In which we demonstrate that “the true meaning of words” can be fun, by applying the principals to a Disney cartoon character. By Talia Felix, Assistant Editor.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

Thank you for a delightful article about the most despicable character in one of my favorite fairytales and Disney movies. I remember the traditional fairy tale from a Little Golden Book, and didn’t fully appreciate the need for Gaston until I read this article and realized having a “dark shadow” character made the Beast all the more heroic.

Hello. Do you tolerate disagreements with your articles or any criticisms of them? Perhaps not, and if I never see a trace of this, I will understand. But for someone who is listed as an “editor”, I was startled at your lack of proofreading on this Gastonology article. The strange lack of spacing before multiple commas, as well as some altogether incorrect commas, plus several capitalization oddities – along with spots such as “Charles Perrault” referenced but not identified in context or the incorrect blending of fraction and words instead of 1/3 or “third” – were so distracting to me. I wondered if English is not your mother language, and if that’s true, then that would explain most of it (but before publishing things, you could still benefit from a second set of eyes in a good proofreader/copy-editor).

We have an issue with the way the site is set up, that italics often create a seeming “non-space” between words and which is only visible in the published versions of the articles, but not in the text box where we do the actual composition. Consequently these “slip through” because they’re invisible unless we notice them on re-read (and I have already corrected several.)
As to Perrault, it seemed unnecessary to explain his identity if one didn’t already know him – he’s only relevant as a misattributed author.

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confirmation on the invisible italics spacing problem. It trips me up constantly; you can’t see it until it’s on the page. It’s highly vexing. There is one fellow who is very helpful about quietly alerting me to them when he sees them. He also has the option to be public and supercilious about it, but for some reason he isn’t.

I also want to add: the “editor” of a dictionary is not a proofreader. In dictionaries the editor is the one who has compiled the information and composed the article.
Douglas Harper, the chief editor of this dictionary, is in fact a copy-editor by profession, and he does proofread all the columns before they are posted. However, he too sees them in their unposted form, before phantom non-spaces are introduced (the spaces are there, it’s just something about the site’s typeface causes the space to appear so narrow that it seems it’s not there.)

Looks like we might be making progress toward a fix for that, however, inspired by this discussion, so, thank you to the OP for calling attention to it.

Talia oversells me a bit. I work on a copy desk of a newspaper that no longer cares that “fewer” is not the same as “less” and seems to feel “impactful” can mean whatever you want. Bad kerning on online fonts is an old gripe of mine. The lowercase italic -f- always cuts too deep into the preceding space. After 30 or so years, you live with it. There are other fights.

The “Perrault” question is valid. Whatever line is drawn will be idiosyncratic. “Shakespeare, a dramatist and poet writing in English in early modern times,” would be necessary in some texts, insulting in others.

The post in question is a dive into that one story. If you know the history even superficially, you’ll know Perrault. If you are interested enough to have read that far into the post, but by some accident missed knowing Perrault’s role in shaping and transmitting the story, you will want to know who he is.

It’s a polite (invisible) tip to go look him up, if that’s the case, and you’ll be glad you did. It does so without having to hit an off-key note with the readers who would think, “If you’re writing this to the level of people who never heard of Perrault, I’m wasting my time here.” I’m often that first reader; I always appreciate that nudge.

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