Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Typos and Copy-Edit Errors: One Never Knows...

     There's been a good deal of chatter lately about typos and copy-editing errors in books, and the headaches they trigger in authors. Here's my contribution.

     Toward the end of my medical-historical, FIRST, DO NO HARM, artist Leo Firestone poses a tough question to Martin, his medical-student son. Martin tries to wiggle away with a wisecrack. He recalls a quote from Oscar Wilde - "The coward does it with a kiss, the brave man with a sword," then tells the reader:  Quick-step from Wilde to Waller, cue from Fats. I think I smiled. "One never knows, Dad, do one?"

      That's how it read, from the first draft, through five rewrites, through two sets of galleys. But when my author copies arrived and I opened one, I saw, "One never knows, Dad, does one?" I never did find the perp.

      But one can always make lemonade. At my signings, I told the story of the last-second malfeasance, held up the album you see at the head of this post, and told the audience that in addition to signing copies, I'd be glad to correct the error and initial it. Over time, several people have told me they'd been uncertain whether to buy a book, but couldn't resist that last little incentive.  


RagtimeDanny said...

In the liner notes to (some) CD in my collection (distributed throughout the house, details unavailable), Fats is quoted as regularly saying, "One never know, do one?" [emphasis supplied].

This is the verbal reading uniformly given to the line in the song-and-dance stage show, "Ain't Misbehavin'."

Also, I believe, this would be the accurate subject-verb agreement in the appropriate dialect.

Larry said...

Thanks, Danny. Sometimes one can't win for losing, can one?
I've heard it as "knows" in AIN'T MISBEHAVIN' - but that doesn't mean it was sung as "knows." I also used as reference the cartoon-like quote on the cover of the vinyl record of Fats and His Rhythm I posted. But your comment on proper subject-verb agreement in that dialect rings true.
Guess one really do never know, do one?