Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Blessed are the copy editors …

. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

If error were simply an issue of a wrong comma here or an incorrect word there it wouldn’t be nearly as interesting, but mistakes undergird our lives, even our universe. They can be detrimental, beneficial, neutral. When Lockheed Martin designed the Mars Climate Orbiter using American units and NASA assumed that they’d used the metric system instead, a discrepancy that resulted in that satellite crashing into the red dust of the fourth planet from the sun—that was a mistake. And when the physician Alexander Fleming left out a culture plate which got contaminated, and he noticed the flourishing of a blue mold that turned out to be penicillin—that was a mistake. Errors in how people hear phonemes are what lead to the development of new languages; mistakes in an animal’s DNA propel evolution; getting lost can render new discoveries. Sometimes the flaw is that which is most beautiful. 

This former copy editor cannot help pointing out that lead in this paragraph should be led. That’s the past tense of  lead (pronounced leed). True, the past tense of lead does sound like the metal, lead.


  1. The present tense works fine in the context (cf. "can render").

    1. Anonymous6:32 AM

      Yes, I noticed that as well. The last two sentences are in the present tense for a reason.