Spot the difference:
"I can't think of a nicer place to sit this spring over a glass of rosé and watch the boys and girls in the street outside smiling gaily to each other, and wondering where to go for a nosh."
"I can't think of a nicer place to sit this spring over a glass of rosé and watch the boys and girls in the street outside smiling gaily to each other, and wondering where to go for nosh."
Yes, that's right. Well spotted. There's an indefinite article missing in the last sentence of the second passage.
This indefinite article was removed from restaurant critic Giles Coren's review by a foolhardy sub. The result is an epic 1,000+ word rant emailed to the guilty parties.
Starting with a benign 'Chaps,' (I love it), Coren continues, I am mightily pissed off...
I don't really like people tinkering with my copy for the sake of tinkering. I do not enjoy the suggestion that you have a better ear or eye for how I want my words to read than I do...
It was the final sentence. Final sentences are very, very important. A piece builds to them, they are the little jingle that the reader takes with him into the weekend....
There is no length issue. This is someone thinking "I'll just remove this indefinite article because Coren is an illiterate cunt and i know best".
Well, you fucking don't.
Of course, Coren goes into great detail at this point to explain exactly why this was "shit, shit sub-editing." It really is too good not to share in its full, virulent glory.
1) 'Nosh', as I'm sure you fluent Yiddish speakers know, is a noun formed from a bastardisation of the German 'naschen'. It is a verb, and can be construed into two distinct nouns. One, 'nosh', means simply 'food'. You have decided that this is what i meant and removed the 'a'. I am insulted enough that you think you have a better ear for English than me. But a better ear for Yiddish? I doubt it. Because the other noun, 'nosh' means "a session of eating" - in this sense you might think of its dual valency as being similar to that of 'scoff'. you can go for a scoff. or you can buy some scoff. the sentence you left me with is shit, and is not what i meant. Why would you change a sentnece aso that it meant something i didn't mean? I don't know, but you risk doing it every time you change something. And the way you avoid this kind of fuck up is by not changing a word of my copy without asking me, okay? it's easy. Not. A. Word. Ever.
2) I will now explain why your error is even more shit than it looks. You see, i was making a joke. I do that sometimes. I have set up the street as "sexually-charged". I have described the shenanigans across the road at G.A.Y.. I have used the word 'gaily' as a gentle nudge. And "looking for a nosh" has a secondary meaning of looking for a blowjob. Not specifically gay, for this is soho, and there are plenty of girls there who take money for noshing boys. "looking for nosh" does not have that ambiguity. the joke is gone. I only wrote that sodding paragraph to make that joke. And you've fucking stripped it out like a pissed Irish plasterer restoring a renaissance fresco and thinking jesus looks shit with a bear so plastering over it. You might as well have removed the whole paragraph. I mean, fucking christ, don't you read the copy?
3) And worst of all. Dumbest, deafest, shittest of all, you have removed the unstressed 'a' so that the stress that should have fallen on "nosh" is lost, and my piece ends on an unstressed syllable. When you're winding up a piece of prose, metre is crucial. Can't you hear? Can't you hear that it is wrong? It's not fucking rocket science. It's fucking pre-GCSE scansion. I have written 350 restaurant reviews for The Times and i have never ended on an unstressed syllable. Fuck. fuck, fuck, fuck.
I absolutely love point 2, Coren going into lengthy detail to explain his mightily unamusing and laboured 'joke.' This conceit is only equalled by his drawing parallels to his restaurant review and a renaissance fresco. Bless.
Lest we think Coren is losing his grip on reality, his continues on an ameliorative note:
I am sorry if this looks petty... but i care deeply about my work and i hate to have it fucked up by shit subbing... I woke up at three in the morning on sunday and fucking lay there, furious, for two hours. weird, maybe. but that's how it is.
Now this kind of wins me over. And, in case you think it can't get any better than 'fuck fuck fuck,' Coren concludes with - wait for it -
Sorry to go on. Anger, real steaming fucking anger can make a man verbose.
All the best
I am charmed.
This is not the first time Coren has let loose on a sub. In 2002, the bastardization of the sentence 'The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog' led to a less epically proportioned (though no less impassioned) email, which concluded
never ask me to write something for you. and don't pay me. i'd rather take £400 quid for assassinating a crack whore's only child in a revenge killing for a busted drug deal - my integrity would be less compromised.
I confess, I didn't know Coren from Jack until this afternoon, and I don't really want to know any more. There is something hugely amusing about a curmudgeonly, self-important, articulate man with an ax to grind. Romance is crying out for a Giles Coren! (any suggestions?)
Also, writers, writers of any kind, does the editing process ever reduce you to Coren-like levels of spittle-flying, eye-bulging, vein-popping anger?