Back in February I posted a poem by Dale Wimbrow called The Guy in the Glass. I preceded it with a little note about how I had always thought that the poem was called The Man in the Glass or The Man in The Mirror. Negative, the proper title is The Guy in the Glass. I know this because I found a website, created by the children of the author that has the poem in it’s entirety along with some info about it.
When I posted the poem to my own site, I noticed something which appalled me greatly. A spelling error. I am a little bit of a grammar-Nazi apparently (despite my inappropriate use of dashes and semi-colons in my own writing), but this distressed me greatly.
One, because this was a site established to honor the author of a timeless piece of poetry by his children, so they should have been more careful.
Two, because this was a poem, not a novel. In a short literary piece such as this, every word is important, and messing up one of them is just… icky. Especially in the first line!
So, even though I cut and pasted the poem from the source site and reprinted on my blog, I corrected it.
Here is the original line:
“When you get what you want in your struggle for pelf,”
This caused me to cringe, and being eagerly grammaticious, I changed it to:
“When you get what you want in your struggle for self,”
Because everyone knows that pelf is not a word, right?
I found out much, much later, and for the life of me I can’t remember where I learned it, “pelf” is an actual word.
The definition of pelf according to dictionary.com is “money or wealth, especially when regarded with contempt or acquired by reprehensible means.”
(Insert face in palm)
So there are a few lessons to be learned here.
- Be willing to question your core beliefs. Just because you have always believed something does not make it true. I was absolutely sure that pelf is not a real word. Look at it! “Pelf”? It’s like a made-up children’s word for their pet elf.
- The majority is not always correct. Just because everyone else believes it, doesn’t make it any more true. If you do a Yahoo! search for “Man in the Glass” (which is the incorrect title) you will see that the top three results re-post the poem “corrected” in the same manner that I corrected it: wrong. Consensus does not equal truth.
- Whenever possible, get your information from the original source. It’s like that party game “telephone.” The more ears and mouths a piece of information goes through, the more likely it is to be wrong.
So, I apologize to Dale Wimbrow and his children. Also, I apologize to my readers for my part in spreading out additional disinformation on the world wide web. My Grammar Ninja merit badge has been rescinded.
I do have a question for everyone though. What is a good, accurate site to go to to verify quotes?