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Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Evidence that spelling really does mater

Have you heard of the novel called 'Turn Off the Screw'?  I noticed it mentioned in a student's exercise book once and I was most intrigued.  I have read one with a similar title by Henry James, but this one was new to me.  Perhaps it was about some children whose governess has special skills in plumbing and who, to keep them busy and to keep their minds off some strange behaviours she indulges in, gets them involved in helping her sort out all the water systems in their large Gothic house.  (Large Gothic houses are well known for not having the best plumbing - this explains why so many of them burn so easily and quickly in books.)

How different things would have been if similar misspellings had changed the titles of other well-known classic texts ...

The Picture off Dorian Gray - the tale of Mr Gray, a handsome young Victorian who has his portrait painted, but then refuses to have it hung on the wall, instead insisting on taking it everywhere with him.  This makes romantic relationships difficult, particularly when necessitating close contact, as none of his lovers can persuade him to let them relieve him of the painting, even for five minutes of bliss.  Bigger, more spacious beds are purchased, but this does not help.  Sales of a recent (under the counter) text entitled 'Pleasing Your Man While Negotiating Large Artefacts' soar through the roof.  But still, relationships founder and he dies alone.  Well, not quite alone.

The Portrait off a Lady - A short but tragic tale written by a Mr Gray about the one time a lady friend managed to grab off him a picture he had had painted of himself and about the ensuing struggle he had to get it back.  (This book did not sell well - there were many mistakes in it as the publishers found it hard to read Mr Gray's awkward style of handwriting.)

The Lord off the Rings - a long, long story about The God of Jewellery who, suddenly sick of the sight of celebrities wearing necklaces and bracelets thicker than their hip circumferences, decides he will take a break for a while.  For a time (a long, long time) he sits on a cloud in despair, wondering what else to do, but as his skills lie solely in looking after the world's gold and silver, eventually, to everyone's relief, he comes back to his first love.  While he was on the cloud, though, a worldwide recession hit, of which he was unaware, and he finds that many people are buying cheap costume jewellery instead and saying that it's 'the new Cartier'.  He has less and less to do as a result, gets bored, feels disaffected, and starts scrawling graffiti on cloud formations and TWOCing chariots off angels.  Riding one of the chariots too fast one day, he veers off the heavenly road and crashes into a lorry delivering harps (just as news comes in that the recession is on the turn).

Lord off the Flies - a tale about a group of boys who are stranded on a desert island and, while exploring, find a native chief who lives solely on the insects of the island.  He seems to have done very well on this diet, but suddenly, the sight of pre-teen boys in public school uniforms, picking their noses and singing out of tune, turns him off his food, and he dies of starvation.  The boys examine his cupboards and refrigerator with interest as they are hungry, but the selection (fly pie, fly casserole, flies in aspic, fly jam, flies with salmon and rocket in a cream sauce garnished with a sprig of parsley) does not appeal and they eat each other instead.

One Hundred Years off Solitude - An elderly, wizened gentleman from a remote South American settlement has lived a lonely life.  Up until now, he has been content - he has managed to avoid the other things which have entertained his local community (Spanish galleons beached in the jungle, flying carpets, an iguana in a woman's womb, the coming of the steam engine).  He has lived a hermit's life.  One day, however, he emerges from his house, to the shock of all his neighbours, and declares that having lived for eighty-three years alone, he now intends to live another hundred, but this time as part of the community.  He wishes for full involvement and signs up to several local committees.   Having been so isolated, his community realises, has left him ignorant of the normal life-span of a South American gentleman.  Still, they say nothing.  He dies a month later.

The Grapes off Wrath - a family from America travel to find work.  They find it difficult.  No oranges are in sight.  However, on their travels, living hand to mouth, they try to entertain each other in the evenings to boost morale.  Suddenly, they discover that one member of the family has a tremendous talent.  Whenever he gets angry, bumps appear all over his face - green bumps, with stalks, which then fall off.  At first, the family take him to the doctor but the doctor is baffled.  It is only when the family realise that, as they tramp around the field they are camping in, treading on all these green bumps which have fallen off their kinsman, a rich, tasty liquid is forming which, when sipped from the ground with a straw, makes them feel very happy and not so disappointed about not having found where the oranges grow yet.  They exhibit their kinsman at travelling shows, and become rich.  The kinsman isn't happy at all, as he feels somewhat used, but that only makes more green bumps appear, which is good for family finances, if not for his feelings of self-worth.



Okay, that's enough drivel from me.  I'm of to bed.

29 comments:

  1. brilliant! what fun we could have discussing the Life Off Pi or Acts off Love (Elia Kazan) or the Diary off a Nobody. Or even the Heart off Darkness.
    But you are not going to get your hands on my Diary off an Edwardian Lady, I've already got it off of her myself.

    You might have hit on a way to make reading fun again; I'll probably spend the rest of the evening going round the book shelves inventing titled mistakes.

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  2. Haha! You are so clever. These are great.
    (... secretly filing this idea away for future stealing ...)

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  3. I wonder if you could be arrested for causing the choking death of a woman in Richmond, Virginia, USA. At least she died laughing.

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  4. I would heartily recommend 'Off Mice and Men', a heartbreaking story of a disillusioned woman who, after a tormented search for romance, is horrified to discover that potential partners only ever fall into two extreme categories.

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  5. Glad you enjoyed them, Friko. Hope you have a happy evening browsing your bookshelves. Just bear in mind that you'll never see these classic well-loved stories in the same light ever again.

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  6. Lesley - Feel free to steal them of me.

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  7. Martin - I dabbled with 'Off Mice and Men' for a while before deciding I couldn't come up with a good one. I like yours!

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  8. Sharon, you did very well to write that comment from beyond the grave. I'm so sorry to have caused your premature death. I do hope you had your clean underwear on and had shaved.

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  9. How fitting that I have also dealt with spelling issues today. I was grading spelling tests (which I thought that we had gotten rid of in elementary school ... ) when I came across this gem of sorts:
    The word was Tribal
    He wrote "Trifflin"
    Not even "trifling" ... "Trifflin"
    I've also encountered this:
    The word was Betrayal
    He wrote "Bitch Trail"
    ?????????????????????

    Oh, and all that labor talk was just that ... talk. I had minor contractions for about 12 hrs, 10 minutes apart. After walking around for a while, they got a little more intense (like mild period cramps) but never closer together. Lucky for me ... Maternity leave started even earlier :)

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  10. Little Miss ET, those are some great spelling errors! Sounds like you're warming up nicely for that baby. Can't believe you're marking tests ..

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  11. Hello! Thanks for the comment. FYI my blog is actually at billygean.co.uk and not billygean.blogspot.com. It's a long domain moving story.

    I sadly do not do any more tricks but I am glad you found your followers! I even went as far as to recommend your blog to someone I know, (from my days as an English undergraduate) who teaches English. How cool am I! ;)

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  12. You're very cool, billygean, very cool indeed, if you're recommending me to English teachers. I love meeting fellow mad people.

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  13. Ha. Yes. We must have very similar sense of humours because I am loving your blog too. I'm so pleased as I so rarely find blogs I enjoy to read!

    Oh and don't worry; I have my rambling moments too... Trying blessing a hypochondriac with genuine ill health...!

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  14. Oh and PS I found your blog via Leaf Books. I have just entered one of their competitions, too!

    PPS. Do you find these word verification things actually quite challenging?

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  15. Thanks, billygean. Do I find the word verification things challenging? Yes, especially when they say things like 'loser' or 'stupid' as they sometimes do and I take it personally. One can't help feeling they've been specially chosen.

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  16. Oh yes. Or when I have to do a second attempt. It's like a resit. Yours are quite cler but I swear some others really aren't...

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  17. Love a bit of irony just before bed.

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  18. Hello! By funny coincidence, I have been reading Testament Off Youth, a worthy tome about how to wrestle the truth off teenagers. :)

    Lovely idea for a post - especially loved 'The Portrait Off A Lady'!

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  19. Hi Jayne - loved your comment! And I like the boots post on your blog today. Can sympathise entirely.

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  20. Personally I think you're ideas are better than the some of the actual book plots. :)

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  21. Rachel, how can you? Cover your ears, purists.

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  22. Thanks for coming over, Diane, and for your comment. Yes, I had fun thinking of them.

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  23. I once had the pleasure of checking some address labels that had been taken down over the phone. Although "New Castel Up On Time" was fairly easy to work out, "Wes Secces" defeated me for a while, until the light bulb came on - "Wes Secces" was, I realised, someone's idea of how to spell "West Sussex".

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  24. Have you noticed the opposite problem? I was watching an old film recently (La Chienne) and had a giggle when I saw this sub-par subtitle. I thought to myself: "I know who'll appreciate this."

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  25. Mike, they'd have been okay in Shakespeare's day when no won card about spelin. But not now.

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  26. And I did, Stan, I did. That made me laugh. Thank you for the link.

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  27. Miss, You admitted to having received some rejection slips for book ideas. I presume that one of your ideas was for wholesale copy-pasting of posts like this and slapping a cover on them.

    Let me tell you this. If you got a rejection letter for that idea, you sent your query to the wrong place.

    Never give up!!!!!!!!!!!!

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