Friday, March 4, 2011

The "Bigest" Loser

Have you ever been curled up in your most comfortable chair reading the latest Michael Connelly novel, steaming mug of Swiss Miss instant cocoa on the end table, and out of nowhere discovered that the book contained a misspelling or typographical error?

Didn't it just piss you off?

It baffles me no end how mistakes find their way into best-selling hardcover novels by A-list authors.  This isn't some shitty-ass local newspaper like the Montgomery Advertiser (slogan: Alabama's #1 Bird Cage Lining Since 1948) we're talking about here.  These are major publishing houses like Little, Brown and Company or Random House who undoubtedly employ teams of highly-paid copy editors to sit around reading manuscripts and see that no errors make it to the final print run.

So I guess it shouldn't surprise me when I'm driving past Rug Masters, an outdoor area rug distribution center (I'm being kind, it's really a trash-laden street corner), and notice a horrific misspelling on their signage:

That's right, Rug Masters is having their BIGEST SALE EVER!

I can only imagine two scenarios that would allow something like this to happen.

Scenario 1: The owner of Rug Masters (we'll call him Eddie) decides to order an eye-catching yellow and red vinyl banner to display on the chain-link fence, advertising their Biggest Sale Ever(!).  Eddie places an order with Big Dave's Quality Signs and Banners, and on the form where you're supposed to write what you want your sign (or banner) to say, he writes "BIGEST SALE EVER!"  Maybe he was in a hurry, maybe he's a third-grade dropout who was absent on "double-the-consonant-and-then-add-the-suffix" day, one way or another Eddie screwed up.  Clearly, this is all his fault.

But let's continue down this road a little farther.

Big Dave receives the order form from Rug Masters and is about to pass it along to his banner-production team when he notices the mistake.  I guess it's possible that he can't spell worth a damn either and doesn't catch it, but that's pretty unlikely.  In order for the spelling error to go to print, Big Dave must have thought, "Ah, screw it, it's his sign, we'll spell it however he wants."  While this is definitely not the proper attitude for someone in an upper management position, maybe Big Dave was having a rough day or just wanted to jerk around with a linguistically-challenged area rug salesman.  In his shoes, I may very well have done the same thing for no reason other than shits and giggles.  So ignoring the mistake, Big Dave passes the order form down the line to his sign production team.

But wait.  We're not done yet.

The gentleman in sign production, let's call him Phil, is now in charge of making Rug Masters's advertising vision a reality.  His job description probably includes "designing banners," "painting signs," and other such artistic phrases.  "Proof-reading" probably (indeed, hopefully) doesn't come up all that often.  Even so, we're not talking about running spell-check on a 300-page doctorate thesis, this is a three-word banner.  I'm going to assume that Phil also notices that the word "bigest" is shy one G.  So he gets on the horn and calls Big Dave in the front office.

"Uh, Dave  . . . Yeah, it's Phil over in the production department . . . We just got this order for a Rug Masters banner . . . right, that one . . . uh, well, seems like they spelled 'biggest' wrong . . . yeah, you want me to fix it or just let it go? . . . 'fuck 'im,' you say? . . . well, all right, you're the boss."

Against his better judgment, Phil goes ahead and makes the banner, misspelling and all.  It's shipped via UPS to Eddie at Rug Masters, who obliviously hangs it on his chain-link fence.

Which brings us to the other possibility.

Scenario 2: The owner of Rug Masters (we'll still call him Eddie, I wouldn't want to confuse anyone) decides to order an eye-catching yellow and red vinyl banner to display on the chain-link fence, advertising their Biggest Sale Ever(!).  Eddie places an order with Big Dave's Quality Signs and Banners, and on the form where you're supposed to write what you want your sign (or banner) to say, he writes "BIGGEST SALE EVER!" in his neatest printing, every word spelled correctly.

Big Dave receives the order form, double-checks it for accuracy as per company policy, and passes it along to his banner-production team headed by Phil, a notorious dullard and a bit of a slacker.

Phil creates the Rug Masters banner but for whatever reason -- maybe it was the three Harvey Wallbangers he had at lunch, maybe it was just his usual carelessness -- he unfortunately leaves a critical letter G out of the word "biggest."  He boxes up the banner and ships it to Rug Masters.

Don't you think that Eddie (he's the owner of Rug Masters, remember?) might at this point make a phone call to Big Dave, something to the effect of, "Hey, dipshit!  You sent me a sign with a spelling mistake!  I'm sending this back, and you're gonna ship out a new one pronto!"  He's certainly not going to say, "Ah, close enough," and hang the sign on his fence, just begging to be publicly ridiculed by some sarcastic humor writer.

So I batted those two scenarios around in my head for a few days and finally decided to get to the bottom of this.  On my way home from work a few days ago, I stopped by Rug Masters to see what was what.  As it turns out, the manager's name is not Eddie, but we'll keep calling him that, just to maintain continuity and protect his privacy.

Eddie is an older guy, probably in his mid-50's.  He's wiry without being scrawny and his graying flat-top hair cut screams out "ex-marine!"  He's wearing faded blue jeans and a well-worn Rug Masters sweatshirt.  Here's our conversation:

EDDIE: Help ya find sumpin'?

ME: No, I'm not really interested in buying a rug or anything, I just wanted to ask you about your sign.

EDDIE: My sign?

ME: Yeah, the yellow banner over there, advertising your Biggest Sale Ever.

EDDIE: What about it?

ME: There's a word spelled wrong.  Biggest.  It's supposed to have two Gs.

EDDIE: Yeah, we've had a few folks mention that.

ME: And yet you leave it up there?

EDDIE: Still makes sense, right?  Biggest Sale Ever.  Hell, you figgered it out.

ME: Well, sure, but . . . 

EDDIE: And it ain't like I'm a school teacher or a writer or sumpin'.  I sell rugs.  People want a rug, they come buy a rug without worryin' all about a messed up sign.  Can't see that it makes all that much a diff'rence.

ME: Don't you think it gives your place an air of, I don't know, carelessness?

EDDIE: Take a look at my rug selection there.  Tell me what ya think.

ME (looking over his selection of area rugs): Actually, they're pretty nice.  I like that round one over there.

EDDIE: Now, if I told you you could have that rug for forty bucks, what would you say?

ME: I'd say that's a pretty good deal.  I've seen 'em at Bed, Bath and Beyond for double that.

EDDIE: What the hell you go to Bed, Bath and Beyond for?

ME: I have a fiancee.

EDDIE: Got it.  Anyway, if I'm offerin' you a top quality area rug at a discount rate, you really gonna give much of a shit if my sign's spelt wrong?

ME: I suppose not.  Can I ask how it happened, though?  Who screwed up the sign?

EDDIE: Probably me when I ordered it.  I know how to spell, 'course, but my handwritin' leaves sumpin' to be desired.

ME: Fair enough.

EDDIE: So, you wanna buy that rug?

ME: What the hell.  Roll it up.

There you have it.  Eddie's handwriting was the culprit, but still, the sign company should've figured it out.  So we're going to lay the real blame on Big Dave and his drunken employee Phil.



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Linda said...

Although I hate typos and spelling errors, I like that Eddie.

LW said...

Wow, maybe it's an incredibly cunning reverse-psychology way of getting more clientele? After all, you went in and bought just because of a miss-spelled sign, and you'd never have gone in otherwise! Clever Eddie :)

EmptyNester said...

I've noticed the errors in novels more and more over the last ten years or so...and it DOES drive me nuts! Truly entertaining post, as usual!

Quirkyloon said...


It was a marketing ploy and it WORKED!

And...(I'm the worst when it comes to typos and I do try to correct, it's inevitable that my quirky eyes overlook things) with that parenthetically stated:

a fiance is the man you're going to marry

a fiancee is the woman you're going to marry.

*ducking tomatoes*

hee hee hee

Hildy said...

Not to echo Quirkyloon (fiance/fiancee), but copy editing is hard partly because our brains fill in missing letters and automatically correct mistakes ("Cn U Rd This?"). And even reasonably literate people don't know every rule of grammar and spelling. For example, you wrote: "Proof-reading" probably (indeed, hopefully) doesn't come up all that often." Hopefully means in a hopeful manner, not "I hope," so what you essentially wrote was that proof-reading doesn't come up in a hopeful manner, which is nonsensical. In another place, you have the comma outside the double-quotes, ("Let's call him 'Phil',...") a no-no in American English, although fine for British English. And because you have other punctuation inside the quotes, I assume it was a typo. But see how hard it is to proofread? So don't be too hard on Little Brown. Their copy editors are paid squat and are probably cross-eyed after a few months. (BTW. Love your blog.)

Tony Van Helsing said...

Scenario #3 would probably mean he misspelt it on purpose so that people like ourselves would disicuss it. Free publicity. I might even fly over and have look at his rugs myself. And the name Rug Masters sounds like a bunch of super villains.

Chris@Knucklehead! said...

I love you guys.

I had NO doubt whatsoever that the second I posted this, I'd have a few people going over it with a fine-toothed comb looking for errors. And dang it if you didn't find a couple.

I've made the corrections. Thank you.

Although, Hildy, I'm never sure about the punctuation going inside or outside the quotation marks when they're used other than to designate sentences that were actually spoken. For example:

We'll call him "Phil".


We'll call him "Phil."

To me the first one looks better, but there's probably a rule for that somewhere.

Anyone have a copy of that Strunk and White book lying around?

Hildy said...

True. You had to know this would happen. Strunk & White says: "Typographical usage dictates that the comma be inside the marks, though logically it often seems not to belong there." And as that's all the authors seem to say on the subject, I turned to the "Handbook of Technical Writing," 2nd Ed., p. 490: "Commas and periods always go inside closing quotation marks....Semicolons and colons always go outside closing quotation marks. All other punctuation follows the logic of the context."

Sorry. Once a technical writer, always a technical writer, even when one has returned to programming.

Hildy said...

AARGH! I told you copy editing was hard! I made a mistake in my comment! I should have said "Strunk & White say" not "says."

Homemaker said...

Now that is some hard hitting investigative reporting.

Chris@Knucklehead! said...

Thanks for the tips, Hildy, I really do appreciate it. Every time I put the punctuation outside the closing quotation marks I do it for a specific reason (I understand the rule) . . . it's when quotes are used in non-speaking situations. Whenever I do it, I always think "this is probably wrong," but to me it looks worse the "right" way. From now on, I'm going to follow the rule no matter how it looks to me.

Thanks for the writing lesson!

00dozo said...

You know, I don't think I've ever seen the visual period in an 'air quote'.

Mariann Simms said...

Chris, if I'm reading this right, you do the same thing with the quotes as I do. I have looked it up and apparently it's an American vs English thing. I do it the English way...and I add "u's" to my words, too...long story for a blog one I'm keeping it the way I do it until someone pays me to do it otherwise.

I also hate typos and grammar issues on websites. Went to one yesterday to print forms to take with me to my doctor's appointment this Monday - and sheesh. Let's just put it this way...I wish I were buying a rug instead of going to the doctor, ya know what I mean?

And...I had to laugh when I read that "Montgomery Advertiser" thing - I swear on three stacks of Bibles I didn't put him up to it, folks. ;) (My blog also appears at the Montgomery Advertiser for all those who didn't know that...which is probably all of you.)

I also love the fact that you went in and asked this guy - damn, I would have done the exact same thing.

Linda Medrano said...

Sometimes a mis-spelling can be funny to me, or even clever. This one just struck me as dumb. Still, I've done it myself. And cringed and tossed the thing that was incorrect even though it cost money to do so.

Jamie said...

Hey, I live in Alabama and all I have to say is... yeah, you're right. As for the rest of your commenters, please do not scour my blog lest you suffer an aneurysm at the atrocity.

Eva Gallant said...

I think it was a case of clever stopped in to point it out to him, and he sold you a rug. Had the sign not been misspelled, you might have just driven on by!

J.J. in L.A. said...

I'm extremely anal about spelling errors. That's why I re-read my comments about 10 times before hitting the 'publish' button.

Speaking of multiple people not catching a gross error, what about those obnoxious Quizno's commercials? I can't believe someone actually thought of the idea (singing rats and/or kittens) and everyone else thought it was a good idea.

Kat said...

I am a BIG reader so plenty of books pass through my hands. I cringe every time I come across a spelling mistake and tend to be pretty anal when it comes to my own writing. I think that Eddie is far shewder than he sounds. I wonder how many sales he has made because of that spelling error.

Frank Lee MeiDere said...

I am touched that you believe there are still "teams of highly-paid copy editors" being employed by anybody. These days, you're lucky if they run anything through a spell check.

I was going to tell you about an experience I had in this area, but it got too long, so I've used it as a post on my own site, which is fine since I haven't been posting for quite some time. So, thanks for that.

Regarding "hopefully."

While nobody thinks twice about saying "Actually, we're going tomorrow" or "Presumably they will be finished by today," for some reason "hopefully" has been branded a villain. But they're all just adverbs, and while they're not directly modifying a verb, people seem to forget that adverbs perform other functions. They also modify adjectives, phrases, and even other adverbs. In the cases cited above, they are essentially sentence modifiers, and hence there is no problem with saying, "Hopefully we can see an end to the objections against 'hopefully.'"

tattytiara said...

Great post, but I gotta admit - I like seeing the errors. It reminds me that in this sea of machine manufacturing and computer generation we live in, human hands still swim.

But then I also really like incredibly stupid analogies, as you can see.

Jenn Flynn-Shon said...

Way to close the deal Eddie, way to close the deal.

Sarah Lindahl said...

I hate misspellings. There is a sign I drive by on the way to work that says "Jensen's Building Raising." But they don't raise buildings, they RAZE buildings. Very misleading

Anyhoo, I wrote a feature about Eva Gallant on my blog and she listed this blog as one of her top five favorites out of hundreds that she reads! Wow! I linked to your blog in the post. Check it out!

ha ha, the word verification word was "elfrear"

Kenton said...

GREAT post!! I am crying I'm laughing so hard! It's always fun to try to decided who is the bigger dumbass when you find a mistake... haha

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