A post from Shady Characters

Mea culpa

Like many books, a few errors slipped through the net as I wrote Shady Characters and evaded even the practised gaze of Brendan Curry, my editor at W. W. Norton, and of Rachelle Mandik, our excellent copy-editor. Unlike some books, however, I’ve been lucky enough to have a cadre of eagle-eyed readers to pick up and help correct those mistakes. Without further ado, then, I give you the first instalment of Shady Characters’ errata. There will be more to come, I’m sure, as more editions are published (speaking of which, keep an eye out for the American paperback later this year!), but for now I must thank Mark Forsyth, Eric Johnson, Zoran Minderovic, Bill Pollack, Patrick Reagh, Jeff Shay, and Liz B. Veronis for helping point out and fix these errors.

As always, please don’t hesitate to get in touch or leave a comment below if you come across an error in any edition or format of Shady Characters. I’d appreciate it very much, and I’d be very happy to acknowledge you in future editions!

4 comments on “Mea culpa

  1. Comment posted by John B Easson on

    Great book, full of fascinating details, congratulations on a good read backed by a lot of hard work. However, I raise two details you might want to consider. The section on quotation marks uses ‘inverted commas’ throughout (unless I have missed something), and doesn’t distinguish them from ‘quotation marks’, which I have always understood to be mirror-images of apostrophies (ie. blob at top, tail down curving to point left). Ironically, the dustjacket has two quotation marks on the front, while the chapter has two inverted commas. Many typefonts didn’t come with quotation marks, and inverted commas had to be used, but they look inelegant. Even more trivial a point is that I have only come across the terms ‘nut’ and ‘mutton’ as references to spaces (or measures), not specifically as dashes – so I’d accept the term ‘a nut dash’, but not ‘nut’ as being the same. Could well be it was used elsewhere and I’ve just not met it.

    1. Comment posted by Keith Houston on

      Hi John,

      Thanks for the comment! I’m glad you enjoyed the book.

      I don’t think I’ve ever come across the inverted comma/quotation mark distinction, except that we Brits tend to use the former and Americans the latter. My understanding, such as it is, is that a given typeface will provide marks — let’s call them speech marks — that are based on either rotated commas or mirrored commas, but which are always “directional”; that is, there are always separate opening and closing marks. (There are also primes, which always tilt the same way, and there are “ambidextrous”, or “dumb” speech marks, but these are distinct from proper speech marks.) Unicode makes no distinction between the two — as far as a computer is concerned, there are no “inverted commas,” only “quotation marks”, and the appearance of those marks, whether rotated or mirrored, depends entirely on the chosen typeface. I see you’re a printer — is the quotation mark/inverted comma distinction used to describe the shape of speech marks, rather than their function?

      For nut and mutton, I thought that I had only used them in reference to nut and mutton quads. Did I mistakenly apply them to dashes too?

      Anyway, thanks again for the comment!

  2. Comment posted by Tim Nau on

    This is a follow up to the note I sent a few minutes ago.

    The heading on page 299 shouldn’t refer to pp. 147-77, but to a later set of pages. Also, in note 33, Paradoxa Stoicorum is attributed to Marcus Tullius Cicero`s brother Quintus. In fact it was written by Marcus himself.


    1. Comment posted by Keith Houston on

      Hi Tim — thanks for the note, and for the comment! These fixes will all be making their way into the paperback edition.

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