STRICKEN.

Via Anatoly, this hilarious bit from the memoirs of the mathematician Ralph Boas:

MR [i.e., Mathematical Reviews] sent me a paper by a Japanese author who kept referring to “stricken mass distributions”. I couldn’t figure out what those were, and finally wrote to the editor of the journal in which the paper had appeared. He sent me a copy of the referee’s report, which had been sent to the author; this said, in part, “The term ‘generalized mass distribution’ is no longer used. The word ‘generalized’ should be stricken.”

Which reminded a commenter of an anecdote from Littlewood’s A Mathematician’s Miscellany:

A minute I wrote (about 1917) for the Ballistic Office ended with the sentence ‘Thus σ should be made as small as possible’. This did not appear in the printed minute. But P. J. Grigg said, ‘what is that?’ A speck in a blank space at the end proved to be the tiniest σ I have ever seen (the printers must have scoured London for it).

(There are some other good misprint stories on the same page, if Google Books will let you see it.)

Comments

  1. That Littlewood book is a fascinating read. I once lent my copy to a visiting American, who lent it to his mathematical son-in-law, who bought half a dozen copies to give as Christmas Presents. That good.

  2. Did you ever get it back?

  3. There are some other good misprint stories on the same page
    Which, ironically enough, contains at least one misprint.

  4. Which, ironically enough, contains at least one misprint.
    I did a double take at it, and got to wondering where the slip arose: author, proofreader, or copy editor?
    The anecdote about Hardy is good, and reminds me of a mathematician friend who might have done likewise.

  5. Reporting a Cabinet reshuffle in Jordan shortly after the ’73 war, I wrote that a certain minister had been “charged with [restoring the economy, or some such]“. The censor called me in and said I would have to delete that. It took some time for me to understand him, and for him to grasp that “charged” did not mean “charged with a crime…”

  6. “Did you ever get it back?” Yes. Even though he was a Democrat.

  7. Even though he was a Democrat
    And thus could have been expected to tear the book into tiny pieces which would be distributed equally among the poor.

  8. Bill Walderman says:

    I thought this was one site where I could escape from partisan political commentary. I was wrong; the floodgates have been opened.
    By the way, where is Marie-Lucie?

  9. “John called Mary a Republican, and then she insulted him” is a famous sentence by George Lakoff, intended to demonstrate that whether a sentence is grammatical or not can depend on the speaker’s politics.

  10. I thought this was one site where I could escape from partisan political commentary. I was wrong; the floodgates have been opened.
    Sorry, I just couldn’t resist sharing the response that popped into my head (which amused me but which does not actually reflect my sense of the world). It does not portend the imminent politification of LH.
    By the way, where is Marie-Lucie?
    My question exactly! I accepted her gallivanting off to hang out with Trond and AJP, but it’s time she returned to the office. Come back, m-l!

  11. There was an infelicitously worded headline that I came across while following the Danish Muhammad cartoon uproar. It was in an online version of a newspaper and was corrected later – before I thought to take a screenshot for posterity. The headline read “Bush Urges End to Cartoon Violence.”

  12. The best such headline I ever actualy saw was “Petitions Not Sufficient to Block Sewers.”

  13. Trond Engen says:

    Since I’m one of the last hatters to have spoken with marie-lucie, let me say that I’m sure she’ll be back with a vengeance, but right now I think she’s got a lot to do. She told about an exciting new project she’s been working on, and she’s set herself a deadline about now.

  14. along this line i am reminded that very occasionally, in my reading of early 20c works (usually fantasy or science fiction) where the authors indulge in a bit of archaicizing, i would run across unmistakeable traces of some slightly-less-literate editor’s hand: having read “an” (‘if’ as in Shakespeare) as a case of a missing letter, they had dutifully added “d” to the end of every one.
    (the first time i noticed being–one of Elinor Wylie’s novel’s??)

  15. Not really, Gray Wyvern. As the OED tells us, and ‘if’ was a standard spelling in Shakespeare’s day. Except in the contraction an’t ‘if it’, an ‘if’ appears only once in the First Folio, all other uses of the conditional being spelled and. Thus the distinction between and and an is both modern and entirely a product of editing.
    My very favorite headline: CLUB FIGHT BLOCKS RAIL RIVER TUBE PLAN.

  16. There was an infelicitously worded headline
    Downright curmudgeonly, if not worse, was the BBC’s whopper a few years ago: “Israel retaliates; breaks ceasefire”

  17. Paul Ogden: Why? Unilateral cease-fires are not unknown.

  18. “partisan political commentary”: it was a joke, for heaven’s sake. He might well have been a member of no organised political party.

  19. I’m a republican and a democrat. I’m sure the queen’s a very nice woman but there’s no room for heredity in running a democracy.

  20. He might well have been a member of no organised political party.
    You said he was a Democrat, so yes, that’s correct. (Sorry, I just can’t resist the political jokes today!)

  21. I just today came across an unfortunate “correction”. An article on the Biggles books quoted from a Foreward by the author: “The old saying about truth being stranger than fiction was never more opposite than in war flying …”
    Clearly the sub-editor didn’t know the word apposite.

  22. Why? Unilateral cease-fires are not unknown
    Because that was not the situation.
    The BBC’s coverage of the Arab-Israeli conflict is despicable. The organization refused to release an investigation into the subject that it commissioned, spending, according to one source, £332,780.47 suppressing it. See here for a good summary of the BBC’s antipathy to Israel. There is at least one bulletin board that documents its biased reporting and at least one website that does the same. The head of BBC news told me, in personal conversation, that its correspondent in Israel at the time (2005 or so) was biased against Israel.

  23. Hat, my allusion was to that very joke by Will Rogers, a great favourite of my father.

  24. @ AJP Crown: Yes, but are you a Liberal or a Conservative (now, of course, Labour or Conservative. Or maybe a LibDem?)

  25. Hat, my allusion was to that very joke by Will Rogers
    I should have known! Ah well, at least the joke is now explained for those who didn’t know it.

  26. AJP: are you a Liberal or a Conservative (now, of course, Labour or Conservative. Or maybe a LibDem?)
    Good God, no.

  27. Too bad, really. “Stricken mass distributions” sounds like a great description of our current economy….

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