Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Orgy of Misspellings in Blockbuster Dan Brown Novel

Last week, The Lost Symbol, the latest novel from über popular author Dan Brown, hit the market. The occasion brought Brown's usual critics out in full force, on the Internet and in newspapers, for a round of the usual literary elitism. The scathing criticisms of Brown are, no doubt, many: plagiarism; factual inaccuracy; cliched writing. But, until now, the Proofreader has never had cause to deride Dan--The Da Vinci Code was awesome! Alas, the Proofreader now has no choice but to join the chorus of critics and lambaste the 2000 novel Angels & Demons for its repeated, defiant misspellings.

As always, the Proofreader never singles out the writer for these types of idiotic blunders because they are really the faults of the editors and proofreaders who get paid to catch them. And he doesn't intend to wantonly single out the writer in this instance (these mistakes really aren't his fault), but since Brown's name's on the novel and for SEO reasons, it's imperative to mention his name in the post. Plus, Brown has hundreds of millions of dollars, hundreds of millions more on their way into his bank account and he doesn't care if some silly proofreading blogger is mocking one of his books. Now, onto the mistakes, shall we?
As you can see highlighted in the above picture of page 269 of Angels & Demons, the name Alfa Romeo (a famous Italian car brand) is misspelled twice as "Alpha" Romeo. The first of the two names is actually an acronym for "Anonima Lombarda Fabbrica Automobili," an Italian phrase meaning "Lombard Automobile Factory, Public Company." Instead, Brown used "alpha," most commonly known as the first letter of the Greek alphabet.

This is a colossal mistake. Do you know how many people read and re-read and proofread a book before it gets published? Or how many times it's read over and over? The Proofreader doesn't either, but he knows whatever the number is, it's a lot. And the above isn't one isolated example of a mistake. The same blunder happens over and over throughout the novel. See here for all of the examples the Google Books preview of Angels & Demons will allow you to see.

Here, have a look at page 174.
Notice that Brown, or a researcher/proofreader/copy editor at Pocket Books (a division of Simon & Schuster), went so far as to research a particular model of Alfa Romeo car--the 155 T-Spark--but didn't double check the spelling of the car's brand name.

Moreover, "T-Sparks" is erroneous. That's a reference to "Twin Spark," a type of engine made by Alfa Romeo that's standard in most of its cars. Making the term plural (T-Sparks) is a mistake.

For a commercially published novel, these mistakes are unbelievable. Evidently, the suits over at Pocket Books were appalled as well and, when the novel was reprinted in 2006, the Alfa misspellings were all corrected. But they still missed the "T-Sparks" mistake. Compare the below pics from the reprint with the above.

5 comments:

stan said...

If it was one Alfa Romeo 155 T-Spark, then you're right. "Spark" would not be pluralized with an S.

However, it looks to me like there were four cars, all of the same make and model, that were driving together: "The four Alfa Romeo 155 T-Sparks roared down Via dei Coronari...." In this case, isn't it correct for it be pluralized with an S?

Or should it read, "The four Alfa Romeos 155 T-Spark roared"? That sounds awkward.

stan said...

Oops, I left out the word "unmarked" in my quotes.

J. Alfred Proofreader said...

Hmmm, interesting take, Stan.

Had I been the editor, I'd have suggested:

The four unmarked 155 T-Spark Alfa Romeos roared...

But that's just me.

Miles Fowler said...

I am just glad to have your assurance that copy editors/proofreaders still exist at publishing houses. I have seen so many mistakes in books I read that I thought they were mythical creatures or that publishers let them go first during the dot-com bubble nine years ago and just never rehired any. I thought that proofreading had been left up to the authors ever since or perhaps even before.

J. Alfred Proofreader said...

Miles, I have some contacts in the publishing biz and they have assured me that proofreaders and copy editors do exist.

Generally, they don't get praised for doing a good job--only ridiculed by annoying people like me who catch them in a blunder.

Mistakes are going to happen, but this one is so surprising because Alfa Romeo is such an iconic car brand.

Thanks for the comment!