilliant!

BernardL said...

I love those comparisons with other liquids and gas. The ancient cliché of ‘mixing apples and oranges’ applies; but it is funny to think of pumping Pepto instead of petrol. The pink elixir relieves gas, right? :)

Bernita said...

Rick, not sure I buy your example. If I saw it in a pre-railroad historical I would think "battle line."
Nevertheless, I take your point.
Yeah, I do that composition/competition thing too.Once wrote cuneiform when I meant cruciform.

The comparison leaves out the tiny but important detail of miles per gallon, Bernard!
I can get a lot of miles out of a single cup of coffee.

spyscribbler said...

You know, I noticed that the more I'm writing, the more I make silly mistakes, like hear and here and the such. I have no idea why. It's not like I don't know the difference!

Bernita said...

"It's not like I don't know the difference!"

That's what bugs me when I do it, Natasha. No excuse!

ChrisEldin said...

The painting is so beautiful, it looks like a photo.

light year.....I thought it was both. :-(

Bernita said...

Chris - if I remember right - light travels at 186,000 miles per second, so a light year is the phemonemal DISTANCE light would travel in a year.
When used correctly, a light year could represent a metaphorical distance/likelyhood between one event and another.

Robyn said...

What bothers me more is when I do two or three proofreads of a blog post, then after it's posted I notice that I've spelled something wrong. My internal editor is either blind and stupid or a lazy bum.

Charles Gramlich said...

I think you're probably right that phrases like "fording a river" are on the way out. That's probaly how those old sayings lost their meaning, like "A stitch in Time saves nine." which many people have no idea of what it means.

December/Stacia said...

The homonyms, they drive me batty. It's not that hard to get them right.

Agree with starving on grisly/grizzly. Also site/sight, because I see that one so often.

Of course I've made those mistakes. We all do when we're typing quickly. But not catching them is just...bad.

Bernita said...

Happens to me too frequently, Robyn, and I have to sneak back and fix it.

Yes, Charles. The picture made me think of the ford in the river below my parent's house. They used it when haying the fields on the abandoned farms on the other side.

And site for cite, December.
Makes me tear my hair when I find them in my stuff.

raine said...

Printer ink = $5,200 per gallon.

Isn't it AWFUL?! I was so happy to find a nice, inexpensive printer on sale last year--and nearly had a heart attack when I found out the cartridge would cost nearly as much as the printer!

Can I blame the internet?

I blame Bill Gates.
Spell-check should be a sentient being.

Bernita said...

They do, don't they?
"Spell-check should be a sentient being."
Not so sure about that - if so mine would reach out and rap my knuckes nearly every paragraph.

writtenwyrdd said...

$4.29 this morning.

I'd give yourself a break over the occasional and accidental use of the wrong homonym. It happens. I frequently catch my having used the contraction it's for the posessive its.

Anachronistic turns of phrase (found in historical romances, in my experience) are the worst! Or one that really got me laughing: A woman brewed up "a batch of beer" overnight! Hah! It has to ferment! Double Hah! That ruined that author's credibility for me forever. I ditched the several books of hers I'd read and never bought any more. Don't even recall her name.

writtenwyrdd said...

And, no, I should have said, my example is just poor research, not an anachronism. It's just my favorite silly author flub up.

Lisa said...

I've noticed quite a bit of homonym misuse lately too. In particular, I've seen the word "heals" instead of "heels", as in "on the heels of".

What really bothers me is that I frequently see my own mistakes on blog comments, AFTER I've published them and as others have mentioned, the mistakes are things I know very well are wrong, I just don't seem to catch them when I'm commenting.

writtenwyrdd said...

I'm almost completely blind to my own gaffes until much later. So I don't worry about it, unless it's something to be pubbed. Then I let it sit and age so i can come at it with fresh eyes (and spell check).

Bernita said...

It's/its - that's exactly what I mean about the internet rotting one's brain, Written.

Lisa, yes!
heels/heals is another annoying one I've seen too.

Travis Erwin said...

The first story I ever had published came out and I tore into excited to read the words I created in print. Then I cam top a sentence that read something like ...

His break lights cast a red glare.

I though the editor had screwed it up. After all, I'd read that story a hundred times and the editor had sent me tow rounds of revisions and we couldn't have both missed it all those times.

So I pulled up my original file and guess what it said break instead of brake as well.

Bernita said...

Travis, I know that feeling...

laughingwolf said...

good comments by everyone, too :)

'spell checkers' are mostly useless, though the one built into 'firefox' is pretty good to go on as i type online, it makes me double my efforts

Rick said...

I'll say for spellchecks that they catch a few common typos, and sometimes words of the -ence/ance type that I never get straight.

Is the pop usage of light years always wrong? 'Light years ahead of the competition' is a pretty big headstart!

Bernita said...

Maybe it's because I'm just post-Luddite, Laughingwolf, but I like the spell check in WORD because it allows one to add words to its dictionary - such as proper nouns it always underlines in red.

Rick, I'm always grateful for any help.
Always thought that was a perfectly proper use.

cindy said...

i don't think those are such bad mistakes, b. i make them all the time, and weird ones at that. the one which drives me batty is "loose" for "lose". i'm stunned by how often i see that in writing!

Gabriele C. said...

U canz only blame teh intarnet if u use netspeek or haz a lolcat. :)

Steve Malley said...

Can you imagine if your printer used as much ink as your car does gas? Yikes.

Or better, if you only had to change your car's tiny petrol cartridge every few months!?

Yeah, I like that one...

Bernita said...

Cindy and that's in spite of everyone pointing it out as a no-no.Seems to really bother people, that one.

Hee, Gabriele. That's an argot all its own.

Yeah, Steve. Tres cool.

Whirlochre said...

Frequently, I wander into the wilderness and find myself blinded by swarms of thats.

Bernita said...

Remember, Whirl, they're part of the food chain/serve a purpose and shouldn't be eliminated entirely!

SzélsőFa said...

(Light year is a tricky one, too.)

I, not being a native to English have found that the more I blog the more I make common mistakes such as writing here instead of hear and similar ones.
While I noticed a considerable improvement in my understanding and using English, I started making mistakes I have never done before.

Bernita said...

Szelsfoa, you have an excellent grasp of English, as well as its peculiar idioms.
Perhaps these mistakes result from not having to focus on each word.

Rick said...

It's humbling how many non-native users are completely at home even here, among writers at play who freely use odd idioms, rare words, etc. I could only dream of going on a German-language board of any sort and following it at all, let alone participating freely in one like this.

Sam said...

Silly mistakes pull me right out of the story. Ah well. I don't run into very many, but one that really threw me was 'pus' instead of 'puss', as in 'here, pus cat!'
I had to put the book down.
& you don't want to know what we pay for gas over here in France. Argh!!!

Vesper said...

Such is the English language...
:-) :-) :-)

Let's say you're following your stream of consciousness and it's important to let it go freely where it wants to go rather than worry about correct spelling.

This spelling problem is a weird phenomenon - I've noticed I've been having it myself lately without good reason.

The cliches and the misuse of words (in the media especially) is something else though, and it is certain you don't "suffer" from that. :-)

I love the painting.

Bernita said...

Isn't it just, Rick?
Besides Szelsofa, Gabriele, for example, is wonderful.

I'm fairly tolerant, Sam, but geeze!

I love the lazy summer sense in that painting, Vesper.