First I come to praise sub-editors, and Adrian Read in particular. Usually writers like to complain about how subs take out their jokes and put in mistakes. One of the joys of writing for The Independent on Sunday is that its sub-editors make my writing better.
Thanks to Adrian I was saved from misquoting Lewis Carroll in my column today. As published, I said Maria Miller was as mimsy as a borogove. I thought the line in ”Jabberwocky” was “All mimsy were the borogroves”. I even looked it up to check and didn’t notice. Luckily Adrian checked too, and did. It is “borogoves”.
So my assumption that the poem referred to swamps, like mangroves only nicer, requires a little more imagination. My former colleague Matt Hoffman tells me that Carroll said a borogove was a wingless parrot, but when I use nonsense words, they mean whatever I want them to mean. Carroll apparently said that “mimsy” meant “flimsy and miserable”. Not to me it doesn’t. I meant it to mean prim and unforthcoming.
Adrian also rewrote another of my sentences so that it shone. Having said that Miller ought to have known that her perfunctory and insincere apology would make matters worse, the article now says:
The surest way to madden the bull of public opinion is to prick it with the knives of disdain and right-to-govern.
I am embarrassed to admit that what I wrote was: “The surest way to drive the bull of public opinion mad is to stick the knives of disdain and right-to-govern in its shoulders.”
So much for style. I shall come to the substance of my partial defence of Miller in the next post.Tagged in: editing, language
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