Friday, June 12, 2020

Time's Arrow Gets Edited

     So, I'm laying in a tub of hot, Epsom-salted water, reading -- which you would do, too if you were as old and achy as me -- when I stubbed my toe on a common mistake.

     Naturally, just as anyone would do, I called out for a pencil.  (Read Tam's recounting at the link, then come back.)

     I've been digging through Larry Brooks' Story Engineering, which has been informative so far.  He uses a teaching technique I recognize, going after the same point from different angles, sneaking up on it, dropping back, paraphrasing, using multiple examples and expanding to an extent that makes me a little impatient.  But he's trying to make the lesson sink in and if you play along, it does.

     One of his examples was from The Da Vinci Code, a listing of the possible "What Ifs?" that might have informed the initial plotting.  Third on the list was, in part, "What if [the child of Jesus] survived and the lineage continues to this day, meaning the ancestors of Christ are walking among us?"

     Theology aside, and granting that the Old Testament lists remarkable lifespans for some of those ancestors, they do have one other thing in common: they're all dead.  On the other hand and at least for the purposes of fiction, any hypothetical descendant might indeed be walking among us.

     The arrow of time runs in only one direction.  Ancestors are not descendants. Descendants are not ancestors. 

     So I crossed out the wrong word and penciled in the correct one.

     While in the bathtub.  It was good enough for Archimedes, after all.


fillyjonk said...

This is not the first time I have seen this error. I don't get it. But I can remember seeing at least twice, in books/articles by different authors, the word "ancestor" used when clearly "descendant" was meant.

What DO they teach them at these schools?

New Jovian Thunderbolt said...

And ya know... If someone makes a weird request like 'bring a pencil to me in the bath!' that sounds odd, but you gotta hop to and do those odd requests because A) there is prolly a good reason, and B) fulfilling it will let you in on scheme.

"I need and artichoke, a cork screw, and a half gallon of mineral spirits, T-Bolt!" You know I am on that one and looking for my car keys in case i have to go to the store. I have no idea where all that is goin, but I wanna see it get there.

John Peddie (Toronto) said...


The answer to your question is "Not much".

I was shocked to learn recently that many schools no longer teach cursive writing, much less grammar.

Do your own thing, kid. Express yourself.


Pretty soon, we'll be in a world where babies are born with embedded chips, and won't need such old fashioned things as writing and grammar.