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     Volume 4 Issue 16 | October 8 , 2004 |

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Obsessive Editing Syndrome

Aasha Mehreen Amin

One of the problems of being in the editing business is that one tends to take one's job a bit too seriously. Sometimes one takes it well beyond the confines of the office. Often it can reach such absurd proportions that the obsessive editor begins to start editing conversations with people she meets or finds grammatical and spelling errors in innocuous things like signboards or menus. While this may seem harmless enough, it can turn mild skepticism into major neurosis.

Take the harried editor of a modest publication who went to have dinner at a new, fairly decent-looking restaurant. The first thing she notices is not the tacky chandeliers and the gaudy tablecloths but the word that grates her sensibilities much more than it should. Why is she all bothered just because it says 'paprani pizza' or 'beef stek'? Is there any logic that categorically decides that just because a food item is spelt wrong it will also taste wrong? But nothing can dissuade the fastidious editor and she walks off in a huff without eating. Outside there is more to add to her chagrin. A huge billboard announces big bold letters that the restaurant has catering services and that 'you can relay on us'. Plus it has 'live barbecue'.

This is enough to get the outraged editor to stomp out of the place feeling that her unceremonious departure is more than justified.

Other things catch her attention and tease the editing brain. Like what kinds of clothes are made at 'Arrogant Tailors' or the type of garments at 'Cagey Choice' or how fast one must be to go to 'Pick and Run', a clothes shop that later changed its name to 'Pick and Cash' perhaps because of all the picking and running with the goods without paying!

But no matter how jarring the experience there is nothing one can do. You can't just go into a store, for example and tell them that it's only a mini supermarket and there is no reason for it to be called 'the ultimate shopping experience'. But such hyperbole keeps hitting one in the face from all around. Almost every restaurant in town is 'exclusive' and offers 'authentic' cuisine even if it means a combination of Thai, Indian, Continental with a little bit of Afghan thrown in. Every little store is a 'plaza' or a 'palace' or an 'arcade'. Just as two rooms may constitute a university!

After such aberrations the editor, thinks it is better to stay in the office where at least she knows that she can delete, rewrite and restructure to her heart's content. But how does one interpret 'a grubby situation'? What does 'for glowing look and general talkativeness, my concentration fell upon him' mean? Or a rickshawpuller who wears a 'smoke protected stuff as a musk'?

On top of that one has to cope with the trauma of waking up on a Friday morning to see that much of the painstakingly done editing has not been incorporated in the final published piece making an 'important decision' an 'impotent' one or Rapid Action Battalion into a 'Rabid Action Battalion'. Well the last one may not have been entirely inappropriate.

Even so the compulsive editor cannot let go of her affliction and continues to notice strange spellings and even stranger phrases, being rattled by the total disregard for the rules of a language, the knowledge of which has given her a vocation. It's a bit like the selling pitch of a food joint that delivers its circumspect cuisine: 'You asked for it.'


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