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Left, right
Posted: 24 May 2007 02:40 PM   [ Ignore ]
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Oh dear. I hate it when this happens. I told you in the thread on filacer that I was enjoying the biography of Wilkes by Arthur Cash. I highly recommended it. (Reminder to self, never recommend a book until you finish it).

It’s true, I was enjoying it. Then this.

(The author is talking about the Parliament of 1757)

p 49 In recent years members had begun to seat themselves so that supporters of the ministry were to the right of the speaker [sic], opponents to the left, a practice that gave rise to our terms, the political right and left.

With a sinking feeling I turned to the OED, knowing what I would find.

[

b]right

22. a. Conservative, reactionary; applied spec. to (members or supporters of) that part of a political party or grouping especially noted for its conservatism (see RIGHT n. 17d); right of centre [CENTRE n. 15]: tending to hold conservative political views.
[The use originates with the seating positions of the 1789 French National Assembly:]

1794 tr. C. Desmoulins’s Hist. Brissotins 40 La Source, the least corrupted of those who voted with the left, and dined with the right side of the Convention, but whose pride was excited against Robespierre.

left

3 b. In politics: cf. LEFT n. 2c and LEFT WING; left-leaning a., sympathetic towards the left in politics. For left centre see CENTRE n. 15.
1837 CARLYLE Fr. Rev. I. VI. ii. 308 The Left side [of the Assembly] is also called the d’Orleans side.

I tried to console myself by glancing at the back cover blurb again, “outstanding scholarship”, “years of archival research”. It didn’t help. The well has been poisoned. I’m still reading but my enjoyment has lessened considerably (coming across the proof-reading error ‘royal ascent’ for ‘royal assent’ two pages later didn’t help either).

I repeat, I hate it when this happens.

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Posted: 24 May 2007 08:43 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Very gauche indeed and not academically adroit.

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Posted: 25 May 2007 04:43 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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errare humanum est, aldi. For what were we given mouths, if not to put our feet in them every so often? Could you love somebody who was right all of the time? (I’m afraid this last question is likely to evoke caustic comment from more than one married individual ;-)

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Posted: 25 May 2007 05:45 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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No, I’m sure you’re right, lionello, and I’m being overly harsh. But the effect is much like a jarring discordancy at a concert, a discordancy moreover of which the conductor seems blissfully unaware. I find myself wondering what other errors the author has made. (And this one could so easily have ben checked).

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Posted: 25 May 2007 09:53 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Yes, my reading is less exalted, but i recently read a travel book by William Least Heat-Moon called Blue Highways which was great until towards the end when he described getting the pronunciation of, I think, Leicester wrong when he visited the UK. He had a limey saying something like “You Yanks slay me with your pronunciations!” No Briton would ever say “slay me” and it made me question the rest of his reported speech in the book. Googling also showed that the surname he usually used was Trogden (a Lancashire name his ancestors brought with them) and his Amerindian blood was very diluted indeed but Heat-Moon sounds better and more evocative he no doubt thought.

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Posted: 25 May 2007 01:34 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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I’m being overly harsh.

No you’re not.  Scholarship is not a romantic relationship.  That’s not some subtle error that could be caught only by someone who’d spent years in dusty archives; like you, I knew it was wrong as soon as I read the quote.  I would never trust an author who could make so obvious a blunder (and by extension I would look askance at the publishing house as well).  To err is human, but ignorance is not scholarly.

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Posted: 27 May 2007 12:21 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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I know just how you feel, aldi. I was given Norman Davies’s Europe: a History to read by a friend who praised it to the skies.  Ths book (which was indeed almost universally very well-reviewed) is studded with “capsules”, as the author calls them - little one-page articles on discrete topics, independent of the chronological and subject flow of the book. Flipping through the book at random before settling down to it, as one does, I found that one of these “capsules” concerned pub names, and in it Davies confidently asserted that “Elephant and Castle” was a corruption of “Infanta of Castile” commemorating Catherine of Aragon’s arrival in England. I simply couldn’t read the book after that. How could I trust anything Davies said, if he was not merely capable of omitting to check if any reputable authority was prepared to uphold this statement, but hadn’t good enough bullshit-detectors to recognise a blatant piece of folklore when he saw one?

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Posted: 27 May 2007 12:34 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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Is that not also a district in London? Many years ago I staid in a hotel in an area by that name and heard the same story, or maybe it was the name of the hotel. As I recall the neighborhood had an almost bombed-out appearance. Not so anymore I bet. What is in fact the origin?

Facts should not be put out authoritatively if they are not authoritative facts. Remember the tiny pebble and the rippling effect it has on the pond ... so often cited for one’s good deeds. Why isn’t the same true for one’s small errors?

[ Edited: 27 May 2007 12:39 PM by foolscap ]
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Posted: 27 May 2007 08:32 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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I’m being overly harsh.

No you’re not.

Languagehat’s right, aldi; we were both too easy on the guy. Some errors are more forgivable than others.  Were the mistake to have occurred in an essay by a twelve-year-old schoolchild, it might be pointed out kindly, and a correction offered; but one who allows “outstanding scholarship” and “years of archival research” to be vaunted on the dust-cover of his book, must expect a sterner judgment (what’s keeping that tumbril?).

On the other hand, maybe the fellow knows something we don’t? Wouldn’t it be proper to ask him for chapter and verse, before blowing him utterly away? Perhaps while scrabbling among the silverfish, he’s come across the writings of some obscure witness, who was there in 1757, and watched it happen? Is such a division even physically possible in the House of Commons? I’ve never been there myself, and don’t know the architecture. But Mr. Cash ought to.

(Edited to correct quotation)

[ Edited: 27 May 2007 08:52 PM by lionello ]
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Posted: 27 May 2007 08:53 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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re Elephant & Castle. Nigel Rees (in his book, ‘A Word....’) says the Infanta de Castile suggested corruption is fanciful. Has no origin but says that “The Elephant” (simply) was known as a pub name by Shakespeare’s time and is mentioned in Twelfth Night (1600)

Edit for punctuation

[ Edited: 27 May 2007 08:59 PM by Skibberoo ]
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Posted: 27 May 2007 10:41 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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lionello - 27 May 2007 08:32 PM



On the other hand, maybe the fellow knows something we don’t?

Highly unlikely. The fellow is a Distinguished Professor Emeritus, Department of English, State University of New York, he knows to source things like this; indeed, much in the book is well sourced. Perhaps he was well sauced when he came up with this notion? (I’m joking, Prof - just in case he comes across this!)

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Posted: 28 May 2007 01:41 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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I have wondered how you were ever able to read a book in the first place, Aldi. You are so critical. I think the fact that you are so accutely conscious of errors in writings has made you more interested, rather than less interested, in reading more. It is not the subject so much as it is the way it is presented, and whether you can catch that dadgummed error.

Just keep on truckin’, darnit.

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Posted: 28 May 2007 06:10 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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Trust me, I’m not that hypercritical, eyehawk. I don’t read to catch errors, I read for enjoyment. Errors are one thing, egregious errors another.

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Posted: 28 May 2007 09:24 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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I have been badly let down by allegedly scholarly books that came highly recommended; see this LH post about Simon Winchester ("fluent, eloquent"… “Winchester writes with his customary colour and verve” ... “Winchester is an extraordinarily graceful writer") and this one about David Brewer ("certain to be the standard history for many years to come").  Bah, say I.  Every tub must stand on its own bottom, however many careless reviewers you can find to praise your bottom for its shapeliness and grace.

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Posted: 30 May 2007 10:47 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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Absolutely right about Winchester, languagehat. I read his The Surgeon of Crowthorne which has interesting subject matter but his style, which he clearly considers ‘elegant’, drove me barmy.
His ‘imaginings’ of what might have happened are risible: “Like the fire-frightened housemaids who hurried back down to the servants’ entrances of the great houses near by, the old philologists, cloaked against the chill, scuttled through the gloom. They were men who had long since grown beyond such energetic diversions. They were eager to get away from the sound of explosions and the excitement of celebration, and repair to the calm of scholarly discourse.”
This is almost beyond parody. I can’t speak for the scholarship, though.
“Near by” should be one word, too. Perhaps Simes thought it was a vile American corruption like anymore for any more.

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Posted: 31 May 2007 04:59 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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foolscap - 27 May 2007 12:34 PM

Is that not also a district in London?

It is - and still pretty dodgy. Has a large pedestrian subway with numerous street exits and is (or was) the location of a concrete tower block housing the London College of Printing who turned me down for a degree place in 1983 (gits!).

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