in Language, Scholarship

What editing looks like

At least this is what it looked like when I worked a certain Greek textbook a few years ago. This may just be my experience, but this is the kind of note I wrote to my boss as I worked through the text. I probably argued with the author on similar points a few dozen times, but I happened upon this note by chance and thought I’d share it. (Note on the ‘Greek’ below.)

“I still have a problem with the etymology of a)reth/, etc. The notion that it is related to a)/rshn is unsupported. a)/ristos actually comes from PIE *ar- relating to ‘fitness’ (lots of obvious Greek and Latin words from this root). a)/ristos then means ‘most fitting, most suitable,’ not ‘most manly.’ a)reth/, if related to a)/ristos, may just mean something like ‘fitness,’ i.e., virtue as a particular kind of fitness, not manliness. As for a)rsh/n, I haven’t a clue as to its derivation (is it even Indo-European?), but I see no reason to suppose that it’s connected to a)reth/. Likewise Ares. Thus, the notion that a)reth/ was originally sexist and later became less so is dependent upon dubious etymology.”

I was thanked in the introduction for entering the text, but in reality I made major contributions to the integrity of the text, in places arguing for linguistic science, and elsewhere against emotionalism. Here I did both, and I feel no shame in taking more credit than I was offered for improving the book.

That weird text, by the way, is so-called Beta Code, which is a way of representing ancient Greek in ASCII text. It was sort of standard in the days before Unicode Classical Greek became relatively easy to produce, and we used it while editing for simplicity and to ensure no encoding issues with mail servers, etc. It’s still used by many today (but it’s worth the small effort to learn to type in Greek).