Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Calling a Spade a Spade

My copyeditor, Heidi, made a suggestion that has got me thinking. I have a character digging with something I refer to as a "round end shovel," the garden variety shovel that I used to call a spade until about ten years ago. My brother Mike also calls it a "round end shovel." Heidi suggested the more proper variant "round ended shovel," but that doesn't sound natural. So I've been going around asking everyone I run into what they call the shovel in question, and most of them call it a "spade." According to all dictionary and encyclopedic definitions, that is wrong. A spade is a flat-ended implement across the board, and then there is something called a "garden spade." The farm and garden stores here in Kalamazoo and on-line call the rounded shovel a "round point shovel." Here's the passage in question.

"He was standing in mud, resting, with both hands on his round-end shovel, when he saw the big orange snake, its body as thick as his step-son’s arms, folded on the rocks."

I have until Monday at noon to make this decision and all the rest, at which time I will send the manuscript back to my copyeditor, Heidi. My Darling Christopher says I'm overthinking it... but that is just the sort of gal I am. And now that I've pasted that sentence in, I'm wondering if there are altogether too many commas going on.


rams said...

Grammatical or not, "rounded end shovel" clangs on the ear. And surely the story demands the nomenclature the character himself would use? Doesn't strike me as a guy who'd hold out for usage over utility.

(May be alittle comma-heavy, though. Try it without any commas until the one after "snake" and see what you think.)

bonniejo said...

Oops! Hey, rams, I accidentally wrote "rounded-end shovel" when really Heidi suggested "round-ended," which is a little better but still not quite right. I fixed it in the blog.