Beavers Beware

January 2, 2017 — 11 Comments

russian-typoA mere 375,000 rubles buys a fair amount of publicity in Russia; just be sure to proofread the product.

This Christmas season one Russian charity hoped to encourage readers to live good lives, but instead they published a brochure that encouraged beaver genocide.

Beavers are particularly vulnerable rodents. They are quite gentle, and even Talking Beavers are poorly equipped to defend themselves.

The lovely scene on the leaflet featured an innocent girl gazing into a snow globe. Emblazoned above it was supposed to read “Do Good.” Instead, the Russian words spelled out “Exterminate Beavers!”

It just bears out the maxim, “proofread before you publish.” In this case, one could easily add: “if the work is translated, make sure the proofreader understands both languages.”

Some errors are especially heinous.

C.S. Lewis recognized the importance of proofreading.

He was sometimes the victim of inadequate editorial review. So it comes as no surprise that he preferred to see galleys (the uncorrected typeset proofs) of his work before actual publication.

The following reference from a letter in which Lewis attributes the need for such as due to his own poor penmanship, rather than the carelessness of others. This is typical of his generosity, since part of the duties of editors (and pharmacists, for that matter) is to be able to decipher the scribblings of authors (and physicians). Mark Twain did not share Lewis’ grace in this matter.

When his friend Dorothy Sayers died in 1958, Lewis was unable to attend the funeral in London. He was, however, honored to write a panegyric for the service, which was read by one of the bishops in attendance. Following the event, Sayer’s son, Anthony Fleming thanked Lewis and asked if he might include the eulogy in possible collection.

Dear Mr. Fleming

Thank you for your most kind letter. I am relieved to find that the little speech has pleased those whose approval at such a time matters most—it is so easy to go wrong in a thing of that kind and so to give offence.

I am perfectly willing that it should be printed, but please ask whoever sees to it to be sure and let me see a proof. Even if printers made no mistakes, my villainous writing nearly always leads to some.

Lewis, of course, was referring to a literal manuscript, a document written by hand. One assumes that the Russian publisher was given a typescript, so they could not use “villainous writing” as an excuse for their error.

Still, I suspect they were given the text in one language, English perhaps, and asked to translate it for publication. In that case, who actually is responsible for the mistake?

I choose not to worry about attributing liability in this matter. I’m content to use this winter mistake to remind me of the importance of proofreading.

Oh, and on behalf of all of the beavers in Russia, I am relieved to know they will not be distributing these murderous words.

11 responses to Beavers Beware



    Such a delight, links and all! The beast-ist Exterminate Beavers misprint certainly does invite speculation as to motive (if any) on the part of some intermediary (does Russia still have Propaganda Officers?) or state of exhaustion of the proofreader. Have you ever noticed (I have, often) that in published books everything will be smooth reading, accurate in spelling, punctuation, and grammar, for several chapters. Then there will be a little slip. A few pages, later, another. Then two close together on the same page and you know the poor reader is nodding off. At this point I see him (or her) jerking awake, straightening up, removing his glasses and setting them aside, rubbing his eyes and going to bed–because there will be no more mistakes for the rest of the book!

    By the way, I know it’s an awkward time to mention it but your own exhausted proofreader nodded off once during the Twain link: >since he was unlikely to have a ear [sic] tuned to poetic imagery<

    I know in my smugness I have doubt missed few my own.


      Jessica, thanks for the catch, will correct momentarily.

      I like your portrayal of the alertness varying with proofreaders. In my case it may partially be due to exhaustion (many posts being completing late in the evening). More often, I think, it’s because of being rushed. A sad measure of the demands currently being made on one’s life.

      Glad you enjoyed the post.


    Wonderful…I, too, am relieved for our little Russian beavers. I often find after I think I’ve done an adequate job of proofing my posts, that I’m going back time after time to edit- after I’ve hit ‘publish’. By the way, robstroud, I thought of you when I saw this- , although you are probably already aware. I’m new to this and hope the link I’ve provided will be activated once I hit ‘comment’. All the best in the New Year.


      Thanks for passing on the link to the Fellowship of Performing Artists. I’ve been encouraged by Max McLean for many years (even back in my military days when he offered some excellent programming for gratis use for Americans stationed overseas.

      I’ve mentioned their powerful repertoire in several posts, including here:

      All of their work is excellent… though not quite worth living in New York City for. :) I have to catch the shows when they visit Seattle… which still requires a fairly significant journey.


        Can’t really think of anything worth living in NYC for…


        Well, I certainly don’t want to insult anyone, and there are many positive cultural attractions in NYC, but I personally prefer to have a yard, and a bit of space between me and my neighbors.

        That said, Christians live where God leads and/or places them. And even though that can be anywhere, it’s the perfect place for them to be.

        Although a child and resident of suburbs through most of my life, I always dreamt of living in a place where deer could graze near my home. And now they do!


    Hello Rob,

    Yes, I hear you. I tend to get in a rush and my brain thinks faster than my fingers. I am thankful for an editor to catch those things I miss. It takes more time, but a cruel world is looking for a way to point out our faults consistently.

    Thank you brother,



    Got a chuckle over this one! (Having worked with editing/authors/ across multiple languages )

Trackbacks and Pingbacks:

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