If anyone is small minded enough to complain…

a capture from The Simpsons -  Homer's hands hold a cereal box with the name *Soylent Green* and the caption *Now With More Girls* on the box

Soylent Green Cereal

…but why on earth would anyone be so silly as that over a recipe for spelt tagliatelle with sardines and prosciutto?

Mr Sessions [head of publishing at Penguin] could not understand why some readers had found the slip offensive.

“We’re mortified that this has become an issue of any kind and why anyone would be offended, we don’t know,” he said.

“It’s called the Pasta Bible, almost every recipe has ground black pepper in it, mostly in the same place [on each page].

“In one particular recipe [a] misprint occurs which obviously came from a spell checker. When it comes to the proofreader, of course they should have picked it up, but proofreading a cookbook is an extremely difficult task. I find that quite forgivable.

“We’ve said to bookstores that if anyone is small minded enough to complain about this very … silly mistake then we will happily replace [the book] for them.”

Others have tried to see how the spell checker could come up with that mistake, and it seems like a rather extraordinary level of difficulty is involved. Trying it myself, it requires hitting an O rather than a P with the third letter, and then transposing the E and the R at the end, so that PEOPRE is what is typed – then “people” will be suggested as the first spell check option, with “pepper” no where in sight. Some proof reader still had to choose to click on “people”, though, with not a hint of concern about finding that word in a cookbook.

Is this “just one of those things”, an understandable error? Should the negligent person get the boot? Or should the bean-counters who demand unrealistic blocks of proof-reading sessions to get “value for money” be the ones to face the music?

Note: I thought I had posted this yesterday. Oops.

Categories: ethics & philosophy

Tags: ,

9 replies

  1. Well, seeing “people” in a cookbook would probably make me think of the number of people the recipe ought to be capable of serving. Which one should have been able to very easily check as any half-decent spell checker gives you context, and any marginally competent proof reader pays attention to said context.
    That said, mistakes do happen both to person and processor. An accidental double-click or a rogue auto-correcter? That part really stopped mattering once that incredibly rude, condescending and arrogant statement of mockery passed the lips of that spokesperson.

  2. That part really stopped mattering once that incredibly rude, condescending and arrogant statement of mockery passed the lips of that spokesperson.
    Yes, this. I can understand that it might have been a genuine mistake. I know that I’ve sometimes typed a completely different word to the word in my mind, and because it’s not technically a spelling error, I haven’t picked it up until way down the track. HOWEVER, I can absolutely see why finding the phrase “freshly ground black people” in a cookbook would be horrifying, and to call someone “small minded” for not wanting an error like that in their cookbook is simply disgusting.
    (For myself, if the phrase had simply been “freshly ground people”, I would have found it amusing and kept the book just for the LULZ. “Freshly ground black people” though, has some pretty awful racial connotations, especially when in the possession of a white person, and I’d definitely have wanted an exchange in that instance, had I bought the book.)

  3. I agree with you and Beppie that who to blame for the typo became irrelevant once the publisher’s PR flak let this spokesperson say such awful things. I’ve been a copy editor myself and I can say that after reading page after page after page of grey copy containing the words “black pepper,” a blurry eye could very easily miss an errant “black people.” If companies fired every copy editor who made a forgiveable mistake like this one, nary a copy editor would be employed. I read published, mass-marketed books that contain typos and errors all the time, and every newspaper you read is sure to showcase an error or seven every single day.
    .-= Sarah´s last blog .."Hey slut! Put on a sweater." =-.

  4. I saw this comment yesterday, and I was so mad.
    Really, man? Really?
    This is how you respond, not just as, say, a human being, but as someone who should, ostensibly, care about the company’s bottom line?
    Someone needs to school him on how to apologise and how not to be a dick.

  5. I suspect that it’s not a spellchecker-giving-wrong-word issue but a spellchecker-not-picking-up-error-at-all issue combining with a typist stuffing up (I, for example, *constantly* type Primate Minister instead of Prime Minister, or toady instead of today).
    But that still requires however many proofreaders they have to not notice, and doesn’t change the fact that the appropriate response is “Oh my god, I am so, so sorry and this will not happen again.”

  6. Wow, I wish I could call MY customers “small-minded” when they point out spelling errors and typos on our menus! Except oh wait, even a lowly waitress has more respect than that.

  7. I think once someone has suggested I’m small minded for complaining, I’d make damn sure I returned the book – even if I didn’t have a problem with the error. And for the record, I am completely with Beppie. I’d a love a cook book that called for freshly ground people, not so much freshly ground black people.
    (On re-reading, – also for the reasons Beppie described)
    He couldn’t have got his response more wrong.
    Not that it matters, but Google automagically turns peoper into people.

    • Ariane, I know exactly what you mean – his attitude almost makes me want to go and do that thing bleeding heart lefties are always accused of doing i.e. “just looking for something to get upset about” – I’m so tempted to go and buy the book and then return it in a huff just on principle.

  8. Hello TigTog, ladies,
    Cheers for the linking love. I received a rather passionate comment from an editor who didn’t like my spellchecker experiment/post, so it’s really nice to know I’m not alone in thinking yes, mistakes happen, but a simple apology would have been far more appropriate.
    Thanks again ~

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