More typos from The Witch Doctor’s Wife

  • “The witchdoctor grunted and clapped his hands.” (p. 176, In every other case “witch doctor” is written as two words.)
  • “As if that weren’t enough, the pimple-faced spy from Flanders was out to get the OP.” (p. 245, “Flanders” was the guy’s name, not where he came from.)
  • “Pardonez mois?” (p. 259)
  • “Cripple had gone from death’s door—literally—to suddenly becoming an icon of freedom.” (p. 302, Cripple did not literally come from death’s door.)
  • “Excusez mois” (p. 304)

Typos in The Witch Doctor’s Wife

Now that my thesis has been submitted, I’m reading a book for pleasure called The Witch Doctor’s Wife. It’s not a life-changing read or a very challenging one, but it’s a fun story, full of sarcastic pokes at historical political problems. It’s nice to have something light to read after mostly reading about moral theory, economic theory and human research protocols for a year.

And of course, I found typos!

  • “That invited infection, which often lead to crippling.” (p. 121)
  • “… believing she could lesson the threat by making noise …” (p. 131)
  • “Pardonez mois, monsieur” (p. 152)
  • “Excusez mois” (p. 153)
  • “Pardonez mois” (p. 155)

They seem to have a hard time with homonyms.

That’s all I’ve found for now, but I’m only on page 170 of 307. I haven’t even gotten to the murder promised on the back of the book.

Quirks and Quarks Roadshow in Montréal

Quirks and Quarks Roadshow in Montréal
Quirks and Quarks Roadshow in Montréal

This Wednesday night, I went to the Quirks and Quarks roadshow at Concordia University here in Montréal. It was their question-and-answer programme, so they had scientists answer listeners’ questions. Questions prepared in advance, that is. One wasn’t allowed to stand up an ask a random question. It was a very pleasant evening. I actually got to see what Bob McDonald looks like (that was weird—he’s supposed to be a bodiless radio personality), the questions were interesting and the scientists were entertaining.

I brought my towel, because it was May 25. You would have thought that an event like that (a radio recording of something aimed at über-geeks) would have brought out more people with towels, but nope. You’d be wrong.

I left to get some food because I was hungry after the recording, but I was strongly tempted to stay and heckle Bob McDonald for one of the questions.

One of the listeners asked how it is that we know that what he sees as red is the same thing as what anyone else sees as red. This is a classic problem in philosophy. It is a problem of philosophy of mind, and one that touches on issues of qualia, naturalism, the hard problem of experience, and our phenomenal experience of the world as distinct from our brains’ and our eyes’ mechanism for discerning colour.

I was excited when I heard the question.

Then they had an ophthalmologist answer the question. She totally missed the point! She did not answer the question. She talked about rods and cones. She talked about optic nerves. Those things are interesting in their own right, but you can’t use them to prove anything about whether my phenomenal experience of the colour red is the same as yours.

Bob McDonald: Don’t bring in a scientist to do a philosopher’s job! I think I’ll email Paul Kennedy (host of CBC’s Ideas) and tell him that you’re encroaching on his territory!

I’m glad I went though. They also had free cookies. Well, they were unguarded cookies. I assumed they were free.

If you want to hear this broadcast, it will be on CBC Radio 1 at 12h on Saturday afternoon.

The Bonhomme Theme Song

Bonhomme Bonhomme, qu'est-ce que tu fais?
Bonhomme Bonhomme, qu'est-ce que tu fais?

Do you remember learning about the Carnaval de Québec in French class?

There’s a particular song that they used to teach us during the unit on the Carnaval. It’s Bonhomme’s theme song, I guess. When I went to Québec this winter, there was a marching band that followed Bonhomme around playing it.

I used to think that the lyrics were, “Bonhomme Bonhomme qu’est-ce que tu fais? Bonhomme Bonhomme qu’est-ce que tu fais? Je vais jouer au violon! Je vais jouer au violon! …”

Translated to English, this means, “Bonhomme Bonhomme, what are you doing? Bonhomme Bonhomme, what are you doing? I’m gonna play the violin. I’m gonna play the violin.”

Turns out, according to a native French-speaker, that is not only incorrect, but also very creepy.

That it was creepy was not at all surprising. I mean, look at him. And I suppose, given the state of French instruction in Ontario, it shouldn’t be too surprising that I got it wrong.

Makes sense to me though. “Bonhomme Bonhomme, what are you doing? Bonhomme Bonhomme, what are you doing?”

In related news, my cellphone ringtone is now the theme song to Téléfrançais.

Em dashes, en dashes, hyphens and The Last Battle

The Last Battle p. 205
The Last Battle p. 205

A few weeks ago I found a typo in The Silver Chair by C. S. Lewis.

This was shocking, to say the least. So, of course, I went looking for some more. I found one in The Last Battle.

Before I point out the typo that I found, I should clarify the distinction between a few different kinds of typographical marks. Specifically, I will be speaking about hyphens, en dashes and em dashes.


Hyphens are used to join two words together or separate syllables of a single word. Hyphens are what you use for compound modifiers, like “well-respected,” or for other compound words, like “being-in-the-world,” if you were talking about phenomenology. An hyphen is the mark that you get on a Mac when you press the button that has a horizontal line on it. It’s beside the button that has the “equals” and “addition” signs on it (if you use a QWERTY keyboard).

En dashes

En dashes are probably less familiar to you than hyphens. An en dash is what you see in a range of numbers or to contrast values. For example, if you wanted to write “see pages one to twenty-one,” but using numerals instead of words, you could write “see pages 1–21.” You’ll note that the en dash is slightly longer than the hyphen. You get the en dash on a Mac when you hold down the option key and press the same key as the hyphen.

Em dashes

An em dash is used to indicate a break in thought or an explanation or to introduce an interpolating thought with a break that is even stronger than parentheses. It is also used to indicate that a speaker was interrupted.

For example, “I ate the cookies—all of them—and felt no remorse.” [Interpolating thought]

Or, “I just can’t believe—” [The speaker was interrupted]

Or, “This is the way to get there—the way to get there without being noticed, of course.” [Explanation]

The em dash is even longer than the en dash. You can type an em dash on a Mac when you press and hold the shift and option keys while pressing the same key as the hyphen or en dash.

What does this have to do with The Last Battle?

Look at the typographical mark between “Marsh” and “wiggle” in the scanned page from The Last Battle. It’s an em dash. It’s way too long to be an hyphen. In fact, there’s an hyphen at the end of the line, in the middle of “disenchanted” for comparison.

Hyphens are used for compound words, like Marsh-wiggle. Em dashes are used for something completely different.

If you own another edition of The Last Battle, can you find this typo in your copy? I’m reading from the 1995 Scholastic reprint.

The Silver Chair

Silver Chair Typo, p. 122
Silver Chair Typo, p. 122

This year, I read a first edition book, Wertheimer’s Rethinking the Ethics of Clinical Research, and I wrote down every single typo or other sort of mistake that I found in the book. It was quite an extensive list by the end of it.

I posted that list here.

I suppose through that effort, I became more sensitive to finding typos wherever I look. I recently re-read a book from my childhood that remains a favourite of mine: The Silver Chair, by C. S. Lewis.

And I found a typo in it. I scanned it and posted it as an image attached to this post.

It’s on p. 122. I’m sort of tempted to go to a library and see if the same typo is in other editions. The edition that I have is the 1995 Scholastic reprint. Can anyone else, who has a copy of another edition of The Silver Chair, find this typo in their copy? I’m really curious as to how widespread this is, and how far back the typo goes.

Is it unique to the 1995 Scholastic edition? Or does this typo go all the way back, unnoticed to Lewis himself?

Cabane à sucre

This weekend past, I was invited to a family event in rural Québec—an outing at a sugar shack, or a “cabane à sucre,” in French. It reminded me of when my parents decided to tap the tree in front of our house and boil it down to syrup. The house smelled of maple syrup for weeks!

Anyway, here in Québec, these guys actually built a shed out in the country so that they don’t have to deal with it in their kitchen.

Something that we didn’t do when we made maple syrup, is making de la tire, or maple taffy on the snow.

Why can’t one eat an egg with 油条?

When I lived in China, I would sometimes have a 油条 (yóu tiáo) along with my bag of hot soy milk for breakfast. A 油条 is a long, oily fried bread that you eat with your hands. It’s really good.

Whenever I would buy it, the vendor would always tell me that I shouldn’t eat it with an egg, and then she would laugh. I thought this was some sort of joke, but I never actually did eat an egg together with the 油条. Then, I went to a completely different vendor on the other side of town, and I was told the exact same thing—don’t eat your 油条 with an egg.

I was tempted, but never actually did try combining the two forbidden breakfast foods. I have a couple questions for my Chinese readers, or for aficionados of Chinese culture:

  1. Have any of you had an egg with 油条? What happened?
  2. Do you know why it is that I’m not supposed to eat them together?
  3. Is it out of some legitimate concern for one’s health?
  4. Is it a cultural superstition or a convention of some kind?
  5. Is this not even a thing? I mean, I might have misunderstood, or it might have been a huge coincidence.