Sex clams and other editorial problems

Sometimes the lack of copy-editing is pretty obvious, as in the soon-to-be-legendary “sex clams” headline:


Here’s a subtler problem, buried in the Boston Globe sport section:

The compensation committee comprises of Robert Kraft, John Mara, Art Rooney, Clark Hunt, Bob McNair, and Blank.

“Comprises of”? The writer seems to be aware that the correct usage of comprise is tricky, but doesn’t have a clue how to get it right. (Ditch the “of” and the sentence is fine.) Following journalists on Twitter is a good way to just how much they need editors; yesterday I saw one of them use the word dependant, which even WordPress tells me isn’t spelled correctly.

Of course, none of these are as funny as this headline’s missing hyphen in “first hand”:



This usage peaks my interest

I spent some time on the phone recently talking to someone about the company where I work. The guy sent me an email the next day to tell me that my description of the place had “peaked” his interest. So he wanted to apply for a writing position there. Hmm. Well, at least he wasn’t applying to be an editor.

Confusing peak for pique is understandable, as these things go — better than confusing regretful for regrettable, or incredulous for incredible. You can make the case that peak is being used as a transitive verb, so the phrase means something like “created a peak in my interest.” Can’t you?

Here’s the Google Ngram of “pique my interest” vs. “peak my interest”:


We see nothing much happening until about 1980, when “pique my interest” takes off. But “peak my interest” starts gaining a foothold around 2000 and, if the statistics for the last few years are meaningful, “pique my interest” may be starting to lose a little ground to it. The guy who used the phrase is a millennial, so maybe he represents the future of the language. Is this regrettable or incredible? Should we be regretful or incredulous?

A very regretful comment

Here we see Houston Texans’ owner Bob McNair apologizing for his “regretful” comment about the inmates running the prison when they kneel during the national anthem:

He is, of course, regretful; his comment is regrettable. So, not only is he a rich jerk; he also doesn’t know correct usage. (I’m also not thrilled about his use of “impact” as a verb, and he needs a comma before “which”.) Also, you kids need to get off my lawn.

Were women sacred back in General Kelly’s day?

I’ve vowed not to write about Trump, just General Kelly, because Kelly and I share a bit of the same background — same age, same hometown. Here’s a bit of what he said the other day:

You know, when I was a kid growing up, a lot of things were sacred in our country. Women were sacred, looked upon with great honor. That’s obviously not the case anymore as we see from recent cases.

Here are some things I remember from growing up, like Kelly, Catholic in the Boston neighborhood of Brighton in the 50’s and 60’s:

  • Birth control was illegal and also sinful, except for the rhythm method. One time I was looking for something in my parents’ room and I came across a little pamphlet about the rhythm method. This totally creeped me out, because it strongly implied that my parents had sex, which seemed incomprehensible to me. I became aware much later that merciful ob-gyns would sometimes administer unneeded hysterectomies to women whose bodies (and lives) were wearing out from constant pregnancies.
  • Divorce was also sinful, and hard to come by even if you decided to go ahead with it. So abused women just had to take their abuse.
  • The best public high school in the city was Boston Latin School. Except girls couldn’t attend it. (They could go to Girls’ Latin, where my mother went; it was pretty good, but not the same.)
  • The best colleges near our neighborhood were Harvard and Boston College. Neither admitted women on an equal footing with men until the 1970’s.
  • There was no such thing as intercollegiate sports for women — at least, nothing like today.
  • Women, if they worked at all outside the home, were mainly teachers, nurses, secretaries, or sales clerks. The Globe helpfully divided their Help Wanted section into male and female sections, in case you weren’t clear on the concept.
  • Boston teachers weren’t allowed to teach after they became pregnant. In the 60’s, a sister-in-law of mine hid her pregnancy for as long as she could because she and her husband really needed the money.

These sorts of things are, I assume, not what Kelly had in mind when he talked about looking upon women with great honor. Maybe he was thinking about holding the door open for them, doffing your hat, giving up your seat on the subway. Maybe he was thinking of religion: May processions in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary, statues of her in the front yard or on the living room mantel, kneeling down in front of her to say the rosary along with Archbishop Cushing on the radio. This is the rosy view of the past as seen through a conservative lens. This is MAGA in the mind of a true believer.

Only a true believer would tell a blatant lie about a black woman to make a point about how sacred women are. Only a true believer would ignore the many ways in which his boss has not held women in great honor. In a tweet, the New Yorker claimed that Kelly was Trump’s latest victim. But he’s not a victim; he’s an enabler. He’s not trying to save the country from Trump; he’s trying to help Trump do a better job of destroying it.


Today I cut a scene from my novel. This feels good–fewer words! A more streamlined story! This feels bad–those were good words! They added depth and texture to the story!

What’s a writer to do?

To make up for it, I added a scene. Also, I changed the name of the novel.

Am I making progress? Do I get to watch the Patriots’ game as a reward?

Starting the second draft

The second draft got underway this weekend. Characters who showed up two-thirds of the way through the first draft now begin the novel–the first of many ways in which I will address my future-perfect comments littered throughout the text:

“I will have have to set up this scene earlier.”

“This character will have a different name in the second draft.”

“Need to have a better explanation for this behavior.”

This is the good stuff.

Points of view

Final count on points of view in my novel is 27. Too many? Not enough?

Near the end, for numerous excellent reasons, I switched to first-person POV a few times — including a couple of sections using first-person present-tense, which I’ve never done before. I think a little of that goes a long way — “I sit in a darkened room and ponder the mistakes of my life. I wonder what will become of me.” But I decided it was right for what I was trying to accomplish at the end of the novel. We’ll see.