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December 7, 2018

Return of the Dreadful Phrases
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 07:59 AM * 274 comments

As it says in Ecclesiastes, of the making of books there is no end. And Seneca is (dubiously) said to have told us that errare humanum est1 (to err is human)2.

A side-effect of these two universal truths is that this thread is onto its third iteration.

  1. sed perseverare diabolicum, but to persist [in error] is diabolical.
  2. Alexander Pope added “to forgive divine”, which might argue agains the existence of these threads.3
  3. On the other hand, Augustine said da mihi castitatem et continentiam, sed noli modo, give me chastity and continence, but not yet.
Comments on Return of the Dreadful Phrases:
#1 ::: Buddha Buck ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2018, 08:47 AM:

I did not grow up in a tradition that studied St. Augustine (or, for that matter, Jesus Christ, Moses, or Mohammed).

What was he referring to with "continentiam"? In context, I doubt he was talking about the ability to voluntarily control urination.

#2 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2018, 08:50 AM:

"Continent" means pretty much "able to control oneself". The meaning has narrowed.

#3 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2018, 08:56 AM:

Well, it's control, and it's control of the same's basically a synonym for chastity. It's a tautology.

#4 ::: rm ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2018, 09:26 AM:

Is this politics-free? Because our not-president says we have "BOARDER" problem, which means that the Third Amendment is needed, perhaps for the first time ever.

#5 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2018, 09:26 AM:

From Adam-Troy Castro's FB. "Spotted in the ARC of a really outstanding upcoming novel: 'The glasses on the bridge of his knows.'"

#6 ::: rm ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2018, 09:27 AM:

OtterB@5: not the best song Kansas recorded.

#7 ::: oldster ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2018, 09:48 AM:

Can I get a citation for that Seneca quote? I cannot find it.

And I think it is vanishingly likely that he would use the word "diabolicum", which gets into Latin as a transliteration of New Testament Greek.

So maybe he said something like "errare humanum est" somewhere, but I strongly suspect that second half comes much later than Seneca.

I feel bad for being so pedantic. But then again, the "dreadful phrases" threads are natural display-cases for pedantry, so maybe it is less out of place here?

#8 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2018, 10:18 AM:

Oldster, I cannot find a citation for it, but it is universally attributed to Seneca.

Diabolicum is not a common Latin word, but the Greek word διαβολικός means "slanderous" or "lying". (It's also not common; I can see no references to it before the common era in Perseus.

I'll amend the entry to say it's attributed to Seneca.

#9 ::: oldster ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2018, 10:30 AM:

I'm afraid that between us we are illustrating the saying of St. Ambrosius, "to err is human, but to make a big deal pointing out other people's errors is, like, being a jerk."

I'm pretty sure it was St. Ambrosius?

I could be wrong. As Martin Luther said to the Pope in his 95 theses, "yeah? well, you know, that's just like, your opinion, man."

#10 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2018, 10:58 AM:

Oldster, you are correct; it is Ambrosius who wrote errare humanum est, sed volgo errores aliorum indicare equidem crudelis est.

It's in De Officiis Ministrorum, Book IV, De Mediis Sociabilibus.

#11 ::: oldster ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2018, 11:29 AM:

ah, yes: the de Mediis Sociabilibus. Part of his projected summa, left incomplete at his death, de Tela Totius Terrae, vel de origine mali humani.

An amazing visionary, Ambrosius! He it was who first laid down that golden precept, troglodytae non pascendae sunt.

#12 ::: Don P. ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2018, 01:09 PM:

I saw "a cry and shame" yesterday.

#13 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2018, 02:07 PM:

just seen:
the pompous circumstance and ceremony

#14 ::: crazysoph ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2018, 02:02 AM:

I'd just like to say that the conversation between oldster and abi, #7-11, is exactly what I love about reading things here. I learn so much, so much!!

Crazy(and very grateful to everyone here)Soph

#15 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2018, 06:35 AM:

Oldster wins, well, an internet for Tela Totius Terrae.

#16 ::: oldster ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2018, 11:38 AM:

absolutely no credit deserved for TTT, because that is simply its official name in Vatican Latin:

One of their many articles about the Interrete:

I want to thank abi for our exchange of bad Latin, but so far as "learning" anything goes, Soph, I would take it all cum Drano salis.

(e.g., I made a beginner's mistake by writing "pascendae" instead of "pascendi"; "troglodytae" looks like a feminine ending, but it's a masculine noun. First-year Latin fail.)

#17 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2018, 12:25 PM:

nauta is Latin for "sailor" - but it's a feminine-form noun. Languages are weird.

#18 ::: Russell Letson ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2018, 12:54 PM:

In Othello, when Roderigo says, "I will incontinently drown myself," he's not indicating any particular body part but general lack of self-control.

#19 ::: Pfusand ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2018, 12:58 PM:

P J Evans @17
Nauta (sailor), poeta (poet (surprise!)), and agricola (farmer) are all masculine, but they are first declension, which means they are very old words indeed.

#20 ::: oldster ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2018, 01:04 PM:

Russell @18 --

oddly enough, "incontinently" here has a different etymology from the more familiar word "incontinent", where the "in-" means "not".

"incontinently" as an adverb of time is from the phrase "in continenti tempore," i.e. in continuous time, without any interval, where the "in-" represents the preposition "in" instead of the negative prefix.

So English gets two adverbs "incontinently," one being the negation of "continently," and the other meaning "right away."

But PJ Evans put it more concisely at #17

#21 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2018, 09:58 PM:

Total derail here but: I had a wonderful Latin teacher, who was the one that got me hooked on "Useless Information". Decades after high school, when I started working at my current job, I discovered that she had worked there also, some years earlier. Had made enough of an impression that, when she passed away, they named a meeting room after her. (Which was weird the first time I encountered it: "What, was that—? Surely not! Oh yeah, it is. Huh." Also was the one who made them (and I can fully visualize her twisting appropriate arms (figuratively speaking, of course)) name our local Craigslist-equivalent, "Agora."

She wasn't just a Latin teacher, she was a Latin geek.

#22 ::: oldster ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2018, 10:13 PM:

Jacque @21 --

She sounds like a wonderful person.

And I am sure she did not twist any arms at all.

As a good Latinist, she simply promoted the alignment of brachial incentives.

#23 ::: MC Alcock ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2018, 08:58 AM:

Apologies for being OT...

15+ year follower, 2nd time poster, but given HW's passing, I find myself struggling to contextualize the awfulness of the Bush clan, and looking for the "Aristocrats" post on this site. It was great and has stuck with me for over a decade, but I can't find the link. Any help appreciated. Thanks!

#24 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2018, 10:05 PM:

MC Alcock: Maybe yes, maybe no, but the search phrase:

bush aristocrat

produces results that are worth revisiting in their own right....

#25 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2018, 09:38 AM:

The winner of Literary Review's Bad Sex in Fiction award has been announced for this year. If you ever had any doubts about James Frey's writing ability, they've been well and truly rewarded. The Guardian has excerpts from this year's all-male list of nominees.

#26 ::: Theophylact ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2018, 12:29 PM:

P J Evans @ #17: There are several others, but they're not in first-year Latin books because they're naughty. Look up "mentula" (a name Catullus gives to an enemy in a famous scabrous poem).

#27 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2018, 01:56 PM:

I have, actually, a bilingual edition of Catullus.

#28 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2018, 09:11 PM:

I thought diabolical meant havign two bollocks

#29 ::: oldster ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2018, 09:48 PM:

The indispensable Notes & Queries is on the case.

It looks as though two different authentic quotes got conflated:
In the 1st century BC, Cicero said “Any human can make a mistake; it takes a fool to persist in his mistake”;
(Cuiusvis hominis est errare; nullius nisi insipientis in errore perseverare. Philippics xii.2.5)

In the 5th century AD, St. Jerome said, “To sin is human, but to lay traps is diabolical.”
(Peccare enim hominis est, insidias tendere diaboli. Adv. Ruf. iii.33)
(Cf. “lead us not into temptation etc….”)

But neither one said “to persist in error is diabolical.”

And thank heavens for that! Many of us persist in error without supernatural aid of either kind.
(To keep up with my perseverated errors would exhaust a troop of devils.)

So it is deeply unclear when this formulation arose, sc. errare human est, sed perseverare diabolicum.

I see it listed in the Italian Wikiquotes,
And German Wikiquotes.

But neither has any citation for that formula — they give no source or provenance.

We can get a good hint of its date from the fact that no one seems to have said even the first half — even just the “errare humanum est” part — until 1745.
(See the citations in N&Q: things like it, true, but not that phrase.)

I suspect the conflated version is much less than 300 years old.
For all that these records show, it may have been coined in the last few years; a trap laid for the unwary by someone who thought himself devilish clever.
I myself don't think the conflation *is* devilish clever. But I do think it would be foolish to persist in spreading it further.

#30 ::: oldster ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2018, 09:53 PM:

Oh! And note also that the indefatigable Sonnenschein who contributed the note in N&Q betrays no awareness of the "to persist is diabolical" formulation.

That's more good reason to think that it is quite recent, i.e. post 1904.

#31 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2018, 01:49 AM:

Wait, Really? Though I suppose I probably use Google Translate as much to cheat at Latin as I do for more current languages.

Also, that Ambrosius did make a fine salad.

#32 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2018, 01:56 AM:

rm@4 The "boarders" missspelling reminds me of the Grateful Dead album's working title about "Ugly Roomers from the Mars Hotel".

#33 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2018, 12:12 PM:

both also vied into conspiracy theories

Oy. I don't know if that one is autocorrupt or user error.

#34 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2018, 11:26 AM:

A somewhat different kind of error, from a Newsday article about building bulkheads along a shoreline that was hard-hit in Sandy:

" protect and ensure the city's very inhabitability and the continuity of life on the barrier island."

#35 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2018, 01:02 PM:

me (34): No, wait, I'm getting my negations confused. The 'in' in 'inhabitability' is not a negation; that would be uninhabitability'. So that statement I quoted is fine.

Nevermind. /Litella

#36 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2018, 02:20 PM:

Mary Aileen (35) I read that several times and couldn't see what was wrong with it but figured it was just me. :-) Sort of like the "inflammable" problem.

#37 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2018, 03:02 PM:

OtterB (36): Yep! Flammable/inflammable, habitable/inhabitable. Same-same. Sorry for the confusion.

#38 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2018, 10:08 PM:

Trying to sew maximum confusion

#39 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2018, 11:25 PM:

@38, now that would be an interesting cosplay...

#40 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2018, 04:20 PM:

"You don't want to tip your hat too early...."

#41 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2018, 02:09 AM:

Somebody referred to "getting soak and wet" from the rains we're finally having more of here. That's what happens when you tip your hat too early, I guess.

#42 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2018, 09:28 AM:

Cassy B @39, cosplay would be easier if you were dealing with major confusion or general confusion rather than maximum confusion.

#43 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2018, 01:01 PM:

OtterB #42

Private confusion being subordinate to the others?

#44 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2018, 01:10 PM:

Abi #3

“Chastity” can also mean “loyalty and faithfulness within a relationship”. This isn’t quite the same as continence.

#45 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2018, 05:54 PM:

"I heard you had built a report with Biru."

#46 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2018, 05:29 PM:

Someone posted a scan of a want-ad page from Oklahoma - the ad they did it for is for dealing with a green dragon. But the one above it is for help wanted to clear right-aways....

#47 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2018, 06:58 PM:

I think they wanted to clear the cleaners immediately, hence "right-away clearing" -- rather than wanting to clear rights of way.

Having had green dragon problems of my own years ago, I can understand what the ad-placer wants there; but how did he reach an agreement with the red dragon? They're usually fiercer.

#48 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2018, 09:21 AM:

From the captions on a BBC video about a mother cat who adopted some ducklings along with her newborn kittens: "mothering hormones were coarsing through her blood."

#49 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2018, 10:27 AM:

True but redundant: "errant nonsense".

#50 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2018, 10:28 PM:

KeithS (49): Not necessarily; there is such a thing as deliberate nonsense*. However, the phrase does appear to be self-referential.

*the works of Lewis Carroll spring to mind

#51 ::: candle ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2018, 08:42 AM:

oldster (and abi): I just looked into this for a copy-editing job, and the quotation is complicated. errare humanum est appears in Seneca, I believe, and was certainly current in his day: the Cicero variant is only one example of what seems to have been a common phrase.

sed perseverare diabolicum does not appear in Seneca's surviving works, which does not of course mean he didn't write it. But the most likely source is Ambrose's contemporary St Augustine,Sermons 164.10.14: Humanum fuit errare, diabolicum est per animositatem in errore manere: it is human to err, but devilish to cling on to your error out of contrariness. His target was the Donatists, whom he figured knew they were wrong but didn't want to admit it.

And Fragano is right: castitas and continentia in Augustine's day were terms with different technical meanings: chastity did not rule out sex but meant having sex only within a legitimate marriage; continentia is really just self-control, but applied to sex in general. Neither implied virginitas, which Jerome was pressing for at the time.

#52 ::: oldster ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2018, 10:54 AM:

candle @51--

Thanks! That is super interesting and helpful.

Because you give a citation for the Augustine sermon, it is possible for anyone to go to a standard edition of Augustine and verify what it says, and also understand its context.

You'll find sermon 164 listed along the left column here.

That's how one attributes a quotation to an historical figure.

And when someone can give me a citation in a standard edition of Seneca's works which contains " errare humanum est," then I'll be happy to attribute that to him, too.

But I have checked the standard editions of Seneca, and I cannot find it. I cannot find anything like it. If he said something like it, he used different words.

Looking for a quotation is not a mysterious process: the writings of Seneca are now just a text-file (or several text-files) like any other file, and can be searched mechanically.

Maybe I searched badly, or unimaginatively, and something like this quotation remains to be found in Seneca. That's fine! In that case, someone will find it, and give us a standard citation, and we'll all know where it is, and have evidence that Seneca said it.

But until then, we have no reason to attribute it to Seneca.

We have no other access to "what Seneca said" than this. We have no grounds for saying "Seneca said X" other than what we find in the writings of Seneca.

(Well, his writings, augmented by early reports from reliable witnesses. Luckily, such early reports are now generally included in an author's published corpus as "fragmenta" or "testimonia" and the like, and are equally amenable to searching and citation.)

So: can someone show some evidence, before continuing to say "Seneca said this"?

Related point: proper citation not only gives us solid evidence for attribution, it also gives us *context*.

And context in this case allows us to observe two things about the "in errore manere" line in Augustine:

1) it is not *all* persistence in error that is labeled diabolical here, but rather persistence when animated by animosity;
2) it is also possible, given the context, that Augustine is not speaking about any persistence other than the persistence of the Donatists. That is, the sense here may be "to err is human, but *the Donatists'* persistence in error is clearly motivated by animosity, spurred on by Satan." Heretics are the limbs of the devil, after all.

So: given what Augstine says here, it is likely that he thinks that there is a lot of non-diabolical persistence in error -- for instance, any persistence not motivated by animosity. It is also possible that he thought there was even persistence based on animosity that was not diabolical, so long as it was not the persistence of heretics like the Dponatists.

That said, this is a terrific find, which thoroughly explodes my contention in #29 that quotations that link persisting in error with diabolical causes are the result of a conflation in the last few centuries. For that I'm very grateful.

#53 ::: oldster ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2018, 10:58 AM:

Hmmm...not a great link.

Try this one.

#54 ::: oldster ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2018, 11:02 AM:

Sigh. I'm not good at embedding links, so here it is unembedded:

#55 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2018, 11:47 AM:

This fits in with some of my brother's kvetching about The Big Bang Theory. Sheldon has a theory, and then finds out that a previous guy, a Russian, had the same thought, and then said it was obviously wrong. Hilarity ensues, as they say.

It's all over very quickly, and that's not science. You persist in error, until you resolve the discrepancy. If you have different results from an experiment, you want to know why the difference happens.

It started with my brother complaining about people (he was less polite) contracting out the task of finding citations, on the grounds that If you can't find your own citations you don't understand what you're working on. I can see that, synonyms come into it for any search.

And, yeah, what you are using the error for has to matter.

Incidentally, he keeps posting pictures to Twitter, mostly landscapes. Including infra red, which does all sorts of strange things: black skies, no haze, white grass, it's odd. He bought a modded camera, but some smartphones can detect IR. Try yours, look for a light on your TV remote.

Infra-red picture here

#56 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2018, 09:41 PM:

"she heard cries of help"

Really? We're having trouble with prepositions now?

#57 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2018, 09:42 PM:

Oh dear. I spoke too soon:
"155 miles-per-hour winds ravished the home"

Did it at least offer a smoke after...?

#58 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2018, 09:55 PM:

Jacque (56): Maybe it's not preposition trouble but punctuation trouble: She heard cries of "Help!".

#59 ::: Michael I ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2018, 10:46 AM:

In the “funding provided by” section of several Season 11 episodes of Cook’s Country:

“Wine and recipes have one thing in common: they’re made with love and meant to be shared.”

#60 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2018, 10:07 PM:

I think this one needs a little re-writing:
As she so longed to do, she is now free to run barefoot jubilantly through the gardens of Heaven with her redeemer and adoring husband.

#61 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2018, 12:30 AM:

"My parents, Ayn Rand and God"

#62 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2018, 12:34 AM:

Yes, but which is which?

#63 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2018, 12:50 AM:

Someone I know just printed up lyrics (copied from an online source without editing) for "Silent Night,", which included the line "Round you Virgin, Mother and Child" -- does that imply that Joseph was the Virgin, instead of Mary? Makes for a much less interesting Nativity, sort of a Dog Bites Man headline.

#64 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2018, 04:14 PM:

"cultural moors that were no longer normal"

Or pining thereon, I imagine.

#65 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2018, 04:44 PM:

I don't think the headline is saying exactly what they meant:
Newspaper plant virus halts Los Angeles Times deliveries

#66 ::: candle ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2018, 02:12 PM:

Carrie S.: or, to prove that an Oxford comma is not the solution:

"To my mother, Ayn Rand, and God"

#67 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2018, 03:40 PM:

candle (66): Yay, a sample sentence in which the Oxford comma is wrong! I had come across one once, but could never find it again.

My tenth grade English teacher taught us always to use the Oxford comma*, on the pragmatic grounds that sometimes it was necessary and was never wrong, so if we got in the habit of using it, we wouldn't have to stop and think about whether this particular sentence needed it. A few years later, I did find a counterexample, but I kept using the Oxford comma anyway.

*although she didn't call it that. She might have used the term 'serial comma', but I think she (we) didn't have an actual name for it.

#68 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2018, 04:50 PM:

66 & 67: Uh...I don't get it...? Candle's example tells me there are three people being addressed:
1. Mom
2. Ayn Rand
3. God

What am I missing?

#69 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2018, 05:01 PM:

"Mom" can be misunderstood as "Ayn Rand".

#70 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2018, 06:18 PM:

Jacque, consider: "And to my mother, Connie, I leave the following..." Even in the list form what's between the commas can be construed as a clarification, not an additional entry in the list.

#71 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2018, 06:42 PM:

@69 & 70: Hm. Okay. I guess? I mean, that's not how I parse it at all. Which says that, to me, the Oxford comma very much is the correct construction here?

How would you edit it so it would be clearer that it's a list?

#72 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2018, 08:46 PM:

Jacque (71): It's the wrong construction because it *can* be misread, not because it inevitably will be.


"God, my mother, and Ayn Rand" would work. So would putting "my mother" at the end.

"My mother, God, and Ayn Rand" is a bit more dubious but should still be okay.

#73 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2018, 08:48 PM:

Or just leave out the Oxford comma in this case. That works, too.

#74 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2018, 10:50 PM:

It's not the Oxford comma that's the problem there. There are two issues:

  1. The order of the list introduces ambiguity, and
  2. The author has the execrable taste to dedicate someone to that icon of selfishness, hypocrisy, and horrible hack prose, Ayn Rand.

#75 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2018, 11:05 PM:


  1. Thank you. I couldn't quite articulate it, but that's exactly my issue, and
  2. *snrk!*
#76 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2018, 12:11 AM:

Honestly, in that case, I'd dedicate it, "To my mother, and Ayn Rand, and God."

Well, actually I'd personally never dedicate ANYTHING to Ayn Rand other than, possibly, a bowel movement, but I believed that's the least ambiguous solution to the problem.

#77 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2018, 12:14 PM:

"To my mother, to Ayn Rand, and to God". Which also fixes it, but, yeah, I'm not dedicating anything useful to Ayn Rand.

#78 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2019, 06:36 AM:

Pretty sure this one is an auto-miscorrect: “They have not yet reached full burnout, but they are encroaching it,” she said.

#79 ::: James E ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2019, 09:27 AM:

Spotted on Twitter: “up ship creak without a paddle”

#80 ::: candle ::: (view all by) ::: January 18, 2019, 09:48 AM:

Yes, my point (as Mary Aileen says) was only that the Oxford comma does not inevitably clear up any and all ambiguity. There are plenty of ways of fixing the sentence, but that is also true of other ambiguous sentences which do not use the Oxford comma.

I do agree with Xopher and others that the far more significant problem here is anyone dedicating anything to Ayn Rand, but I believe that is the trad. illustration of the case.

#81 ::: Allan Beatty ::: (view all by) ::: January 18, 2019, 07:57 PM:

Ayn Rand is in the traditional illustration because she didn't want to share credit for anything with anybody, certainly not with God.

#82 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2019, 12:35 AM:

This one's not the usual sort of eggcorn, but it seemed on-topic. I'm on the mailing list for the local jeweler from whom we commissioned our wedding rings. Their latest one, advertising the resale of a pearl ring, made me go, "How's that again?":

There's a story behind every gem. What was once someone's treasure, now withholds the opportunity for a new journey.
#83 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2019, 05:45 PM:

David: "You might want it, but you can never have it! Mwa-hah-hah!"

Yeah, one suspects they meant "holds." Unusually creative autocarrot?

#84 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2019, 12:07 AM:

It looks to me like an antonymization of "presents". Someone hit an on-line thesaurus and clicked one too many times?


#85 ::: estelendur ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2019, 02:34 PM:

This section will brevily look into state handling

"Brevily" is a delightful coinage!

#86 ::: HelenS ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2019, 09:14 PM:

" is a flex duck 3" in diameter." Whereupon I immediately pictured a rubber ducky.

#87 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2019, 12:00 AM:

Yes, that would be where you use your duck tape.

#88 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: February 15, 2019, 12:45 AM:

About an hour ago, our TV started screaming about an Amber Alert. (Except, bizarrely, it said "Presidential Alert", which is particularly odd given that we're in Canada.) The alert was about a child abduction that had apparently occurred about 5 hours drive from here.

Which, okay, isn't completely silly given that the father and child were last seen about 9 hours ago. But the alert was read by an automated system that totally mangled not only the names of the father and child, but the type of the car. "Honda Sivitch". This is... counterproductive.

#89 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: February 15, 2019, 09:42 AM:

The L.A. MTA (bus/light rail system) has text messages with computer-read audio. It needs training: it reads the slashes as "slash". (It also spells out some of the abbreviations.) This doesn't make it easy to understand.

#90 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: February 15, 2019, 10:47 AM:

I'm reminded of one of my favorite abbreviation-expansion bloopers. Several years ago - so probably wouldn't happen now - I was looking online for a map to an address that included the road FM 1960 in Houston. The FM road names are common in Texas - it stands for Farm to Market - and that particular one is a major road in its part of town. FM 1960 is the name of the road; it doesn't have any other name.

The map program kept translating FM as "Federated States of Micronesia," which did not produce useful mapping results.

#91 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: February 15, 2019, 11:00 AM:

I wonder what it would have done with the Texas RM roads. (My parents' house in west Texas was on FM 179 - the address while they lived there was a box on a mail route, but now it has an actual house number.)

#92 ::: Allan Beatty ::: (view all by) ::: February 15, 2019, 07:51 PM:

I have seen -- and perpetrated -- some address expansion bloopers in my time. But fortunately placing the Federated States of Micronesia in Texas was not one of them. We would expand FM 1960 to FM Road 1960 and make sure it is slotted into the same bucket as County Road, State Highway, and so on.

For RM the easiest mistake would be to expand it to ROOM and then decide that the following number is a suite or apartment number.

#93 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2019, 02:04 AM:

OtterB: I've encountered that one! It happens that I live just south of a Farm to Market road (albeit one that does have another name, to wit, Westheimer). When I first moved to Houston, I was driving and using a Garmin GPS device. And when it instructed me as to which freeway exit to take – well, there was the FM right in the name of the exit. (Why it had to expand the abbreviation instead of saying "FM", I confess I don't know.)

#94 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2019, 01:03 PM:

The GPS thing that gets me is numbers. My Garmin always expands them to their full value.

Example: 1779
The standard way to say that in an address is either
one seven seven nine
seventeen seventy-nine
My Garmin pronounces it one thousand seven hundred seventy-nine


#95 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2019, 02:14 PM:

I have not been impressed by Garmin GPS devices. Last month when I was in the area of Victoria, BC, I had a rental car with a Garmin. I was trying to get from a hospital to the house I was staying in, which was rather secluded in the hills. When the GPS told me to follow a different route than the one I expected, quite late one night, I did a mental shrug: perhaps it knew a back route that was shorter and/or faster than the somewhat roundabout highway route. But the roads got rougher, and narrower, and darker... then into the forest, and the road turned into a one-lane bumpy path. And then the GPS told me to drive into a tree.

Working hypotheses: (1) the GPS was hacked by a serial killer; (2) the GPS was possessed by the malevolent spirit of my late mother-in-law.

I was told later that the route I was directed to was shorter in terms of distance, though longer by time (the device was supposed to optimize for the latter). And technically passable in daylight if one was not concerned about one's suspension.

It took me some creative route-planning to trick it into directing me via a reasonable path. It made several other poor choices. And another Garmin unit that I borrowed for a while last year made some similar mistakes. Though I find it very useful -- in some cases I would say necessary -- to have a navigator when I don't know my route well, I wouldn't choose a Garmin.

#96 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2019, 11:39 PM:

There's a half-block stretch of a street I commonly walk to and from work that Google Maps will not plot a path for. It insists on routing you around that stretch of road (by preference, over two blocks so you can helpfully stop by the transit center—that you have no need to go to if you're trying to walk from point A to point B), even when the route adds anywhere from a quarter to a half mile over the direct straight shot down the road. There is absolutely nothing remarkable about that stretch of street to warrant this diversion.

I have more than once considered stopping in to the Google campus a block away from the "problem" stretch of road and pointing this out to them.

#97 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2019, 11:07 AM:

Various #88-96: It may in fact help to file error reports, though I'd bet it helps more for Google than for Garmin. Which says nothing about the ethics of a company crowdsourcing their error-correction to their user base.

I've written previously about the time I tried to use Apple Maps to walk (that is, explicitly selecting "walking directions" from my house to downtown.

First it directed me along a highway most of which didn't even have sidewalks. Eventually, it directed me to turn right off the highway and cut across to another street. Turning and looking off the shoulder of the highway, I beheld: Old barbed-wire fencing, a 15' deep gully, a 10' chain-link fence, and a few hundred feet of forest, beyond which was visible the back of a small shopping center's parking lot.

Admittedly, that was a few years ago, but it made me quite wary of their walking directions since.

#98 ::: Singing Wren ::: (view all by) ::: February 20, 2019, 05:38 PM:

Seen on the side of a local business' SUV, advertising the services they offer:

Custom vinyl grapics

#99 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: February 20, 2019, 06:42 PM:

When I was a child, my hometown library was extensively renovated and the parking lot redone. The new sign in the lot read "Libarry Parking." (Needless to say, that sign was replaced within a few days...)

#100 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: February 20, 2019, 10:06 PM:

A couple of years into my grad work at Queen's U in Kingston, I noticed that when the student newspaper ran the ads for the candidates for Student Council President, every one of them had serious errors in basic grammar and/or spelling. I wrote a letter to the editor, pointing this out, and noting that the ads were sent in as camera-ready copy. The newspaper wasn't responsible for the errors; it was all on the candidates themselves. It was disappointing that the people who wanted to be representing the university had such universally poor literacy. (Queen's students have a rather overblown sense of pride.)

The newspaper ran my letter. With a bunch of typos added. So I wrote another letter to the editor about the typos they'd put in my previous letter complaining about typos.

They ran that one, too, with still more typos. So I wrote another letter complaining about the typos they'd put in my previous letter complaining about the typos in the first letter about the candidates' typos.

And so on. I don't recall how many iterations we went through. Four or five, I think.

#101 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2019, 10:36 AM:

Joel Polowin #100: I don't recall how many iterations we went through. Four or five, I think.

Before you realized they were taking the piss? ;-)

#102 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2019, 11:45 AM:

Dave Harmon @101 -- It's possible, though they continued to print my rather dry comments about how it reflected on their competence and/or literacy. I did my first couple of degrees at Carleton University, and didn't care for the Queen's students' snotty attitude regarding Carleton -- wholly unjustified, so far as I could see, having been a TA at both.

#103 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2019, 07:58 PM:

Dave 97: Years ago, I tried to use Google Maps mass transit/walking directions to find a location in Brooklyn. GM at the time assumed that subway stations were point locations on a map and had only one exit, which wouldn't have been so bad if they told you WHICH exit they decided was the real one, or where you'd be when you came out. No, they just said "exit the subway and go north on Blahblah street." It turned out, after a good deal of wandering around, that by coming out the largest entrance of the station I had put myself a good block from Blahblah street, on the other side of a huge building with no through access.

#104 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2019, 03:35 PM:

An online stress-management class I just took included the line "...look for ways to tone it back...".

I think they mean either 'tone it down' or 'dial it back'.

#105 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2019, 04:47 AM:

Re. error reports, I did once contact AA Routefinder here in the UK to inform them that they were recommending an illegal right hand turn close to where I live. They both responded by email AND corrected the error.

My stepmother's satnav once directed her to drive her horsebox (that's a fairly large vehicle (not a trailer), designed in this case to carry two horses, with an area for people to sit, and with storage space for tack, hay nets, water and so on)up an old packhorse trail that would have been tough going to RIDE a horse up!

#106 ::: eric ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2019, 06:17 AM:

Seen Elseweb: "a thermite infested apartment in Sicily"

#107 ::: estelendur ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2019, 12:25 PM:

eric @106: I would expect that to be a notably short-lived apartment!

#108 ::: Jim Parish ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2019, 12:28 PM:

eru, #106: Gives a whole new meaning to the word "exterminators".

#109 ::: TomB ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2019, 02:34 AM:

eric, #106: Something worse than fire ants!

#110 ::: alisea ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2019, 10:29 AM:

also from elseweb:

"Sewing means lots of scraps and I hate to waist them"

#111 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2019, 02:30 PM:

"Trump's becoming more bazaar..."

Well, the marketplace of ideas, right?

#112 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2019, 05:57 PM:

Fragano Ledgister @ 43 (very belatedly): there's a line in the recorded At the Drop of a Hat about a bus sitting outside the theater with a sign in a window saying "Private" -- "I remember when it used to be a general."

Joel Polowin @ 95: I inherited a Garmin and added the traffic-report pickup; it has guided me out of some traffic jams, and into others. However, I don't know whether it's confused about when transit construction will close bridges in northern Somerville (MA), or just confused -- going south on the relevant road I was told to go straight on, but if I head north it wants me to zigzag (NE then NW) twice, for no obvious reason. I'll report this one if I'm every motivated to download the screenshots I took.

Jacque @ 96: Google was particularly confusticated a year or so ago, when a dangerous part of a major highway intersection was replaced with a safer elongated version; somehow (possibly user report that wasn't checked) they got that the old connection was gone but not that the new connection was open, so transfers that would have used it were taken several miles out of the way.

Dave Harmon @ 97: I wonder who gave Google that? Around here it won't even tell pedestrians to cut through parking lots.

All this said, I have to give Google props for mixed-mode transport; it found me the Boston-Plattsburgh best route, which included a ferry (also decent for Boston-Montreal).

#113 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2019, 07:41 PM:

Just saw "the solo survivor of the attack."

#114 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2019, 08:21 PM:

Xopher (113): Presumably the attack also had duet and trio survivors.

#115 ::: TomB ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2019, 11:46 PM:

Solo survivor, ha! He shot first.

#116 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2019, 10:11 AM:

TomB: You win!

#117 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2019, 09:51 PM:

CHip #112: Back then, I don't think they were using Google. I suspect they were using a map where that interstitial space was marked as the equivalent of a blank green space -- that is, no known obstacles (note that none of the barriers would have shown on most maps), so the algorithm just told me to cut across wherever that minimized the total distance. Modern Google Maps does do better in general, but as others have noted, it still has a GIGO problem, and I suspect its algorithms are doomed to have at least some instability in them.

#118 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: April 03, 2019, 10:45 PM:

This is a major design floor.

#119 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: April 03, 2019, 11:02 PM:

It's a huge mosaic?

#120 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2019, 10:40 AM:

I know spam is so rife with these that it hardly counts, but I just got one asking for an "unguent respond." I laughed.

#121 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2019, 10:58 AM:

Mary Aileen @120, ha. Self-defining as a little slimy?

#122 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2019, 11:36 AM:

OtterB (121): That's what it looks like!

#123 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2019, 01:32 PM:

slime-mold marketing!

#124 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2019, 11:09 AM:

TFW the autocarrot is coming from inside your head:

"found a loan representative of [category]"

::HEAVY sigh::

#125 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2019, 12:55 PM:

Jacque (124): What's that supposed to be? I'm not seeing it.

#126 ::: Buddha Buck ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2019, 02:41 PM:

Mary Aileen @125:

Are you borrowing money from [category], or do you see only one of that [category]?

#127 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2019, 04:20 PM:

Buddha Buck: Option B.

Mary Aileen: Yes! Denotational ambiguity! Yes, let's go with that. XD

#128 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2019, 04:21 PM:

Buddha Buck (126)/Jacque (127): Aha! I only thought of Option A. Thank you for clarifying that.

#129 ::: Doug ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2019, 04:08 AM:

Denotational Ambiguity might be the name of my next band.

#130 ::: Rainflame ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2019, 02:53 PM:

"he was diluted into thinking..."

#131 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2019, 03:34 PM:

Rainflame (130): Well, that's one solution.

#132 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2019, 06:21 PM:

#130-131: Well, that's one solution.

Given the apparent intent, it's presumably the "solution which is simple, obvious, and wrong".

#133 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2019, 07:50 PM:

If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the precipitate.

#134 ::: Clifton ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2019, 09:37 PM:

Perhaps "diluted into thinking" would provide a cure for homeopathy, if the thinking could just be diluted enough.

#135 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2019, 01:52 AM:

"He told a raptured audience"

Piles of clothes atop empty shoes...?

#136 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2019, 08:28 PM:

Not far from where I work, there's a gallery store for French furniture called RocheBobois. I walked by there today and in all their windows they had this copy advertising an upcoming sale:

May 9 to 19
alluring offers on all new collections

Okay, not a "dreadful phrase" as such, but thematically related.

#137 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2019, 10:32 PM:

well, it is eleven days, not ten....

#138 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2019, 01:48 PM:

somebody on the social media just called someone a "cooperate flunky" when they meant "corporate flunky"

Autocorrect or ignorance?

#139 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2019, 02:52 PM:

That depends -- was the person a Trump supporter?

#140 ::: Jeremy Leader ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2019, 02:42 PM:

Seen on a webpage from a very large provider of computing resources (and online bookstore), while enumerating the organizing principles of one of their services, they started the 2nd paragraph: "Of course, in keeping with our first tenant, ..."

#141 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2019, 05:57 PM:

Funnier if they'd said Tennant!

#142 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2019, 06:09 PM:

I remember "it is a major tenant of our religion..."

One of the people who said that was actually renting a room to a co-religionist, so he got out of that one!

#143 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2019, 06:13 PM:

I just saw, in a published novel, one character asking another how he's been doing, and get the answer "Fair to Midland."

This author really thinks that's what the phrase is. That's not a typo. That's not a simple error. He capitalized it! He's just never thought it through.

#144 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2019, 11:02 PM:

Any chance that that can be attributed to an error on the part of the character? I remember the stir that went through my grade-10 English class when the teacher told us that he wouldn't take marks off for poor grammar, foul language, etc. in dialogue, if it was appropriate for the characters to speak that way.

#145 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2019, 01:09 PM:

Even the New York Times is doing it: an article on state legislation that would have the effect of making Trump's state tax returns available to Congress was described as leading into "unchartered" territory. (The spellchecker on this website says that's not even a word.) This was reprinted in the Boston Globe, so in old days I'd have blamed a retypist; these days I'd assume the error is in the original, which would have been e-copied.

#146 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2019, 04:03 PM:

I wouldn't be terribly surprised to hear that Trump used unchartered accountants. Pillaging on the wide accountancy, etc.

The word appears in various dictionaries: lacking a charter, used to describe a person or object in areas where having a charter is usual.

#147 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2019, 05:59 PM:

Ah, the death of a maritime metaphor....

#148 ::: Singing Wren ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2019, 07:38 AM:

Joel Polowin: The Crimson Permanent Assurance?

#149 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2019, 09:56 AM:

I'm quite enjoying a shirt being described as "Undaunted in the back for a Better fit."

#150 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2019, 10:20 AM:

xeger #149 More of my clothing needs to be undaunted.

Is that supposed to be undarted?

#151 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2019, 01:22 PM:

OtterB @ 150:
Is that supposed to be undarted?

I'd normally expect it to be 'darted', rather than 'undarted' for better fit -- but apparently mileage is highly variable.

#152 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2019, 12:06 PM:

Found in a rather poorly-edited companion volume to a well-known Brit TV castle saga, this one sentence hits a trifecta:

"Although it can be tempting to laden plates with cakes, make it gentile and elegant, not coma inducing!"

Or, why copy editors are *really* a good idea.

Makes me worry about the goodness of the recipes. Guess I'll need to test and report back?

#153 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2019, 05:25 PM:

@joann, beware lest the cakes you taste-test induce a coma...

#154 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2019, 09:46 PM:

Someone else who needs a copy-editor:
"Memorial Day is America's Most Sacred Holiday" - OK, so where is the Commander and Chief?

#155 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2019, 10:18 PM:

OH GOD. Was having a lot of trouble with my joints a few months ago when strong recs for this went across Twitter, so I got it.

I don't recall issues with the English, particularly, but whoever published this had the idea that they were competent to format it themselves.

First three lines of a paragraph are ragged right. Rest of the paragraph is justified. Last line on the page (in the middle of a sentence) is a single or a couple orphan word(s). Lather, rinse, repeat. Text references exercises, refers you to an appendix. Which refers you to another chapter. Which refers you to yet aother chapter—I never did figure out the referencing system.

I think her content might be good...? But the book itself is nearly indecipherable.

#156 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2019, 03:22 AM:

Joel 144: Well, it was in dialogue. And the character isn't otherwise characterized as a malaprop. I think the mistake is the author's.

#157 ::: Nancy C. Mittens ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2019, 10:11 AM:

Heard in a meeting, " it up the totem pole..."

#158 ::: Jeremy Leader ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2019, 07:48 PM:

joann 152: am I missing something? I only see 2 errors, "laden" as an infinitive, and "gentile/genteel". What's the 3rd?

#159 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2019, 08:06 PM:

Jeremy Leader @158: "It", singular, seems to refer back to "plates", plural -- though it may refer to a statement in another sentence, which makes its usage problematic rather than necessarily wrong.

#160 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2019, 08:31 PM:

"It can be tempting" strikes me as a perfectly normal English.

#161 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2019, 01:52 AM:

The second "it", not the first one -- "make it gentile and elegant" -- is the "it" I was referring to. My bad for not disambiguating.

#162 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2019, 09:53 AM:

Tom Whitmore (161): Oh! I didn't even see that one. Yeah, that is problematic. I don't think it's referring to 'plates', but it's very hard to tell.

#163 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2019, 10:47 AM:

Jeremy Leader #158:

I was also including "coma inducing" instead of "coma-inducing". At least, when I leave off hyphens in places like that, every spell-checker on the planet goes ape.

#164 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2019, 08:31 PM:

Joel Polowin @ 146: I was thinking it might be a word, albeit old enough that simpleminded dictionaries wouldn't have it. My first thought on seeing it was a reference to the Charterless Zarathustra Corporation, but "unchartered" to me sounds like an initial failure rather than a loss.

#165 ::: Rainflame ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2019, 11:50 PM:

" trump syncopates like him don't listen to reason, logic, or actual facts"

#166 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2019, 02:04 AM:

Wow. Someone who knows enough to use "sycophants" but doesn't know enough to watch the spellchecker!

#167 ::: Angiportus Librarysaver ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2019, 10:16 AM:

Aaauggh. That gives syncopation a bad name.

#168 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2019, 01:56 AM:

Ya gotta wonder what their conversations are like that that's what their auto-carrot comes up with.

#169 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2019, 11:02 AM:

Seen on local neighborhood forum:

"Panda party supplies outside [address redacted]! There are 13 gift bags, 3 uninflected balloons."

So ... the balloons got bad grammar, or what?

#170 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2019, 01:00 PM:

The balloons were pre-owned and used at a "measles party", but have since been sterilized. But a spall-chucker didn't like "uninfected".

#171 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2019, 09:29 PM:

The other day I saw a box truck with the business name "Tire's Unlimited". (I'm not sure what kind of tire they actually sell.)

#172 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2019, 06:41 AM:

"Tire's Unlimited"

Little do you know that Seymour Tire sells backpacks, houseplants and fresh-baked pies! ;-)

#173 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2019, 09:00 PM:

featured at my office cafeteria: a sandwich served "w/ side of au jus"

#174 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2019, 10:13 PM:

Somewhere along the line, people seem to have decided that "au jus" is the name of a kind of gravy/sauce.

#175 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: July 03, 2019, 11:55 PM:

I saw a singer-songwriter in concert today and I think I heard one of the lines of his song had someone trying to "bonify" something, i e make it bona fide.

#176 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2019, 02:48 PM:

Erik: Heh. That's a construction I'd endorse. :)

#177 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2019, 09:59 AM:

I have a coworker who is the (entirely unconscious) absolute master of the malapropism. His latest:

"They hear 'audit' and they have negative condemtations."

#178 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2019, 01:07 PM:

Erik Nelson #175

A newspaper in Belize 30 years ago came up with the phrase "bonified customers." I was appalled for a moment before I got it.

#179 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2019, 01:56 PM:

Is a "bonified" customer bone-in, deboned, or bones put back in? Compare with "flammable" vs. "inflammable".

#180 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2019, 10:02 AM:

Joel Polowin #179:

In keeping with Ian Macdonald's "mellified man" (see _The Dervish House_) I'd say it meant wrapped in bones.

#181 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2019, 09:28 AM:

Joel Polowin #179:

Bones added, I'd say.

#182 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2019, 12:10 PM:

"He didn't give any collaborating evidence."


::bites tongue::

Not saying anything. Nothing at all.

#184 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2019, 10:22 PM:

whiskey with a wedge of lemon?

#185 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2019, 02:52 PM:

or with an attitude, cf a button I've seen: "H. H. Munro was a wry swine."

#186 ::: Terry Hunt ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2019, 06:55 PM:

Well-known British Fan Brian Ameringen habitually wears (or wore, if it's now worn out) a T-shirt with this slogan.

#187 ::: Carol Kimball ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2019, 09:37 AM:

just won’t pass the mustard

We seem to have wandered into the Mad Hatter's tea party.

#188 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2019, 01:39 PM:

The shirt may have succeeded the button (it's been 14 years since I've seen either Brian or Caroline), or my memory may have been jumbled, but Brian is definitely who I saw wearing the text.

#189 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2019, 06:03 PM:

Fret level
(though that may have been a deliberate malapropism)

#190 ::: Allan Beatty ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2019, 01:18 AM:

Seen on Tumblr: "smith and western pistol"

#191 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2019, 11:25 AM:

Spotted on CNN: "At issue: Giuliani's wild-eyed promotion of wildly debunked conspiracy theories about Biden and his son Hunter, who served on the board of a Ukrainian natural gas company."

(I think a hyphen between "wildly" and "debunked" would be more correct.)

#192 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2019, 10:09 PM:

Actually, according to most sources, phrasal adjectives beginning with an adverb in -ly are correctly left unhyphenated. I first encountered that in Mary Norris's memoir-cum-style guide, Between You & Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen and I have to confess it surprised me a bit. But everywhere else I've seen that addresses the topic agrees.

#193 ::: Devin ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2019, 02:32 AM:

Makes sense, if you think about it: "wildly" must modify "debunked" rather than theories, because "wildly conspiracy theories" is gibberish. So the hyphen isn't necessary.

#194 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2019, 11:28 AM:

Am I missing something? I think the issue is not the hyphen, but that the conspiracy theories are widely, not wildly, debunked.

#195 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2019, 12:19 PM:

Well, yes, of course that's what led Bill to post it here. But I thought that his closing parenthetical merited comment.

#196 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: October 02, 2019, 09:50 AM:

OtterB in #194: You are correct. I threw in the parenthetical remark about hyphenation as a distraction.

My 1949 copy of the Chicago A Manual of Style agrees with David in #192. Guess I'm still learning to write English.

#197 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: October 02, 2019, 10:01 AM:

Sorry for the pedantic digression. It wasn't intentional.

I would have thought to hyphenate it as Bill Higgins suggests and find it interesting that unhyphenated is correct. I suppose one hyphenates in a case where the meaning is ambiguous without the hyphen. I know I've seen them but I can't think of one at the moment.

#198 ::: Del Cotter ::: (view all by) ::: October 03, 2019, 05:24 AM:

The "still-vexed Bermoothes" I take to be vexed by stills, rather than still and vexed. I assume Shakespeare's talking about the Sargasso Sea.

#199 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: October 03, 2019, 10:10 PM:

So. last week I turned up a slim volume by Ambrose Bierce, titled "Write It Right: A Little Blacklist of Literary Faults". This is basically Mr. Bierce's list of pet peeves, circa 1909.

In his own preface, he does admit that the work is fundamentally a reflection of his own taste; my edition also has a newer introduction, which points out that Bierce had a serious distaste for American usage. (Indeed, in one entry he says flat out "this may be good American, but it is not good English").

Even given this, it's amusing to see how some of his entries had to have been quixotic pedantry even in his own time, while others represent fights that have since been won or lost. Throughout, his wry humor is entertaining.

An amusing juxtaposition demonstrates this -- in adjacent entries, he condemns:
1. "Sideburns" for "Burnsides" (noting that they are named for the Civil War general). Nowadays it's the canonical term.
2. "Side-hill" for "hillside", which I've never even seen used. Unless it remains as a Britishism or regionalism, I'd guess that one has indeed fallen out of use.
3. "Sideways" for "sidewise". He refers the entry to "endways" (for "endwise"), which in his time apparently was going the same way (the same wise? ;-) ). Curiously, nowadays (IMHO) "sidewise" looks archaic at best, but "endwise" still looks natural. Language development is weird.

#200 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2019, 12:47 PM:

Dave Harmon @199 - Well, there's the infamous Sidehill Gouger.

#201 ::: Rainflame ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2019, 11:21 PM:

One of the characters in Sometimes A Great Notion filled his freezer with "side-hill salmon", meaning deer taken out of season.

#202 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: October 06, 2019, 05:09 PM:

Joel Polowin #200, Rainflame #201: I note those are both regional references, which tends to make my point.

#203 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2019, 01:49 AM:

I was driving by my local movie theater and saw their marquee advertise the new film of "Downtown Abbey".

And the furniture store Roche Bobois near where I work is at it again: you may remember them having "Ten Days of Temptations" from May 9-19. Now they're having "Eight Exceptional Days" from October 12-20. (And no, I checked: their showroom is open seven days a week.)

#204 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2019, 10:50 AM:

David Goldfarb (203): That's nothing. The local Restaurant Week* lasts for more than two weeks: starts on a Friday, ends on the Sunday 2+ weeks later. I could forgive them for including two weekends in the "week", since that's when most people eat out, but a week that lasts more than a fortnight is a bit much.

*special deals at participating restaurants

#205 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2019, 04:58 PM:

This guy wrote that he and his childhood friends had "free reign of the neighborhood." Two mistakes in one WORD.

#206 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2019, 09:05 PM:

Ingenious People's Day

#207 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2019, 10:13 AM:

Erik #206:

Isn't that Hacker's Day? (old usage)

#208 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2019, 10:07 AM:

David Goldfarb #203: "Downtown Abbey"

They did a film about the Cloisters? ;-)

#209 ::: TomB ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2019, 12:37 AM:

"They know they have a stronghold on the market in our area"

#210 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2019, 06:12 PM:

streamer trunk

#211 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2019, 07:16 PM:

The storage container for party supplies?

#212 ::: TomB ::: (view all by) ::: October 14, 2019, 02:32 AM:

Maybe it is a trunk you can access anywhere, but you don't own it.

#213 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: October 14, 2019, 10:30 PM:

TomB #209: Okay, I just realized I can't tell: Was that a reply to mine, or a separate Dreadful Phrase? ;-)

#214 ::: TomB ::: (view all by) ::: October 14, 2019, 10:44 PM:

#209 is unrelated. They probably meant "stranglehold".

A few years ago I composited a fanzine article that had some photos of the Cloisters. They were beautiful. If there is a film about the Cloisters, I would watch it.

#215 ::: Michael I ::: (view all by) ::: October 15, 2019, 08:21 AM:

TomB@214 They probably meant "stranglehold".

Either that or someone built a castle inside the local supermarket...

#216 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: October 15, 2019, 10:49 AM:

The interesting thing about #209 is that if they'd written 'strong hold', with the space, it would make sense; I agree that they probably meant 'stranglehold', however.

#217 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: October 16, 2019, 04:18 PM:

@203 -- doesn't everybody make fencepost errors now and then? (I wonder how many people would think it was a reverse error if the count were correct.)

@204: that probably expanded under the name; the ones I know of (Boston, Providence) used to be just a week, but were so successful that they ~doubled the length. (Just doubled IIRC -- they don't do Saturdays at all, so it's Sunday to next-but-one Friday.) IIARC, the name finally got changed to "Dine Out Xxx" after enough grammarians complained; maybe you should start a movement?

#218 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2019, 10:07 AM:

CHip @217: A restaurant anti-"math-acree" movement?

#219 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2019, 11:19 AM:

Probably some of the bad word-choices are people being careless with spellcheck: not that they didn't know the correct word, but they just accepted all of their software's suggestions without double-checking the accuracy.

This occurred to me yesterday when I realized that Chrome* doesn't recognize either 'fibromyalgia' or 'rheumatologist'. It suggested 'fibrillation' and 'hematologist', respectively.

*Firefox just recognized 'rheumatologist' but made the same error with 'fibromyalgia'.

#220 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2019, 12:44 PM:

"Auto-corrupt" isn't as useful as some people think.

#221 ::: Mary Aileen is visiting the gnomes ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2019, 12:54 PM:

I've been gnomed! I can offer an orange Life Saver if that will help.

#222 ::: Rainflame ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2019, 09:44 PM:

"the national guard was called in to prevent luters"

#223 ::: Jen Birren ::: (view all by) ::: November 06, 2019, 06:38 AM:

Are there any RPG players who find that the idea of a plucky band of luters resonates with them?
(I wouldn't want to string you along to approving of viol-ence, I'll guitarta here.)


#224 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: November 07, 2019, 06:59 PM:

"point black assertion"

Is this a negative assertion?

#225 ::: Pfusand ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2019, 11:06 AM:

“There are more smoking guns in this sorted tale than in an NRA Firing Range.”

Um, well, it hasn't been fully sorted yet.

#226 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2019, 11:38 AM:

Reminds me of that horrid joke title:

"Sordid & Stoned: The Seamy Side of Camelot"

#227 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2019, 05:05 PM:

Semitruck. A truck divided into two cargo sections is a semi truck. A semitruck is half a truck.

"No, Xopher, that's a hemitruck. A semitruck is half a quarter note."

"No, that's a semiquaver. A semitruck is..."

#228 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2019, 12:37 PM:

"Your exclusive discount code is weighting"

#229 ::: Rainflame ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2019, 10:19 PM:

In recent posts by FB friends:
ice-cycle (for icicle)
it's self (for itself)

#230 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2019, 02:31 PM:

"it feels like you're lost in the maize"

The corn maze?

#231 ::: Melissa Mead ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2019, 09:58 PM:

"Looks like snow is whining down."

Hey, if wind can whistle...

#232 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2019, 04:22 PM:

Just saw "the bookshop is in dire straights."

Given that it's a gay romance, maybe. But I think it's just a mistake.

#233 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2019, 04:23 PM:

Dire straights are the guys who go around looking for gays to beat up?

#234 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2019, 08:08 PM:

Gary K. Wolfe edited American Science Fiction: Eight Classic Novels of the 1960s now out from the prestigious Library of America. In reviewing this collection, Paul Di Filippo turns to Poul Anderson's The Last Crusade:

While it checks off many of Campbell’s crochets—the unique superiority of humans; contrarian political stances such as the advantages of feudalism—it does so in a rather perfunctory, non-dogmatic manner.

Could be a mere typo, I suppose. Mr. Di Filippo's vocabulary outruns mine (I had to look up "detournements" and "psychopomp" just to get through this review).

#235 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2019, 10:28 PM:

In this sense, it's usually spelled "crotchet", so I'll go with typo. (Or someone who thought that "crotchet" wasn't correct and "fixed" it.)

#236 ::: Andrew M ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2019, 04:54 PM:

'...he does not want to cast dispersion on someone with a drug problem'.

#237 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2019, 08:44 AM:

P J Evans @ 235: Wolfe should have been able to overrule whatever contract copyeditor came up with such a "fix" -- but I don't know enough about today's publishing to guess whether he was given enough time to review the edit, or whether it was even clearly marked up. (Or whether he fixed the "correction", which then got unfixed in a version-control mess, as NESFA once managed to do -- to TNH's distress.) TNH laid out very clear rules for marks in the blue-pencil era; can anyone here tell us how markup is shown when most text is electrons rather than marks on paper?

#238 ::: Jim Parish ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2019, 09:28 PM:

CHip @ 237: I frequently give take-home tests in my classes, and I allow electronic submissions, in .pdf or Word formats. In the former case, I use the commenting feature - electronic post-its, as it were. This isn't quite copy editing, but perhaps it is similar enough, I suppose.

#239 ::: Angiportus Librarysaver ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2019, 10:04 PM:

I was writing to someone about some other people showing off their erudition, and my dictation program made it "air addition". Sometimes these changes are more apt than expected.

#240 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2019, 11:22 AM:

Jim Parish @ 238: I know markup tools exist; I was subjected to one form of them while trying to persuade some nitpickers in the Sasquan executive to work with the decorator spec that had been used in the past. But I don't know whether copyeditors use such tools, or just make the changes. There are also tools for comparing files (to find changes that haven't been annotated), but I don't know whether there's anything user-friendly enough to be usable. (I'd brute-force the question with an assortment of UNIX tools, but I worked with UNIX for a few decades and like simple tools that I can apply one-at-a-time so I can know what the results mean.)

#241 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2019, 03:15 PM:

Word has a feature like that, also. It's under "review".

#242 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2019, 10:27 AM:

CHip #240:

When spouse and I were doing a book for Large Well-Known Computer Book Publisher, we traded marked-up PDFs with the copyeditor, using change tracking within Acrobat.

#243 ::: Allan Beatty ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2019, 10:51 AM:

Describing a near miss on the highway: "I had the right away."

#244 ::: Jim Parish ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2019, 11:57 AM:

Allan #243: No doubt this is a phobia about tardiness.

#245 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2019, 02:38 PM:

CHip, in #237, when you write:

Wolfe should have been able to overrule whatever contract copyeditor came up with such a "fix..."

I presume instead of "Wolfe" you mean the author of the review I was quoting, Paul Di Filippo; Gary K. Wolfe is the editor of the books PDiF is reviewing, and is not responsible.

#246 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2019, 09:23 PM:

air addition - putting on airs?

#247 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2019, 09:25 PM:

I meant #239 - (comment by Angiportus "erudition" -sorry

#248 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2019, 06:08 PM:

Allah cart. As in "He ordered Allah cart."

Presumably, it's the cart with the halal food.

#249 ::: HelenS ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2019, 08:26 PM:

"He ticks all the buckets."

#250 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2019, 08:42 PM:

HelenS (249): Better than kicking all the buckets, I suppose.

#251 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2019, 03:01 PM:

Bill Higgins @ 245: this is me failing reading comprehension -- and I used to be so good with those little booklets....

I still whether an editor made the error or just left it in.

#252 ::: Allan Beatty ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2019, 06:54 PM:

"I have a rash over the top part of my diagram."

#253 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2019, 03:21 PM:

Allan Beatty #252: They must have run out of paper!

#254 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2020, 08:12 PM:

From the Secret Service's "Know Your Money" guide, right up front:

U.S. currency paper consists of 25% linen and 75% cotton and contains small randomly disbursed red and blue security fibers embedded throughout the paper.

I suspect a semantic collision, as "disbursed" does at least apply to money. It should of course be "dispersed".

#255 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2020, 06:05 PM:

Dave: The ATM out front has instructions for how to get a deposit envelope "disbursed." By which of course they mean "dispensed."

#256 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2020, 05:51 PM:

I don't think it's exactly a dreadful phrase, but someone needs to do some research:
"knight Lady Hotspur finds herself torn between love and her beliefs as the fate of her kingdom hangs in the balance" (book blurb, seen online, and no, I'm not interested)

#257 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2020, 01:23 PM:

Just saw "I understand and emphasize." I suspect arty carrot.

#258 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2020, 07:54 PM:

"In lieu of recent events—"

Pro author, too. Otto Carrot, we hope?

#259 ::: Cadbury Moose ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2020, 01:25 PM:

"swine vehicular disease" - which pre-dated the invention of the auto-carrot since it was in a local newspaper still using the Linotype machine for composing. (A recent search by moose for this typo turned it up in an EU document from 1994 that appears to have been autocarroted back to 'vesicular' when pdf'd (or maybe vice versa and the pdf OCR process caused the error.) Still amusing though, a specific disease that only pig lorries can contract?

#260 ::: Pfusand ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2020, 01:39 PM:

Nope. It's car sickness in pigs.

#261 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2020, 03:43 PM:

My brain was trying to relate it to swine flu. But that would be porcine aviation disorder.

#262 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2020, 04:24 PM:

I suspect that OCR did it - I worked for a while checking and correcting OCR'd docs, and some of the errors were amusing (turning "legal obligation" into "lethal obligation", as an example).

#263 ::: Devin ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2020, 05:25 PM:

P J Evans @ 262

Sometimes, both are correct.

#264 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2020, 07:55 PM:

Seen on Twitter: "we've all but irradiated these diseases because of vaccines"

#265 ::: Allan Beatty ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2020, 07:59 PM:

OCR is the mortal enemy of anyone whose last name is Fuchs.

#266 ::: Cadbury Moose ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2020, 07:05 AM:

A common OCR error IME is interpreting 'd' as 'cl' or vice versa, turning 'dip' into 'clip' and similar things that will pass the spell checker.

This moose has just realised that it's entirely possible that 'You can hear the sound of the chickens ducking." under certain circumstances.

Thanks to Pfusand and Mary Aileen for the travel related variations of SVD, too.

#267 ::: Pfusand ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2020, 07:35 AM:

Ah, Cadbury Moose. You remind me of the time, in dim light, I caught the OCR error of "hips" rather than "lips," in "she licked her hips." She was an alien, but not in that alien a shape.

#268 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2020, 11:33 AM:

At the same OCR-checking job, I saw "District" scrambled into "Omelet". ("Lethal obligation" was in a section about DC bonds.)

#269 ::: Jim Parish ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2020, 07:29 PM:

I was reading an OCR'd collection of Chinese folk tales. The OCR usually (but not always) transcribed "R" as "E". As a mathematician, I was delighted by the repeated references to "the Euler of Heaven".

#270 ::: Jim Parish ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2020, 07:29 PM:

I was reading an OCR'd collection of Chinese folk tales. The OCR usually (but not always) transcribed "R" as "E". As a mathematician, I was delighted by the repeated references to "the Euler of Heaven".

#271 ::: Jim Parish ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2020, 07:33 PM:

Sorry for the double; I was too impatient to wait out the posting.

#272 ::: Allan Beatty ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2020, 07:28 PM:

I'm sure this was autocorrect, but it's too good not to share: "A technical companion to this paper contains the complete mythological details."

#273 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2020, 10:43 AM:

Allan Beatty @272, too good not to share indeed. Unintended truth in publication, perhaps?

#274 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2020, 11:17 PM:

Jim Parish @ 269: I remember being delighted to find Euler on Swiss currency when I went to Confiction; it was nice not only as a change from heroes and politicos, but also as a tie-in as I'd just finished a course on discrete math that covered graph theory from the Königsberg bridges forward. As a former chemist, I was also pleased to find myself in Berzelius Square when I went to pick mail in Stockholm a couple of weeks later.

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