Different River

”You can never step in the same river twice.” –Heraclitus

March 4, 2005

The Grammarian

Filed under: — Different River @ 10:36 am

This sounds like the sort of person I would like to have met … and to have proofread my blog (and anything else I write).

Six decades ago, not long after being hired by Harold Ross as a copy editor at The New Yorker, a shy young woman, an Oberlin graduate, set to work on a manuscript by James Thurber and soon came across the word “raunchy.” She had never heard of the word and thought it was a mistake. “Raunchy” became “paunchy.” Thurber’s displeasure was such that the young woman barely escaped firing. Later, according to his biographer Harrison Kinney, Thurber wrote that “facetiously” was the only word in English that had all six vowels in order. What about “abstemiously”? the copy editor replied. Thurber, who was not easily impressed, was finally compelled to ask, “Who is Eleanor Gould?”

Miss Gould, as she was known [even after she married] to everyone at the [New Yorker] magazine, died last week, at the age of eighty-seven. She worked here for fifty-four years, most of them as its Grammarian (a title invented for her), and she earned the affection and gratitude of generations of writers. She shaped the language of the magazine, always striving for a kind of Euclidean clarity–transparent, precise, muscular. It was an ideal that seemed to have not only syntactical but moral dimensions.

One Response to “The Grammarian”

  1. romy Says:

    what a great portrait. thanks for posting that.

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