This week’s weird words.
A proofreader without a vast vocabulary is at a considerable disadvantage. So, every week we’ll be introducing you to some of the more unusual words to grace the English language.
- Tergiversate: to change repeatedly one's attitude or opinions with respect to a cause, subject, etc.
- Crepuscular: relating to twilight.
- Homichlophobia: an irrational fear of fog.
This week’s tricky words.
Even exemplary proofreaders have their little blind spots. The No-Nonsense Proofreading Course provides a comprehensive list of the tricky words that can trip up even the most experienced proofreader. Here are just three of them:
- Acreage – acrage, acerage.
- Arctic – artic.
- Bellwether – bellweather.
This week’s proofreading exercise.
From The Cosmic Computer by H. Beam Piper.
Thirty minutes to Litchfield.
Conn Maxwell, at the armor-glass front of the observation deck, watched the landscape rush out of the horizen and vanish beneath the ship, ten thousand feet down. He thought he knew how an hourglass must feel with the sand slowly draining out.
It had been six months to Litchfield when the Mizar lifted out of La Plata Spaceport and he watched Terra dwindle away. It had been two months to Litchfield when he boarded the City of Asgard at the port of the same name on Odin. It had been two hours to Litchfield when the Countess Dorothy rose from the airship dock at Storisende. He had had all that time, and now it was gone, and he was still unprepared for what he must face at home.
Thirty minutes to Litchfield.
The words echoed in his mind as though he had spoken them aloud, and then, realizing that he never addressed himself as sir, he turned. It was the first mate.
He had a clipboard in his hand, and he was wearing a Terran Federation Space Navy uniform of forty years, or about a dozen regulation-changes, ago. Once Conn had taken that sort of thing for granted. Now it was obtruding upon him everywhere.
"Thirty minutes to Litchfield, sir," the first officer repeated, and gave him the clipboard to check the luggage list. Valises, two; trunks, two; microbook case, one. The last item fanned a small flicker of anger, not at any person, not even at himself, but at the whole infernal situation. He nodded.
"That's everything. Not many passengers left aboard, are there?"
"You're the only one, first class, sir. About forty farm laborers on the lower deck." He dismissed them as mere cargo. "Litchfield's the end of the run."
"I know. I was born there."
The mate looked again at his name on the list and grinned.
"You're Rodney Maxwell's son. Your father's been giving us a lot of freight lately. I guess I don't have to tell you about Litchfield."
"Maybe you do. I've been away for six years. Tell me, are they having labor trouble now."
"Labor trouble?" The mate was surprised. "You mean with the farm-tramps? Ten of them for every job, if you call that trouble."
"Well, I noticed you have steel gratings over the gangway heads to the lower deck, and all your crewmen are armed. Not just pistols, either."
"Oh. That's on account of pirates."
"Pirates?" Conn echoed.
"Well, I guess you'd call them that. A gang'll come aboard, dressed like farm-tramps; they'll have tommy guns and sawed-off shotguns in their bindles. When the ship's airborn and out of reach of help, they'll break out their guns and take her. Usually kill all the crew and passengers. They don't like to leave live witnesses," the mate said. "You heard about the Harriet Barne, didn't you?"
- In the second paragraph, “horizen” should be ‘horizon’.
- In the third paragraph, “Countess Dorothy” should be in italics.
- At the end of paragraph 13, the dialogue should end with a question mark.
- In the final paragraph, “airborn” should be ‘airborne’.
You may have paused over the word “bindle”. A bindle is the bag-and-stick combination often seen in stereotypical depictions of migrant workers or homeless vagrants.
If you have any comments, I'd love to hear them. You can leave them below.
I hope to see you back here, next week, for another Proofreading Course Weekly Roundup.
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