Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Where Are All the Blooper Catchers??

From a friend via e-mail (slightly edited so no names are named.)
Dear Aunty Bibs,

Something has been bugging me and I want to ask you for your take on it.

I purchased a book written by a Malaysian. She is actually someone I've met and like, and want to support, and I had the author sign it at a recent launch.

I took it home and as I began to read it I noticed grammatical errors. The subject matter is interesting, but as I continue to read it I find it difficult to ignore all the errors.

I don't understand why it was published in that condition.

I posted it on my blog before I actually started reading it, to support her, but...
I feel kind of embarrassed to share it with anyone now because of this problem.

Why would it have been published in that state?...

I am to embarrassed to say anything to her about it. Does that make me a bad friend?...


The Hovering Red Pen

Dear Hovering Red Pen,

I am totally with you on this. It's almost a given that when you pick up a book self-published by a local author, or even one which is published by one of the larger local publishing houses, there will be extremely annoying errors, particularly with tense and subject agreement. (In one instance even the title of a book was grammatically incorrect!)

Some local books have glaring errors on almost every page and it makes me feel quite ill and lose respect for the author. (I scribble corrections always.)

I get very upset by sloppy English when it can be fixed by hiring a proficient proofreader. (And where these don't exist locally, they can be hired from abroad via the internet.)

Perhaps you can tactfully ask your friend if you can proofread the second-edition and maybe she will get the hint that she has the equivalent of literary halitosis?

Aunty Bibs


Amir said...


Your answer should be addressed to The Hovering Red (instead of Read) Pen.


bibliobibuli said...

just goes to show how we all need proofreaders!!

lil ms d said...

God do I know that feeling when the first print of my book went out. the printer used the mock copy and 1000 copies went out to the public. reza, chet, amy and i went nuts correcting and hassling for it to be changed! thank God the second print's all right.

i think.

Chet said...

>> Your answer should be addressed to The Hovering Red (instead of Read) Pen.

I think she did that on purpose to see who would catch the error. Amir, you won!

bibliobibuli said...

anyone who needs a manuscript proofreading contact amir!!! haha

ms d - yes i was horrified too that the changes i made to the draft hadn't been made to the finished version until you guys stepped in!!

saras said...

"...glaring errors on almost every page ..." Let me share my own horror story: I wrote a book of model English essays for a respected publisher. The editor, in a burst of enthusiasm decided to correct my English. They didn't send me the second page proofs (wonder why?) but went ahead and published the book. I died when I saw it - yes, glaring errors on almost every page. The only consolation is, I wrote under a pseudonym. I sent them a stinky letter so they probably won't be asking me to write for them again.

Rox said...

Sharon, I was reminded of "A Bouquet of Jasmines" when I read Tagore's "The first Jasmines" recently. (Rabindranath Tagore, 1861 - 1941, won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1913 and was Asia's first Nobel laureate.) The poem is from 'The Crescent Moon' (1913).

The First Jasmines

AH, these jasmines, these white jasmines!
I seem to remember the first day when I filled my hands
with these jasmines, these white jasmines.

I have loved the sunlight, the sky and the green earth;
I have heard the liquid murmur of the river
through the darkness of midnight;

Autumn sunsets have come to me at the bend of the road
in the lonely waste, like a bride raising her veil
to accept her lover.

Yet my memory is still sweet with the first white jasmines
that I held in my hands when I was a child.

Many a glad day has come in my life,
and I have laughed with merrymakers on festival nights.

On grey mornings of rain
I have crooned many an idle song.

I have worn round my neck the evening wreath of
BAKULAS woven by the hand of love.

Yet my heart is sweet with the memory of the first fresh jasmines
that filled my hands when I was a child.

bibliobibuli said...

tagore has authority lah! nice example.

but i guess it's again a case of "all different types" of jasmine and does india have lots of different ones?

Anonymous said...

Pablo Neruda's The Well also uses jasmine in the plural:

At times you sink, you fall
into your hole of silence,
into your abyss of proud anger,
and you can scarcely
return, still bearing remnants
of what you found
in the depth of your existence.

My love, what do you find
in your closed well?
Seaweed, swamps, rocks?
What do you see with blind eyes,
bitter and wounded?

Darling, you will not find
in the well into which you fall
what I keep for you on the heights:
a bouquet of dewy jasmines,
a kiss deeper than your abyss.

Do not fear me, do not fall
into your rancor again.
Shake off my word that came to wound you
and let it fly through the open window.
It will return to wound me
without your guiding it
since it was laden with a harsh instant
and that instant will be disarmed in my breast.

Smile at me radiant
if my mouth wounds you.
I am not a gentle shepherd
like the ones in fairy tales,
but a good woodsman who shares with you
earth, wind, and mountain thorns.

Love me, you, smile at me,
help me to be good.
Do not wound yourself in me, for it will be useless,
do not wound me because you wound yourself.

bibliobibuli said...

the world is poetically ganging up on me.

shakespeare next???????

how come you didn't trot out these references in response to my earlier "jasmines" post?? and di you both know this poetry or did you google?

Rox said...

Sharon, we're just teasing you. We know you can take it. I was researching on Tagore for a possible film script when I came across the poem. Can you please pass on to your readers that there's a short story competition (on all issues of morality in both English and Malay) over at ? Writers who are not afraid of PAS's reputation should join. Winners have the possibility of their stories turned into films by award-winning film-maker Sheih.

bibliobibuli said...

it's worse than teasing ... it undoes me completely. i reckon now the title of the book is probably and echo of one or the other of these.

serves me right for being so bloody pedantic

but jasmines sounds so odd in the malaysian context where we don't have the variety and every white scented flower gets wrongly named.

Anonymous said...

It's poetry, poetry is different from prose. You really don't have rules where poetry is concerned (except maybe haiku). Shakespeare himself wrote that leaves "curdled". That's the wrong word of course, but if you really think about it, you'd realize that he was right in so many ways. I guess that's why he's Shakespeare :)

Madcap Machinist said...

Anon., I disagree, poetry has as much authority as any other text. I certainly hope you're not implying that it is an inferior literary artform thus not to be taken seriously.

Plus, I was very shocked to read your second sentence. One can argue that poets are even more obsessed with rules than prose--in upholding them, as champions of traditional forms would do, or joyfully flouting them, as e.e. cummings famously did.

Curdled leaves is a nice image. Why do you say it's the wrong word to use?

Anonymous said...

I'm not implying that at all (that is, if anything can be taken seriously in ths life) I'm saying exactly what you're saying, that you can flout every rule and call it poetry. If you call it prose though it would not make a lot of sense.

If you look up the word "curdled", you'll find that it means "to go bad or wrong". Leaves don't spoil, they just dry up and die (like humans.)

Madcap Machinist said...

Well, seems that we're kicking in the same field, just not at the same ball. It's unreasonable to say that you can flout every rule and still call something poetry; I am inclined to say that one would not have anything left to call poetry--much less prose, but then this is obvious. By coincidence I have been reading some poetry that explores these boundaries, which I will write about at the Puisi-Poesy blog, and I hope you'll join in the discussion there.

What do you think of this one by e.e. cummings ("l(a")?






According to my dictionary, "curdle" means to separate into curds or lumps. The note on its origins says that it first appeared around Shakespeare's time, so it may have meant very different things before it became a stable word. Seems to me that it's a mash-up of "curl" and "cuddle", a delicious word to use for that reason alone, even if it's untrue. It also brings the image of a branch of leaves that clump together as they wither and shrink closer inward to each other. There is also the expression, "making one's blood curdle", which relates to "scared stiff", or being petrified with fright--so it is also good way to describe dry leaves. Also, when we die, the blood in our veins will coagulate and lump together, which can also be described as being curdled.

There are many ways of looking at a word... but it shouldn't be so easy to call it a wrong word, especially in the hands of a Shakespeare, or Tagore, or Neruda...

Except in this case, when I think Madam Bibs is right, and those poems are unhealthy precedents for using the word "jasmines" when it should be "jasmine".

Anonymous said...

madcap. Why are they "unhealthy precedents" if they meant more than one species of jasmine? I guess we can argue to kingdom come but to clarify it once and for all, the laureates must have come from countries with more than a species of jasmine, so the word jasmines used in that context is not a mistake but legitimate.

And anon. It's ignorant of you to say poetry has no rules because the best poets never confuse writing free verse with freedom from rules. They know the rules of formal poetry before they become experimental poets. Even e.e. cummings.

No wonder some so-called abstract artists thought they can skip years of learning how to paint and be an instant Picasso. What they didn't know is Picasso was a master in classic painting before he created his own art. Rox

Madcap Machinist said...

Rox, my opinion is "jasmines" should be used when there is need to emphasise its parts (i.e. the different types of jasmine). I went through the previous thread and found that this is the same argument that Sharon used so we are in agreement.

In any case, the matter is academic. I don't think the uses of "jasmines" above are mistakes, only inappropriate. Tagore does not explore the different kinds of white jasmines, nor does Neruda tell us what kinds of jasmine he has in his dewy bouquet.

I don't know how to get to the nut and bolts of this difference, but here's a parallel example using "piranha": If one were to encounter a horde of piranha while swimming in a river, he wouldn't stop to think that they are actually "piranhas" because some of them are Red Belly Piranha while some are Green Tiger Piranha and that engaged in some inter-species competition for food. He gets out of the water and screams "Piranha!" to warn everyone.

Anonymous said...

madcap. The matter is academic, that we do not differ in view but there's a difference between piranhas and jasmines. You can't see the types of piranha under water but you can see very clearly the types of jasmine in a bouquet. Rox

Madcap Machinist said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Madcap Machinist said...

Rox, you're right that it's far easier to differentiate between jasmine in a bouquet than piranha thrashing in the water.

But--at least, formally--whether or not we can actually see a difference in both cases is irrelevant; it is the difference between the kinds of jasmine/piranha/cheese/cattle/etc. in question that matters. When the context does not emphasise these differences then these collective nouns should not be pluralized.

However, this just my layman's understanding, which I can apply consistently in many instances. Here is an article that approaches the subject more technically:

bibliobibuli said...

what kind of argument compares jasmine and piranhas?? haha don't care how you count them, i know which one i'd prefer to have in my hand

correct grammar point machinist, but slippery sometimes in individual cases. many malaysians haven't yet got the hang of 'fruit' (without 's') being a plural noun, of 'fish' or 'furniture'. and take collective nouns and make them singular e.g. 'staffs' instead of 'staff members' and the horrible horrible 'alphabets' instead of 'letters of the alphabet'.

malaysian english i love and speak quite well lah, but some abuses still make me want to scream. it's only natural to automatically assume 'jasmines' wrong. but i think rox illuminated the matter by suggesting that it was probably and allusion to neruda or tagoor. must check inside a copy.

dear friends, please don't get semantic knickers in twists, both of you are on the right track in a very complex argument, and i think i feel an article on the matter coming on!