Travelling Along in our Wacky World of Words

Traveling along in our wacky world of words, books, and publishing, you can find some of the oddest bits and pieces. Think of some of the expressions you use;   we all have favorites. One that comes to mind is “best thing since sliced bread.” As a person who is always clear (as mud) and never prone to oddities of speech, I wondered where this phrase came from and why we  use it? Lo and behold, I learned it was part of a marketing campaign to sell bread—selling two packs of wrapped bread at a bargain price. A cartoon figure extolled: “Greatest convenience since sliced bread!” What could be more convenient than sliced bread? Two packages, double the fun. Thus a great thing.

And speaking of great things, who would know that our confused world of e-books and publishing—well, this was not the first time the publishing world was messed up. It seems that in the 16th century world of publishing, no one knew what to do with a book. It was plain, not in brilliant colors, like the carefully copies and illustrated manuscripts, codices, and scrolls that filled libraries, monasteries, and the palaces of the rich. What could you do with hundreds of copies of the same book? Libraries and repositories did not know how to store them or how to use them. Even the early printers (we call them publishers now) had no idea, so a good number of them, according to Andrew Pettegree, went out of  business. E-book versus paper book, paper book versus scroll—all very confusing. 

With all the changes taking place and in order to stay ahead of the game, publishers have to rethink entirely their models of how they market books. Traditionally, first a cloth book with a handsome jacket is published a paperback follows six months later, and perhaps, sometime in between, the e-book comes out. But now the very successful HarperCollins has reversed the natural order, publishing the  e-book even before the cloth edition. Who would believe such a thing possible? Does the publisher want to ruin its print sales completely? No, it seems that marketing is always on tops of things. It all depends on what people are talking about––which right now is the planned Islamic center near Ground Zero. There seems to be a lot of tension swirling around Islam and its role in America. And Harper’s new book is Muhammad,  a fictional biography of the prophet by Deepak Chopra.

Speaking of firsts, Stieg’s Larsson’s bestseller, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, was the first e-book to sell more than one million copies. Now, can you get this book in full color manuscript or scroll format?

And one final bit and piece: while reading a hobby magazine, I came across the following. “If you are going to buy these items, have them expertized prior to finalizing the purchase”. I know writers and speakers take liberties with the English language, but this one is murder by verb. I can’t help wondering what the pluperfect subjective would be—perhaps, “you would have been expertized?”