Every day I check the obituaries (just to make sure my name isn’t there). I often read about fascinating lives. Sometimes, however, I read things that make me laugh—usually caused by a grammar, punctuation or usage error. Here is the first sentence of a recent find:
“Dr. [X] was a doctor who practiced medicine for the joy of helping others, not for the money or notoriety.”
You know what “notoriety” means, right? Yes, it means “famous,” but always in a pejorative sense. It is a synonym for “infamous.” OJ Simpson is notorious. Osama bin Laden is notorious. Benedict Arnold is notorious. Chances are this doctor would not have wanted to be notorious under any circumstances.
Perhaps I should start an editing service for people writing obituaries for their relatives. Before they send them in to the newspapers, they could run them by me to make sure they don’t say anything that will make readers laugh or groan. I could call it “Your Last Letter.”
Or maybe I should just stick to corporate editing.