Sunday, May 01, 2011

Seed me, feel me

And this just in from the Nation's Newspaper of Record:

An article on April 17 about the Niles Canyon railway stated incorrectly the type of oil the Niles Canyon train runs on. It is Bunker C oil, not bunker seed oil.


Everybody makes telephone errors; indeed the Times made one in nearly the same form just last year. And, to be fair, seed oils are a much more available category than fuel oils. Bunker oil might crop up occasionally, but only in particular contexts. Here it is in one of my favorite Liebling pieces, Westbound Tanker:

There was a man on the forward deck with a megaphone, and as the boat came under our bow he called up inquiringly, "Captain, Captain?" Petersen pointed to his peaked cap, his emblem of office. The fellow shouted, "We got orders to send you on to Curacao. You got enough bunker?" Curacao is nine days from New Orleans for a ten-knot boat. Petersen showed no sign of surprise or disappointment. "We need bunker," he shouted back, "but we can get out in twenty-four hours!"


You could find an explanation fast enough in the Googles, but you'd have to have time and motive to look. Maybe it would have been caught in the Good Old Days of full staffing and grisly old editors who knew everything. And maybe not.

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4 Comments:

Anonymous Q. Pheevr said...

If I thought I heard "bunker seed oil" over the phone, I just might take a moment to wonder why I had never heard of the bunker plant or its oleaginous seeds before....

1:15 PM, May 01, 2011  
Blogger Jan said...

Wait, isn't that "grizzly" old editors -- or, better, "grizzled"? (OK, maybe yours were grislier than mine.)

2:37 PM, May 01, 2011  
Blogger fev said...

Well, that's the kind of editor I always aspired to be: "Causing horror, terror, or extreme fear; horrible or terrible to behold or to hear; causing such feelings as are associated with thoughts of death and ‘the other world’, spectral appearances, and the like."

I would have gone for "greisly," but Language Czarina (being an English major) whacks me with a stick if I do that more than once or twice a year.

10:09 PM, May 01, 2011  
Blogger fev said...

Oh, and to clarify: by "telephone" error I don't necessarily mean an error in telephone transcription. I mean one that's created by playing telephone, or the sort of game in which you start a phrase on one side of the room and then consider what it's become when it's been whispered from person to person to the _other_ side.

10:29 PM, May 01, 2011  

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