Monday, March 12, 2012

It doesn't belong to Howard

A couple weeks ago, I was reading a New York Times' article about the appeal of Downton Abbey when my eyeballs hit the brakes:

"Granted, it’s rare that we don’t go nuts for lavishly produced Edwardian costume dramas with beautiful clothes, houses and manners; with their delicious tensions and upheavals and their tendency to squash lowly clerks under enormous bookcases after they enter into ill-advised romances with impulsive, intellectual upper-class girls. (See the tragic denouement of “Howard's [sic] End.”)

You see, I'd made the same mistake in a post I'd written about Downton Abbey just days before. Just as I hit "post," a 20-year-old memory of a paper I'd written in "The Modern British Novel" floated into my consciousness: Howard does not possess the End: It's Howards End with no possessive "s."

(The NYT has since issued a correction on the punctuation mistake.)

Here's another one, though, that took me by surprise. I'm blaming it on skipping out of Great American Novels Written by Men so I could read the likes of Woolf, Eliot, and Wollstonecraft in college. I was in Barnes and Noble this weekend, flipping through those B&N classic novel paperbacks that are priced so reasonably at $6.50, when I spotten an n-dash between Moby and Dick. For years, I've been writing that I've never read Moby Dick. Well, yes, that's because it's Moby-Dick, and I haven't read that doorstop either. Finnegans Wake is another title I see mis-punctuated with a possessive "s." I hesitate to call Finnegans Wake a novel, though. More like 600 pages of a crazy Irishman's scatological ranting.

Are there any other works of classic literature that have titles frequently mangled by either the masses or the press, as in the case of Howards End? Inquiring minds and all ...



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