Friday, February 29, 2008

Corrections that don't

Thus correcteth the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

A column Wednesday on the Perspectives page by community columnist Jim Norton misquoted a line from William Shakespeare. The quote is "Now is the winter of our discontent," not "This is the winter of our discontent."

Yes and no. We've corrected a miquoted word, but we haven't corrected the misquotation. Which is a shame, because this is one of those moments when some copy editor gets to rise briefly from our cherished obscurity and swat a columnist back into the last row of the student seats. Here's the columnist:

"Now is the winter of our discontent." You can hear Kenneth Branagh cutting off his T's as he speaks the words. It's a polite way of saying nasty things in words that are printable in this newspaper.

No it isn't. "Correction" or not, that ain't the clause to whom we are speaking. Break it down: "Now" is the subject, "is" is a linking verb, and "the winter of our discontent" is a predicate noun. Which isn't at all what Willy Shakes had in mind when he wrote
Now is the winter of our discontent
made glorious summer by this son of York

Isn't it fun to be a copy editor? "Now" is an adverb, and it tells you something about how things are different from the last time we checked: The far-distant actor ("this son of York") has done something (don't you just love the passive voice?) to "the winter of our discontent." What was done to it? It was made "glorious summer." So lighten up. You've been waiting for the sun to shine on your back door, and it just did. March wind gonna blow all your cares away! Stop complaining about the potholes and read the damn sentence.

But such is the way of corrections. We fix the superficial but not the structural.

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3 Comments:

Blogger The Ridger, FCD said...

The far-distant actor ("this son of York") has done something (don't you just love the passive voice?) to "the winter of our discontent."

Um, er.

While you're right about the larger point, it's "sun of York", not son.

5:50 AM, February 29, 2008  
Blogger The Ridger, FCD said...

Oh, and ps. Yes, I do love the passive voice. How else is "winter" the topic and "sun of York" the comment - the punchline of the sentence?

5:52 AM, February 29, 2008  
Blogger fev said...

The Riverside has "son" -- "a pun on sun (the badge of Edward IV)."

If I see a callbox, I'll stop in and try to clear this up:
http://www.drwho-online.co.uk/episodes/new-series/series-3/the-shakespeare-code/witch-hunt.aspx

8:08 AM, February 29, 2008  

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