Some years ago, when Northern California was hit by a severe storm, our family was deluged with clippings of this well-circulated headline: Wild Strom Blows in From The West.
We were already sensitive, having endured more than snickers from a sign posted over a repellant dump that proclaimed: Strom Drain. In my opinion, no community can ever have too many Stroms!
Speaking bloopers are one thing. Speakers deserve some leeway. After all, in live discourse we don’t have a chance to pre-edit what comes out of our mouths. My very first speaking engagement came on the heels of the release of my first book, a children’s book of stories of Bible women titled, appropriately enough, Special Women of the Bible. I was invited to speak at the annual All Saints Day women’s luncheon at the high Episcopal church in town. A most staid and formal priest introduced me, but he could hardly make himself heard over the clatter of dishes as servers cleared the tables. Visibly piqued, he proclaimed, “We will not proceed until the ladies take everything off.” It was the highpoint of the luncheon.
Certainly church bulletin bloopers have always been at the backbone of blooper chuckles:
Please place your donation in the envelope along with the deceased person you want remembered.
But these, too, are understandable. Many churches rely on volunteers to man (or woman) the bulletin presses, and they can’t be expected to grasp the nuances of wording and modifier positioning the way we professionals do. Which is why I winced when I read an AP account about the riots in France over the proposal to move retirement benefits from 60 to 62 (poor, poor French folks!) that began this way:
Masked youths clad in black torched cars, smashed storefronts…
It was the haunting thought of those poor youths who had to wear torched cars that got me thinking again about the importance of careful editing.
The New York Times Opinionator, December 4, 2009, contained this comment: Without addressing these issues, NOW and others have nothing to offer the average Jane and in consequence, have allowed Sarah Palin and her elk to define women’s issues.
Despite your opinion of Sarah and her ilk, I’m sure you agree that none of us want her elk defining women’s issues.
My point? It is important to proofread your work. Carefully. Several times. Out loud.
Otherwise you could be the one to run an ad, such as the one that read:
G.E. Vacuum for sale by woman with cord in rear.