As an editor by trade, I see printed words all around me that don’t conform to the standard conventions of grammar, spelling, and punctuation. It doesn’t particularly bother me. I am more amused than bothered: I simply can’t be that persnickety. Plus, I know enough about the history of the English language to know that errors can sometimes be revealing like defects or imperfections in the mirror of everyday experience. But in this New York Times video a vigilante copyeditor has highlighted those imperfections in an unlikely place, raising editorial fastidiousness to new heights. It’s a hymn to unintended layers of language in a quiet courtyard.
2 thoughts on “Vigilante Copyeditor”
A friend rightly noted that nowhere in this video is it observed that the vigilante copyeditor is, in fact, a vandal.
I think he’s right that, while we may be amused at the graffiti, it is not a practice we should condone, since it does represent a cost to the proprietor to remove and perhaps even correct the original placards, whose errors are now embarrassingly called out. As such, it is not just another layer of textuality woven into the environment; it is a broken window a la Bastiat.
The vandal is a purist only in his regard for his own correctness, obviously not in his respect for private property or the word choices of the artists.
I think the Editor actually enjoys being persnickety. Perhaps not when it comes to the proper usage of words, but when aimed at other targets…