To: the Times subeditors
From: Coren, Giles
I am mightily pissed off ... I don't really like people tinkering with my copy for the sake of tinkering. I do not enjoy the suggestion that you have a better ear or eye for how I want my words to read than I do ... It was the final sentence. Final sentences are very, very important. A piece builds to them, they are the little jingle that the reader takes with him into the weekend.
I wrote: "I can't think of a nicer place to sit this spring over a glass of rosé and watch the boys and girls in the street outside smiling gaily to each other, and wondering where to go for a nosh." It appeared as: "I can't think of a nicer place to sit this spring over a glass of rosé and watch the boys and girls in the street outside smiling gaily to each other, and wondering where to go for nosh."
There is no length issue. This is someone thinking, "I'll just remove this indefinite article because Coren is an illiterate cunt and i know best."
Well, you fucking don't. This was shit, shit subediting for three reasons.
1) "Nosh", as I'm sure you fluent Yiddish speakers know, is a noun formed from a bastardisation of the German "naschen". It is a verb, and can be construed into two distinct nouns. One, "nosh" means simply "food". You have decided that this is what i meant and removed the "a". I am insulted enough that you think you have a better ear for English than me. But a better ear for Yiddish? I doubt it. Because the other noun, "nosh" means "a session of eating" ...
2) I will now explain why your error is even more shit than it looks. You see, i was making a joke. I do that sometimes. I have set up the street as "sexually charged". I have described the shenanigans across the road at G.A.Y. I have used the word "gaily" as a gentle nudge. And "looking for a nosh" has a secondary meaning of looking for a blowjob. Not specifically gay, for this is soho, and there are plenty of girls there who take money for noshing boys. "looking for nosh" does not have that ambiguity. the joke is gone. I only wrote that sodding paragraph to make that joke. And you've fucking stripped it out like a pissed Irish plasterer restoring a renaissance fresco and thinking jesus looks shit with a bear so plastering over it. You might as well have removed the whole paragraph. I mean, fucking christ, don't you read the copy?
3) And worst of all. Dumbest, deafest, shittest of all, you have removed the unstressed "a" so that the stress that should have fallen on "nosh" is lost, and my piece ends on an unstressed syllable. When you're winding up a piece of prose, metre is crucial. Can't you hear? Can't you hear that it is wrong? It's not fucking rocket science. It's fucking pre-GCSE scansion. I have written 350 restaurant reviews for The Times and i have never ended on an unstressed syllable. Fuck. fuck, fuck, fuck.
I am sorry if this looks petty (last time i mailed a Times sub about the change of a single word i got in all sorts of trouble) but i care deeply about my work and i hate to have it fucked up by shit subbing ... And, just out of interest, I'd like whoever made that change to email me and tell me why. Tell me the exact reasoning which led you to remove that word from my copy.
Right, Sorry to go on. Anger, real steaming fucking anger can make a man verbose.
All the best
There are a couple more of his gems here.