Errare est humanum (“to err is human”) is a favorite Latin saying. Life is full of ridiculous errors we strive to conceal or overcome. My comic errors as a tourist in London included getting off the tube at Covent Garden, which would have been fine if that had been my stop, stumbling on the steps at a museum because I was entranced by a sign for a future exhibition (I made a quick, if ungraceful, recovery), and grudgingly backtracking three tube stops to retrieve shopping bags I had left behind – absolutely mortifying!
But today I want to talk about errors in print and on the internet. I have an obsessed acquaintance who collects typos and errors in posh magazines, then shoots off postcards to the editors. He says he just wants “the editors to do their work.”
I, too, am irritated by such errors, especially Latin errors in quotations in books and novels. Perhaps interns believe that Spellcheck or an app can correct Latin errors, but they are wrong. Perhaps they have a smattering of Latin and edit the errors into the text. The best way to avoid such folly is to hire a Latinist to proofread Latin.
This afternoon I opened a book promotion email from Barnes & Noble. My face fell when I found an error so egregious that I TRIED READING THE EMAIL UPSIDE DOWN AND BACKWARDS before I accepted the fact that it wasn’t a “Paul is dead” situation. B&N actually has a podcast called POURED OVER.
I assure you, this is not a podcast about a wet book t-shirt contest, which is what you might despairingly conclude. The learned podcasters at the last chain bookstore in America have confused two homonyms, the verb pour and the verb pore.
Here is the definition of pore: 1. to read or study with steady attention or application (a scholar poring over an old manuscript). 2. to gaze earnestly (to pore over a painting). 3. to meditate or ponder intently (He pored over the strange events of the preceding evening).
And here’s a definition of the verb pour: 1. to send a liquid, fluid, or anything in loose particles flowing or falling, as from one container to another. (She poured a glass of milk.)
I do believe Barnes and Noble owes me an apology for distress caused by this evidence of corporate booksellers’ illiteracy.
Perhaps a year of free books wouldn’t be amiss. After all, I have saved the bookstore from future pore/pour folly.
By the way, B&N has improved under the auspices of CEO James Daunt, who is also the founder of Daunt Books and the CEO of Waterstones in the UK.
But Poured Over is the sheerest folly.