Is anybody still editing the New York Times?

From the John Jeremiah Sullivan piece on massage in the NYTimes magazine:

When you feel like that, you don’t leap to be naked in rooms with an assortment of strangers while they rub their hands all over your bare flesh — there’s probably a fetish group for becoming as physically disgusting as you can and then procuring massages, but that’s not my damage. Also, there’s something about massage in general that makes me more, not less, relaxed.

He means “less, not more.”  If you click through you’ll see it’s been corrected in the online version.  So someone noticed it at some point.  But someone should have noticed it before the piece was posted and printed!

See also my complaint about Justin Cronin’s The Passage, which besides being carelessly edited — when you vomit because a vampire bit you, you are retching, not wretching, dammit! — failed to live up to the promise of its very good first 300 pages.  Executive summary:  it starts out as The Stand and ends up as The Dark Tower, and if you think that is not a downgrade then we shall fight.

Back to Sullivan:

But that’s true for so many of us — we fall into our lines of work like coins dropping into slots, bouncing down off various failures and false-starts.

has a nice cadence but does not actually describe a thing that is like the way a coin drops into a slot.  Before the coin goes in the slot, it doesn’t bounce off anything, and after it’s in the slot, it may bounce down off things inside the mechanism (is that what he meant?) but it does so while travelling down a well-defined rigid channel, exactly the opposite of what Sullivan is going for.


The yellowish gray-green circles under my eyes had a micropebbled texture, and my skin gave off a sebaceousy sheen of coffee-packet coffee.

Most of this is great, especially “micropebbled,” but “sebaceousy” isn’t right — I’m not sure the “add -y to informalize a word,” move, a lexical way to indicate “kind of” or “sort of,” applies to any adjective, and if it does apply to some, I’m sure it doesn’t apply to “sebaceous.”



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7 thoughts on “Is anybody still editing the New York Times?

  1. Penny W. says:

    I had a toy, when I was a kid, that involved dropping coins into a slit, and they would in fact go down through different pinball-style obstructions, before settling into a slot. Possibly Sullivan was imagining something like that?

  2. Sebaceous seems like a perfectly good word. No need to dress it up with sebaceousy.

  3. Artie Prendergast-Smith says:

    Yes, it’s clear that the subs need to be more attentivey.

  4. angela says:

    I know this is kind of a non-sequitur but Jordan, have you googled yourself lately? When “Jordan Ellenberg” is googled, a black-and-white photo of some sort of 18th century army general comes up. What’s that about?

  5. JSE says:

    It’s Chicken Wolf, a 19th century ballplayer. I liked his name so much I made him my Google+ profile picture, and this seems to have been enough to convince Google that he’s what I actually look like.

  6. lee worden says:

    I get that it seems dumb to try to make an adjective adjectivy when it’s already an adjective, but I kind of think there’s a place for “sebaceousy” – the sebaceous glands secrete sebum, which makes the skin oily, so sebaceousy doesn’t mean sebaceous, which the skin is not, it means something like oily but not necessarily quite – it’s the vagueness that is gained by this construction. So I think it’s a respectable way to coin an adjective from another one.

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