I’m not paranoid. I just happen to know that a well-organized cabal of sinister words is out to get me. They’re out to publicly humiliate me by proving that my copy editing skills are somewhere between those of George W. Bush and those of Dan Quayle.
For example, yesterday, after twice going through an article I was copy editing, I took one last look at the document and saw this: “Lisa enjoyed math class more then history.” That’s right, that evil little “then” got past me twice. I know the difference between “then” and “than.” It’s simple. Yet this sneaky, evil little bugger almost made a fool out of me.
Here’s another I came across not long ago. “The golfers come from such places as Buenos Aires, Argentina; Caracas, Venezuela; Bogota, Columbia; and Sao Paulo, Brazil.” Catch it? If so, you’re doing better than spell check and better than I did on a first read. It’s Colombia. Not Columbia.
If there’s a leader of the conspiracy, it’s “lead.” Like some kind of evil twin, “lead” likes to stand in for “led,” knowing full well that the metal “lead” sounds exactly like the past tense of the verb, which is spelled “led.” The dastard.
Occasionally, “lead” will recruit new words for its evil cause. Take “peddling,” which recently tried to pass itself off as “pedaling.”
These are ones I caught. Have others gotten past me? Will any of these get past me tomorrow? Are they concocting ever-more-clever ways to get past me, for example, by using words like “complement” and “judgment” to create a diversion while they slip a misused “there” past me?
Not if I remain in a state of cat-like readiness -- a caffeine-fueled, edge-of-my seat mindset characteristic of one of those Jason Bourne movies. If, every time I enter a document, I look under every pronoun, stare down every past participle, then those sinister little words can’t take away my job or my self-respect.
But what’s most important is knowing, deep down in my heart, that I’m not paranoid.