Friday, October 29, 2010

The uncorrections file: Gomer, meet Goober

In a Boston Globe column earlier this month, about why people dislike the word gubernatorial, I mentioned (among other reasons that goober might sound undignified) the existence of Goober Pyle, a character on "The Andy Griffith Show."

Five readers (so far) have taken the trouble to "correct" me on the point, explaining that I must mean Gomer Pyle. Well, no;  Gomer was a character, yes, but he had a cousin named Goober.

I was a little surprised that five people -- all of them with keyboards literally at their fingertips -- were confident enough to send (or post) this uncorrection. But I wasn't a lot surprised, because I've made incorrections myself, in my copy editing days -- and some of mine went into print, to my eternal mortification. Every copy editor has done it: confidently changed the right spelling to the wrong one, made an ambiguously named man into a woman, or otherwise fixed something that wasn't broken. And we were getting paid to be right! (I'm feeling a little better about these blunders now that I've read the book "Being Wrong," in which Kathryn Shulz explains that the same mental equipment that makes humans smart is what makes us so often -- so blindly -- wrong.)

So I replied to all five of my misinformants, cheerily* explaining that yes, there was a Gomer, and there was also a Goober. One replied with good humor, claiming the day's Golden Goober award (dondoll, you're a mensch); two ignored me. And two more -- well, like all of us, they really weren't happy about being wrong. So they answered this way:
Guess I didn't watch that show closely enough to notice Gomer had a cousin. 
I don't believe I ever watched an entire episode of Mayberry RFD or its Gomer Pyle spin-off, so I defer to your superior knowledge of the Pyle family.
In other words: "I defer to your superior knowledge of the Pyle family, you pathetic couch potato -- I was reading 'Crime and Punishment' that year." Well, folks, I never watched those shows either; I first met Goober Pyle earlier this month, when I was researching the column. I found Goober thanks to -- paraphrasing Holly from "Stone Soup" -- a widely used information system that allows us to check facts from the comfort of our own homes.  (If only it had existed back when I didn't know how to spell Thelonious!)

* OK, I admit it, I wasn't so cheery with the emailer whose correction was openly contemptuous.


KF-in-Georgia said...

So the if commenters hadn't watched the show enough to be sure of the characters, why were they commenting? I don't really mind the commenters who just got it wrong; at times, we're all blissfully wrong. But the one who was snarky with you needs an attitude adjustment.

I remember Goober--played by George Lindsey, right? I used to do the weekly crossword in TV Guide. It paid to know the names of characters on shows, even if you didn't watch the programs. (And in those pre-cable days, there weren't nearly as many series to keep up with.)

Kay L. Davies said...

Good of you to reply to them...just think, all the fuss and bother could have been avoided if you had said "Gomer Pyle's cousin Goober," but who thinks of that until later?
I've done my share of copy-editing, and more than my share, I swear, of typesetting, along with perhaps not my full share of writing, so I know about those smarmy, self-satisfied critics. "Look what you did, nya, nya, nya!"
It blows me away, however, to think they'd then have the nerve to to pretend they "didn't watch Andy Griffith"!
Unless they're experts on the show, they shouldn't set themselves up as critics.
Life. It's full of people put on this planet for no apparent reason other than to annoy us.
I love your blog. Keep up the good work.

empty said...

That's a mark of healthy self-esteem: to be able to make that instant switch from being so proud of one's knowledge of lowbrow culture to being so proud of one's ignorance of lowbrow culture.

Unknown said...

Hey Gome!
Hey Goob!

Who doesn't remember those greetings?

Lisa :-] said...

Good heavens! It sounds as if we might be suffering a bit of an intellectual snobbery attack here.

For heaven's sake. Andy Griffith was a very popular show back in the day. Back when there were only three networks and maybe four stations that would come in on one's television on a good day. I'm sure no intellectual points will be taken away from anyone who happened to catch enough episodes to be familiar with Goober Pyle.

Oh...and Goober says, "Hey..."

leiamarie82 said...

What's wrong with people? Everyone knows Goober was the best of the two cousins.

Gavrillo said...

There are some of us who are old enough to remember the Andy Griffith Show show with some nostalgia. I'm proud to be able to whistle the entire theme song. In my day it was a big improvement over Sing-a-long with Mitch Miller which like beef liver I was forced to "like it or shut up". Jim Nabors? Who wasn't amazed to discover he had a great singing voice. I'm not embarrassed to admit I love the show as much I get a bang out of The Big Bang Theory. I guess you can call me an old codger in the nicest sense of the etymological origin.

barrybrake said...

One of the biggest and best (worst!) incorrections in literature in recent years is the amazing gaffe at the end of Book 4 in the Harry Potter series, "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire." (Amazing to some of us, that is.)

At the book's climax, Harry and the evil Voldemort are locked in combat, and by a magical spell all the most recent spells of Voldemort's wand come spitting back out in reverse order, most recent to least recent.

As it happens, these spells include the death-spells that killed Harry's parents, one after the other. Fans were shocked to see that their previous knowledge of the fateful day James and Lily Potter were killed was being turned around: James appeared first, then Lily, where we'd seen and heard through recollected shards that Voldy had killed James first and Lily last (as she protected her baby). So, theoretically, Lily would have appeared first, and then James. But, no!

The message boards went wild: what did it mean? Suddenly we now knew that it was James who died last, not Lily. Had she then been protecting her son after all? Had James? Was our whole picture of that fateful day wrong? After all, we only "saw" it through the flawed memories of characters and not the omniscient narrator.

Then, in the second printing, with absolutely no fanfare, no mention, no notice by the publisher or author or editors, the same scene was changed, and they came out in the order one would have originally assumed.

Again, the message boards went wild: what did *THIS* now mean?

It turns out, as author Rowling later admitted, that in the final coffee-fueled days of editing, with late nights and bags under the eyes and all that, an editor had confidently told her that she'd gotten the scene wrong: of course, it would have to be that James would emerge from the wand first. The whole thing was so topsy-turvy that she simply complied, and then was thunderstruck to realize that she'd been right the first time.

soperman said...

Your readers are not very arrogant at all. If they were economists like my colleagues they would really push their points. One time a fellow send me an e-mail in response to a mathematical proof that read, “I know you are wrong, but I don’t have time to disprove your theory now.” I sent a table with 25 years of data applied to my formula. He did not respond.

Unknown said...

Gomer had a cousin named Goober? What hogwash! I've never heard of such utter nonsense! Next you'll be telling me there were two different actors that played "Darrin" on "Bewitched."

Absolute rubbish! ;)

Anonymous said...

"Catch enough episodes to be familiar with Goober"? Shoot, Goober was in way more episodes than Gomer! Gomer left (to do his spinoff series, I assume), while Goober stuck around until the episodes were in color, and even after Andy Griffith left and the show turned into the forgettable "Mayberry, RFD". (Actually, "Andy Griffith" lost most of its entertainment value when Don Knotts left, but that's another story.)

Anonymous said...

We all make mistakes, and it's a blessing and a curse that people can so easily correct others. I like to be correct, so I don't mind if someone is right about an error. But the "gotcha!" game is really irritating to me. To take pleasure in someone else's errors, errors we are all prone to, is rude. And when those playing "gotcha!" are found to be wrong, they can often be poor sports about it. This too is irritating.

We must all remember that everyone makes mistakes and no one likes to be corrected. We should be considerate of others' feelings rather than trying to one-up each other.

Terribly Write said...

I think this is hilarious. There's a certain arrogance to people who think they know more than others, but don't bother to check their facts. A writer for Yahoo, in a quote, added the notation [sic] after the name of the sneaker brand Skechers. She apparently thought the name was Sketchers, when in fact the quoted matter was correct.

Mary Witzl said...

I've read Dostoevsky AND I knew there was a Goober Pyle, so I'm feeling pretty smug right now. And trying to forget all the stupid mistakes I've ever made.

A teaching of colleague of mine once corrected my use of 'whoever' in the following sentence: ; 'Will whoever has the toilet key please return it?' He scrawled 'whoever' out and wrote 'whomever'. The Goober Pyle mistake is more forgivable than that one.

PetraZ said...

1st Law of the Internet:
Google first, ask questions later.
If the snarky correctors had Googled Goober, they would have learned something and the world would be a better place.:-)