Saturday, July 6, 2019

What's in a word?

Well, I am a writer. I have a fairly large vocabulary.  They have these words called synonyms. A synonym is a word that means the same thing as another word.  Now, a while back I submitted to a weird western anthology.  One of the many stupid changes the editor made to my story was he changed poop to shit.  Well, they are synonyms. They mean the same thing. But, they're not used exactly the same way.  

I used the word poop to describe all the horse product that was on the road  in a western town in 1880.  These were mostly unpaved towns with dirt roads. The poop mixed with the dirt and flies bred and it would rain and you had this mess of mud and poop and flies.  In talking about this situation the character was in mixed company. That means ladies present.  That's why I referred to this product as horse poop.  I did not think a gentleman would use the term shit, even though it is a synonym, in this circumstance in 1880.  But the editor, who is sort of a slave to active voice, decided shit was more activer than poop was and changed it to shit.  I took exception to this change and some of the other even more stupider changes he made.  I ended up withdrawing my story.  

Of course that's not the only time I got pissed off at changes made by an editor.  Back when my novel The Two Devils was being edited, the very same character that was in the short story just mentioned was sitting on the porch reading the newspaper.  That newspaper was called The Epitaph. That was the real newspaper of Tombstone, Arizona.  That editor changed it to "the newspaper."  He took the correct name for the local paper, which was the best name for a newspaper in the history of the world and changed it.  And 15 years later I'm still steaming about it.  [The reprinted book is in a tome called The Devil Draws Two by David B. Riley and has Epitaph in it].

Now, I couldn't walk away from the book because I'd signed a contract.  Where no contract had been signed at the point I walked away from the short story with shit in it.  I wish I could have.  Both editors are still alive. I didn't kill either one of them.  I probably should have, but I didn't.  What's this all mean?  A lot of writers throw things into a story that need change. But, sometimes editor's change words when a writer really wanted that particular word, knew exactly what that word means, and might show up at that editor's house with a crazed look in his exes and a shotgun in his hand.

I've been editing Dry Gulch.  In spite of being warned about content needed to be appropriate for younger readers, some of the writers stuck whores and crib girls in the saloon even where it had nearly nothing to do with the story.  Bad writer.  Well, this makes the editor step in and change that. It was in the guidelines.  And the paper's name was the Dry Gulch Gazette. That was in the guidelines, too. So I don't have any remorse.  

So, it's different being and editor than a writer.  And that's why editors carry guns.








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