June 9, 2006 Leave a comment
I have a friend who edits technical articles for medical journals. He says it helps him to do his job that he doesn’t understand or care much about the content of the articles.
I’m the opposite. I have a hard time imagining doing editorial work in a subject area I don’t care about.
I once edited a newsletter for a professional psychoanalytic society. Fascinating.
Now, of course, I only do libertarian stuff. Even better.
(Though it’s true that I might catch more mistakes in a dense monograph than I will in a piece where I get swept up in the writing.)
One of the great benefits of this work, no matter what the subject, is how much I learn about the language itself, just from the professional habit of looking everything up.
For example, when Murray Rothbard writes that “Baumol’s concept of the ‘community indifference curve,’ which he purports to build up from individual curves, deserves the shortest possible shrift,” I realize that I’m used to hearing the phrase “short shrift” and know what it means in context, but I have no idea where the term comes from or why it means what it means.
So shrift is absolution from a priest, and short shrift used to refer to the brief period between condemnation and execution, presumably when you made your last confession. Therefore “giving something short shrift” means giving something very little time between condemnation and execution.
I like it.