Thursday, December 21, 2006

Maugham talk

Here is something to horrify your inner pedant:

The film is based on the eponymous W Somerset Maugham novel about a British doctor and his wife whose relationship comes under strain when they travel to a remote Chinese settlement hit by a cholera epidemic.


Somerset Maugham did not write a novel titled "W Somerset Maugham" that I know of. If he had, it would have been "eponymous", which means "with the same name as its creator" when applied to books or CDs.

"Eponym" is the word we use for words made from people's names: "atlas", "gatling", "bowdlerise" are all eponyms. "Georgian" houses arguably use an eponym and when one uses a name as an adjective, as in "my Madonna record", this too is eponymous. The title of this post -- oh, so wittily, yawn -- uses one. We use "eponymous" for selftitled works by extension. It's quite rare for fiction to be eponymous, but one could consider the Mencius to be eponymous, and, of course, there are autobiographies that are.

The hack on the Guardian was looking for "of the same title". I don't know whether there is an English word that says that. Doubtless the Greeks had a word for it.

6 Comments:

Anonymous Sal said...

The film is based on the eponymous W Somerset Maugham novel

"The film is based on the W Somerset Maugham novel of the same title ..."

The hack on the Guardian was just strutting his/her vocabulary and flubbed it.

Happens.

December 21, 2006 at 5:08 PM  
Anonymous Dr Zen said...

As I said: "The hack on the Guardian was looking for "of the same title"."

I know it happens, Sal. I'm an editor. I see its happening all the time. Sometimes I write posts about it. Because I'm an editor.

I think of it as a cautionary tale. What is the moral? The moral is "do not use words whose meaning you are not clear on". Also, "do not hire subs who do not recognise mistakes". The Guardian is one of the most poorly subbed papers. It wouldn't be tolerated in America.

December 21, 2006 at 8:47 PM  
Anonymous Thomas said...

The Greeks do have a word for it: homotitlos, having the same title. I looked for it in a Greek-English lexicon, and it wasn't there because there's no English equivalent -- at least that I, and the authors of the lexicon, can think of.

December 21, 2006 at 10:10 PM  
Anonymous Sal said...

Oh, I had a lovely comment asking what a sub was, but

This server is currently experiencing a problem. An engineer has been notified and will investigate.

Status code: 1-500-4

Please visit the Blogger status page or the Blogger Knowledge Base for further assistance.

and that's where I go find an egg for breakfast.

Sekrit word: oaufuuq
xlated: oh are u fuuqd

December 22, 2006 at 4:04 AM  
Anonymous Sal said...

Let's try again and save it this time before handing it off to Blogger.

I have no idea what a "sub" is so I can't agree or disagree that "The Guardian is one of the most poorly subbed papers."

If you're talking of copyediting and fact checking, though, let me tell you a story. No. Let me find the story for you. Wait a min.

Here. Article re Ferlinghetti getting tapped for a Commandeur des Arts et Lettres.

Ferlinghetti was pleased. When I first showed up to San Francisco after World War II, I was still wearing my French beret.

Later on in the article,

Although his surname and North Beach neighborhood bookstore usually associate him with Italians, Ferlinghetti has a strong French connection. His mother is part French, some of his best friends are French and many of his favorite memories are from living in France, he said.

In fact, Ferlinghetti would rather be called French than a beatnick.

"Obliterate that word," he said. "I came to San Francisco before the beats. I was more of a bohemian and what they called a nonconformist. I didn't do the 9 to 5, which is quite a French-based belief."


beatnick? BEATNICK?

Our own Herb Caen coined the word back when and the Chronicle should have "beatnik" somewhere in their spellchecker.

For shame.

December 22, 2006 at 8:09 AM  
Anonymous Dr Zen said...

A "sub" is a "subeditor". On a newspaper, they copy-edit and usually lay out the pages. They also write headlines. On smaller papers, they are also fact checkers.

It's incredible to me that a newspaper can hire someone who not only does not know how to spell "beatnik" but could spell it wrongly! How can you not know that it uses the ending from "Sputnik" and that "-nik" is a Russian ending to indicate an agent? What a fuckupnik!

December 22, 2006 at 8:14 AM  

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