I’m off to NYC for the weekend to see some old friends (haven’t been back since 2008), and I probably won’t post again until Monday unless the return bus trip Sunday leaves me less enervated than I expect, but I wanted to leave you with a sterling example of a typo that’s almost impossible to catch. Hirsh Sawhney’s TLS review (2 August 2013, p. 27) of Jean-Claude Izzo’s Garlic, Mint, and Sweet Basil: Essays on Marseilles, the Mediterranean, and Noir Fiction includes the sentence:

In such a fragmented region, he fears, Marseilles would become a border post, “a modern version of the Roman Empire’s lines – between the civilized world and the barbarian world, between Northern Europe and the countries of the South, as advocated in a World Bank report to the European elites”.

I immediately suspected the typo, but I had to go to Google Books and check the actual text to be sure; I’ll put the answer below the cut for those who want to ponder the problem. Since the sentence makes sense as is, I don’t blame the proofreaders at the TLS for missing it.
Addendum. I’ve shut down most open threads to minimize spam clearance upon my return, but don’t despair! Not only can you (needless to say) discuss anything in this thread, but John Cowan has set up a public mailing list, hattics@googlegroups.com, as a supplement to this blog; see his last comment in this thread for information on joining. I will do so myself upon my return.

Answer: For “lines,” read limes.


  1. limes, though not the fruit, as the TLS proofreader probably thought.

  2. That reminds of when I tried to use the word ‘marches’ in a similar context and my editors overruled me, on the grounds that ‘no one’ (i.e. few people) would understand the word. The same could be said of ‘limes’, though many of them know ‘liminal’.

  3. I suck at copy-editing, but that one sticks out like a sore thrumb.

  4. Limes, of course – obvious to Latinists – but shouldn’t it also be in italics? It’s not exactly naturalized in English, and that would help avoid confusion. The same goes for ‘miles’ when it means a singular Roman soldier rather than a plural measure of distance.

  5. I immediately guessed that “lines” was the false note, but I did not think of “limes”, being unfamiliar with the word. Or almost entirely unfamiliar: I did know somewhere in the back of my mind that there was a Latin word “limes” related to “limit”, because I knew (from long ago reading a textbook in English by an old-fashioned European mathematician) that one of the too many names of this is limes inferior.

  6. Probably the de-italicization was introduced during the editing process, or perhaps it was never there in the author’s copy.
    Apologies to anyone who tried to sign up using the Hattics home page last night: I unfortunately left it still locked. It’s open to the public now. To join, click “Join group to post”, even if you don’t want to post anything right now. You’ll need to be signed in with a Google account (not the same as a Gmail account, though anyone with a Gmail account also has a Google account), which you can get using any email address at the signup page; just click “I prefer to …” if you want to use an existing non-Gmail email address. Or you can bypass signing up altogether and send a blank email to hattics+subscribe@googlegroups.com, as I mentioned before; you can still view the web forum, but can’t post there. Everything in the archive is sent to the mailing list and vice versa.

  7. Not just “related to ‘limit’” but the very word before its entry into English, if that makes sense to an etymologist.
    I should have mentioned that one of the amusing things about ‘limes’ and ‘miles’ is the extreme difference in pronunciation between the English monosyllables and the Latin disyllables, which are pronounced ‘Lee Mace’ (I wonder if that’s ever been a real name) and ‘Mee Lace’ respectively, in classical Latin, though professors using them in English contexts (such as the title of Plautus’ Miles Gloriosus) often say ‘Lee Maze’ and ‘Mee Laze’. That last reminds me: the weather report, high of 76 and 90% chance of showers, suggests that today will be a good day for some hammock time on the back porch.
    The plurals are ‘milites’ and ‘limites’, and the English derivatives are all formed from the stems that are more visible in the plurals, so military, militate, militant, and limit.
    What’s been bothering me since I wrote my last comment is that I’m pretty sure there’s at least one more such pair of words, but can’t think of it.

  8. Has there ever been a person named Lee Mace? At least one was rather famous, and has an interesting tombstone (link).

  9. I’m also curious about this World Bank report, which I infer from the quote is in favor of a clear demarcation between the civilized and barbarian parts of Europe. It’s a shame things have got so mixed up over past couple of thousand years, to the point where the European elites need help from the World Bank in deciding where to build their estates and mansions.

  10. one more such pair of words

  11. Garrigus Carraig says:

    I note with interest and some sadness that Lee Mace’s mother outlived him by fifteen years.

  12. “limes” of course: easy if you’re old enough that stray lessons from school return to you after more than fifty years of absence.

  13. You’re a lucky man, dearieme, my only education in Latin was one semester during an Erasmus year, and while I’m glad of it, it didn’t make the impression it seems to have done on Every Schoolboy a few decades before. Few enough learn any Latin at all these days.

  14. Ah, Aidan, but I disliked it. Less Latin, more Linear Algebra, that’s my policy.

  15. Anyway, Linear Algebra teaches you a little hybrid German. “Eigenvalue”, “eigenvector” – you gorra laugh.

  16. open? open to the public now? you mean to the general public, not only the whites or the first worlders or men only, open even for, i am afraid to say, as if like, is it possible, me?
    how oh so sophisticated enlightened benevolent welcome sounding!
    i rejoice the opportunity to troll the new forum if i’ll have some time to do so of course

  17. J.W. Brewer says:

    Perhaps Jimmy Carter’s infamous “malaise” speech was all based on a comical misunderstanding of “miles” said in a Georgia accent. I enjoyed Latin more than linear algebra myself, but to each his own.

  18. To go on flogging the dead plow-horse from an earlier thread:
    the formal match [of Dutch elkaar : Basque elkar] leaves nothing to be wished — three identical consonants and two practically identical vowels, all in the right order (not merely the same consonantal skeleton)
    The Hitt./WSem. match is formally perfect too, especially since ḥrš goes into the pa`al template, giving a perfect ḥaraš ~ ḥarš-, which is as close to hārš- as it could possibly be given the morphophonologies of the languages concerned. But yes, the Dutch/Basque equation is perfect. I guess I just find it less interesting because it obviously can’t reflect any kind of contact scenario, even speculatively.

  19. “can’t reflect any kind of contact scenario”: I take it that “elkaar” predates Spanish rule in the Netherlands.

  20. David Marjanović says:

    Yay! Mailing list!
    From the thread where it’s announced:

    David, you mean as carbohydrate?

    As a vegetable. And I also mean turnips, not parsnips. It was too late at night, as usual! *dark cloud above head*
    From this one:

    i rejoice the opportunity to troll the new forum

    Wow. Either you don’t know what trolling means*, or you’ve just announced you’re this.
    * To say something, anything, in order to generate angry reactions, so you can laugh at them.

  21. David Marjanović says:

    Turns out I can’t subscribe. The address for that contains a +. My provider has the bad habit of replacing spaces in names of attached files with +; apparently that works backwards as well, so when I try to send, the interface complains that I need to correct the address, and then I find the + has been replaced by a space.
    Replacing it by a -, the usual character I’d expect there, does not work – that address doesn’t exist.
    Can somebody with Special Powers add me by hand…?

  22. @David Marjanovic: I take it you’re happily unacquainted with the author of that second comment.

  23. David: when I try to send, the interface complains that I need to correct the address, and then I find the + has been replaced by a space.
    How strange. Try typing %2B instead of +. See here

  24. I’ve added David using the Strange Powers.

  25. Did you use %2B to disempower the %20 ?

  26. Mailinglist? That’s so 1990s… No FB group?

  27. if John Cowan is going to be admin there i doubt it will be any more open and welcoming than LH
    besides i hate subscribing to things even if it’s free and so on so wouldnt even try to subscribe there i guess, no worries
    but good luck with the forum, it’s intention to be open and free for everyone should be congratulated at least

  28. David Marjanović says:

    Yeah, the encoding is something I should have thought of.
    I’m on a mailing list that started in the early 1990s and is still going strong…

  29. David Marjanović says:

    …mailing lists have the enormous advantage over Farcebork groups that their archives are much easier to browse and search!

  30. Having tried both, Latin is certainly easier than Linear Algebra, and, in my experience at least, much more useful.

  31. Or, as some folks hierzulande say: It’s nice to be a Preiß, but it’s higher to be a Bayer.

  32. Trond Engen says:

    What if the buyer of a Bayer pays the price of a Preiß?

  33. Grumbly, I used the “direct add” admin screen, which doesn’t need you to %-encode what you put in it. Adding anyone that way is easy, but I can’t do it too often or Teh Goog gets petulant.

  34. i rejoice the opportunity to troll the new forum
    Wow. Either you don’t know what trolling means…
    But isn’t “trolling” also the American pronunciation and hence spelling for trawling, i.e. (metaphorically) filling nets? That may be what this person meant.

  35. Wikipedia says that Carter never used the word “malaise” in what is referred to as his “malaise” speech.

  36. Trolling is a different fishing method from trawling, and I don’t know if the words are related.

  37. David Marjanović says:

    trawling, i.e. (metaphorically) filling nets? That may be what this person meant.

    Not on the Internet.

  38. You’re right, Ø. Now I see that under internet troll Wikipedia has the fishing explanation:

    In modern English usage, trolling may describe the fishing technique of slowly dragging a lure or baited hook from a moving boat[20] whereas trawling describes the generally commercial act of dragging a fishing net.

  39. I was surprised: http://www.dictionary.com, for what it’s worth, gives different etymologies for ‘troll’ and ‘trawl’ in the fishing sense. I thought ‘troll’ was related to ‘trawl’ as ‘critter’ to ‘creature’, ‘varmint’ to ‘vermin’, and ‘vittles’ to ‘victuals’.
    I was not surprised that it gives different etymologies for ‘troll’ as a fishing verb, and ‘troll’ as a mythological noun, the Scandinavian creature that lurks under bridges and ambushes unwary billy goats.
    I was very surprised that it says that internet ‘trolls’ get their name from the fishing verb, as they ‘troll’ for comments on the web. Surely, the name comes at least partly from their resemblance to ugly monsters that lurk under (metaphorical) thoroughfares and threaten respectable travelers on the ‘information highway’?

  40. Michael Hendry, the Internet word “troll” was a verb before it was a noun. No doubt the evolution of the noun “troll” was helped along by the “Three Billy Goats Gruff” creature (maybe we’d call them “trollers” otherwise).
    AJP, how is “troll” the American pronunciation of “trawl”? “Troll” (like most “-oll” words), rhymes with “hole” in my experience, so even those Americans who have the “cot”-”caught” merger won’t pronounce “troll” and “trawl” the same.

  41. J.W. Brewer says:

    While trolling and trawling are different techniques in fishing proper, I think their metaphorical extensions to non-literal-fishing contexts in AmEng by people who may not be particularly experienced in fishing tend to overlap quite a lot, which is probably not helped by the similarity (even if not homophony) in pronunciation.

  42. Etymonline says the fishing sense of troll has probably been influenced by trail or trawl or both. The latter two are doublets from Latin *tragulare < tragula ‘dragnet’ (probably < trahere ‘draw, pull’), the first via French, the second via Dutch. Troll itself is < Old French, but ultimately of Frankish origin, so it’s yet another Germanic word that took a detour through Romance.

  43. J.W. Brewer says:

    Looking at the AmEng data in the google n gram viewer, “trolling” has been more common since “trawling” more or less forever (which makes sense of you think of trawling as something done primarily by commercial fishermen and trolling as something done by the more numerous population of amateur fishermen), with both on an upswing recently but not e.g. a notable post-1990 breakaway of “trolling” consistent with its separate rise as an internet thing. Although maybe the -ing version of the word is comparatively uncommon for the internet sense?

  44. but shouldn’t it also be in italics?
    It is in italics—both in my post and in the linked view of the book.

  45. “My father was a great job product. He instilled the intrinsic worth of succeed. As he walked in the home, he hummed, ‘Make a contribution. Generate a contribution.’ As a youngster, I remembered that,” she says.
    Everything backward and upside down on Bizarro World!

  46. Keith Ivey, I can’t wrap my head around the idea that troll might rhyme with hole. Not all Americans do this, surely. Philadelphians?Do you say trole, hole or troll, holl? What about the song “I am a mole and I live in a hole”: could it for you just as easily have been “I am a troll and I live in a hole”?
    Anyway it’s moot since Ø explained the difference in the fishing terms trawl & troll. I hadn’t realised that.

  47. I just tried looking at this post in three different browsers, and I get no italics on ‘lines’ with Firefox (my default), Chrome, or IE, though I do get them with Google Books. Is it possible that I have somehow inadvertently set my laptop (Windows 7) to ignore italics in all three browsers? If so, does anyone know how to change that?

  48. Oh, sorry, I thought you were talking about the correct limes, which should and does have itals. Of course since the review printed it as the English word “lines,” there was no reason for it to be ital.

  49. I can’t wrap my head around the idea that troll might rhyme with hole
    It might be just you, AJP. At least, I’ve never heard it pronounced any other way, and OED gives /trəʊl/ as the only pronunciation.

  50. Troll rhymes with hole for me. AJP, does roll rhyme with troll for you? With role?

  51. AJP, I don’t think it’s just Americans. Tolkien seems to have rhymed “troll” and “stole”.

  52. The three main American dictionaries, namely Merriam-Webster, the American Heritage Dictionary, and the Random House Dictionary, all agree on using the same pronunciation mark for troll and hole. So yes, we do, and in all senses of the word. I’m guessing that you use the LOT vowel in troll, which is listed as the second pronunciation in the British English sections of Oxford Dictionaries Online and the Cambridge Dictionary; Macmillan lists it as the first. However, the OED and Collins show only the GOAT pronunciation (or GOAL, if GOAL is not GOAT for you).

  53. It might be just you, AJP.
    It could be. I think I’ve figured it out: I’m using the Norwegian pronunciation, the one JC says is the second-listed British pronunciation. I probably didn’t use it before I came here. The word comes up much more often here than it does in English-speaking countries.
    AJP, does roll rhyme with troll for you?
    With role?
    And though roll & role sound the same, Moll Flanders and Ratty & Mole sound different to me.

  54. AJP, Moll Flanders isn’t Mole for me either. Like “doll” and “loll”, that name is an exception to the general pronunciation of “-oll” words with the GOAL vowel.

  55. It’s clear from the OED evidence that GOAT is the original vocalism, so it’s no surprise that Tolkien had it. But of course there’s nothing wrong with an occasional vowel movement — necessary for good linguistic health, belike.
    Anyway, some of those rhyme words in the “bob” (short) lines of Tolkien’s verse are nonsense, though being Tolkien’s they are plausible English nonsense like paveyard. But trover is a term of English law, meaning a lawsuit for the recovery of damages from the wrongful taking of personal property. An action “sounding in trover” would be very suitable to bring against a troll.
    By the way, this is the only point in the Lord of the Rings where two people “thou” each other in the English text. In the original Westron there was a good deal more of it, for we are told that in the Hobbit dialect the polite forms had dropped out of use, and that this no doubt contributed to the belief in Minas Tirith that Pippin was a prince in his own country, as he thoued everyone, high and low. Here’s my detailed list of all uses of thou.

  56. Nick Lezard used thoutube yesterday.

  57. - I forgot, that column doesn’t make much sense if you’re not familiar with the British Libdems’ reputation as the wishy-washy unprincipled-compromise party despised by both socialists & conservatives (and these days the electorate).

  58. “It is easy to see why [Dante] was a White Guelf, and why the Whites, in the manner of other moderate and disaffected minorities, found themselves helpless between the upper and nether millstones.” —Dorothy L. Sayers, Hell (introduction)

  59. Incidentally the above-mentioned Lezard, a Dante expert who claims to be the only person in Britain to live solely from book reviewing, recently reviewed for the Guardian Clive James’s new translation of the Divine Comedy.

  60. [...] “No, not a man. Not now.
    I was once, though. A Lombard. Parents born
    In Mantua. Both born there.”

    Gah. Prose in lines that don’t extend to the right margin. Short. Repetitive. Choppy. Repetitive, too.
    Give me Sayers, please:
    It spoke: “No man, although I once was man,
    And my parents’ native land was Lombardy,
    And both by citizenship were Mantuan.”
    Or if you think that’s too highfalutin, try Ciardi:
    [...] And it replied:
    “Not man, though man I once was, and my
    was Lombard, both my parents Mantuan.”

  61. I used to love listening to John Ciardi’s pieces on NPR Morning Edition. He had a great voice.

  62. Quoth the spammer, “Hello. And Bye.”
    If only.

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