After so many years, to this day I have to pause and think for a millisecond before I write or say the word “thaw.” For decades I would always say or write “unthaw.”
Just the other day, while perusing a big box of old letters and meandering down Memory Lane, I found this one, dated Jan. 27, 1984, from Belva Miller of Osakis:
“Dear Mr. Dalman
I noticed in some of your writings during the cold weather that you used the expression “unthawed the pipes” several times. Think of it a bit. The opposite of freeze is thaw. So one thaws a frozen thing, not unthaws it. Isn’t that right?”
Yes, that’s right, Belva Miller. Thank you!
Belva is just one of the eagle-eyed readers (and proofreaders) I’ve appreciated, depended upon and learned from for so long. They tend to keep me on my toes.
Here are some examples:
“Well, Dennis, I didn’t know I was such an old bag,” said former Alexandria Mayor Dorothy Kobs on the phone one day.
“What in the world do you mean?” I asked.
“That story you wrote about my life. It says in there that I’ve been mayor since 1883. Guess it’s time to retire. 100 years as mayor is quite enough, don’t you think?”
As I sputtered and stammered my apology, good-natured Dorothy burst out laughing. She’d been getting razzed all day by friends telling her she sure looks good for her age.
A few years ago, I flubbed a date again. I’m glad to report it was caught before the paper went to press. It was a feature story about an elderly Sartell woman who tutored young students.
In that story, I’d written that she met her husband-to-be in 1448. A proofreader, Carolyn Bertsch, emailed me: “Dennis, I knew that lady was elderly, but I had no idea she was THAT old!”
Oops! I’ve never been good at numbers. Or typing them. In grade school, when I’d do math (or attempt to), there would be little ant-hills of eraser crumbs all over my desk and the floor. I have the math version of reading dyslexia. Some years ago, a bank clerk told me it’s called “discalculus.”
Just this week, proofreader Carolyn emailed me again. In a story about a Sartell road project, instead of typing “sanitary utilities” I typed “sanity utilities.” I do know the difference – I think.
Hasty word choices and typos, as I’ve learned the hard way, can be just as bad as quickly-typed numbers.
One day, an Alexandria woman called to ask, “Dennis Dalman, you mean to tell me that my daughter is going to become an adulteress?”
“What?!” I asked. “What do you mean?”
“Page 3, fifth paragraph down,” she said. “Here’s what you wrote: ‘Adolescence is the confusing corridor that leads from childhood to adultery.’ ”
“I wrote THAT? Oh, my gosh! I meant adulthood, not adultery.”
“Well, yeah, that’s what I thought you meant” she said, chuckling. “I just had to call and give you a hard time.”
That’s as bad as a story I wrote that started with this sentence, hastily typed: “The pubic beach at Lake L’Homme Dieu is going to be sizzling with fun this Friday when it opens for the summer season.”
Oops! Proofreader Dorothy Tarrant, usually so eagle-eyed, must have blinked when she missed that boo-boo.
Putting a newspaper together can also be hazardous. Many years ago, I wrote a feature story about Tom Bosek of Alexandria. While putting the paper together for the printing plant, I placed Tom’s mug photo onto the story. Next day, Tom’s mother, Arlene, whom I knew well, called and said, “Oh boy, has Tom ever changed, so much so I just don’t recognize him anymore. Dennis, check today’s paper.”
I did and almost keeled over. It wasn’t Tom. It was a mug shot of somebody else with Tom’s name under it. I gasped, I stuttered.
Arlene laughed. “Don’t worry, Dennis. We’ve been having so much fun with that all day long!”
Thank my lucky stars for eagle-eyed (and forgiving) readers.