Mighty Red Pen

July 17, 2011

Possible revocation of my word nerd license

Filed under: Lit review,Wordsworthy — mighty red pen @ 6:59 pm
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If you never hear from me again, it’s because I was summoned to a meeting of the English Major Review Board for failing for many years to realize that “Water, water, everywhere/and not a drop to drink” is a misquote. The actual line from Coleridge’s “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” is “Water, water, everywhere,/nor any drop to drink.”

Oh, the shame. I even studied “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”! And I really liked it. I think there’s a good chance I even wrote a paper about it.

Please don’t tell my professors, okay? There’s no defense in “But everyone gets it wrong!

Like the line “Summertime and the livin’ is easy,” this line from Coleridge is subject to endless riffing. In fact, I myself once wrote an article about the Southeast Asia tsunami of 2004 that had the headline “Water, water, everywhere” slapped on it by a zealous editor who was prone to facile rifffing. I’m not saying riffing is bad, I do it myself, there’s just a few lines I’d like to vote off the island because they are so obvious. If they could get off the island, what with the water, water, everywhere.

3 Comments »

  1. There are so many of these! Quite a few of them are etched into the public consciousness. Yours isn’t so bad, but I won’t tell anyone.

    Comment by Stan — July 18, 2011 @ 10:15 am | Reply

  2. You might be interested in the concept of the “snowclone“, which seems related to what you’ve been discussing recently.

    Comment by Chris Barts — July 18, 2011 @ 1:07 pm | Reply

  3. Can I have the excuse that I didn’t read it?

    Comment by Skatha — July 18, 2011 @ 1:48 pm | Reply


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