29 June 2011

Someone is Wrong on the Internet, and It's Me!

One word can change everything.

Take, for instance, my latest Sandman Meditations column at Gestalt Mash. It now begins with this note:
UPDATE: A portion of this essay is based on a misreading. Not just a questionable interpretation or one of my more idiosyncratic reveries — no, literally a misreading, and one I did not learn about until after my mistake was already public. Please see the note at the end.
As you'll see if you go and read the piece, my eyes were blind to the word "it" in a speech bubble. A little word, not the sort you might expect to cause major problems, a simple pronoun, no big deal.

But the presence or absence of that it determines the meaning not just of some events, but of the motivations of the protagonist of the story.

This is further confirmation of Mark Twain's great insight that "The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter—’tis the difference between the lightning-bug and the lightning."

When the mistake was pointed out to me, my first reaction was, "No! It's not possible! I'm right, dammit!" I grabbed Fables & Reflections and went straight to the page where I knew the evidence of my righteousness waited. I noted the page and panel number, I started typing the exact words in the speech bubble ... and then saw it. Literally. It.

And then I laughed.

Because if you're going to be wrong in public, it's good to be flagrantly, obviously, and incontrovertibly wrong. That's my motto. I should write it on a t-shirt.

Or maybe I could write something simpler on a t-shirt: "It matters."