It’s happened to the best of us. We can polish a piece of writing for weeks and still overlook an outrageous gaffe staring us right in the face.
If you’re lucky, you’ll catch it before anyone else sees it. if you’re somewhat fortunate, the only other person who sees it will be a friend who discreetly calls it to your attention. If it’s just not your day, the mistake gets mailed off to an editor and jinxes your chance for a sale. And if the gods really frown upon you, nobody catches it at all before it gets published!
Worst comes to worst, at least you can hope it’s funny.
One of my earliest howlers occurred in the first novel I ever attempted, during my college days. Writing about a theater student, I opened a scene with the line, “Ginny had not been back to the school cafeteria since The Night of the Iguana…” A friend who read this commented, “At least she finally identified the ‘mystery meat’!”
By the time I finished a draft of my second published novel, Ride a Dancing Horse, I had begun working with a critique group–lucky thing. I read the group a scene in which the hero silently admired the heroine’s outfit. I intended him to be referring only to her sense of style when he thought, “That wasn’t an easy top to pull off.” Only after they began giggling did I notice the double-entendre.
I often rewrite my old stories, and with the rapid social changes today that can be perilous. Around 2004, I was reworking Black Flowers, a book I’d first drafted about 10 years earlier. I had a wealthy, sophisticated woman, at an art gallery reception, hunt for a wall phone to call home and check on her kids. Someone in my critique group gently suggested, “Wouldn’t someone like that carry a cell phone?” Duh!
A couple of my fellow New Jersey writers shared with me tales of their own literary faux pas. Jo-An Reccoppa, author of New Math is Murder, once submitted a newspaper review of an Italian restaurant in which she praised “a delicious, zesty marina sauce.” She meant marinara, of course, but her spell-check didn’t know the difference. We assume it was served over seafood.
John Picinich, while a youthful copy editor for Reuters, sent out a horror short story about an Egyptian god with the title “Sorbek’s Present.” After it was accepted by a magazine, he learned that the correct spelling of the god’s name was “Sobek,” and quickly emailed the editor to make the correction. (Fortunately, he only incurred the wrath of Sorbek, who’s a lot mellower than Sobek.)
Finally, think how embarrassed you’d be if you had penned this sign, seen in the vestibule of an old-fashioned Catholic church: “Candles with be lighted by St. Joseph on request.” (For a really big donation, he’ll personally call the numbers at your next Bingo game.)
Can you match these bloopers? If so, please share in “Comments”!