General Question

JackAdams's avatar

Have I found an error in the 1939 novel, "GADSBY"?

Asked by JackAdams (6574points) August 24th, 2008

This book by Ernest Vincent Wright, was “A Story of Over 50,000 Words, Without Using the Letter ‘E’,” with the author claiming that, “All words used are complete; are correctly spelled and properly used.”

I respectfully disagree with the author, who makes this comment in his introductory remarks: “Before the book was in print, I was freely and openly informed ‘there is a trick, or catch, somewhere in that claim that there is not one letter E in the entire book, after you leave the Introduction.’ Well; it is the privilege of the reader to unearth any such deception that he or she may think they can find.”

Here is a verbatim sentence from Chapter 18 of that book:

“This kid has lost a-a-a-crittur; I think it was a pup, wasn’t it, kid?”

The word “CRITTUR” is NOT FOUND at

So, did I or did I not discover a spelling error in this unique volume?

The website for the entire book (including the Introduction) is at:

August 24, 2008, 2:06 PM EDT

Observing members: 0 Composing members: 0

64 Answers

osullivanbr's avatar

Sorry to burst your bubble jack.

Keep looking though

JackAdams's avatar

I go by the dictionary I cited.

August 24, 2008, 2:47 PM EDT

osullivanbr's avatar

It’s still a word though.

lefteh's avatar

I go by the dictionary I cited.

It is totally and entirely ridiculous to assert that a word was incorrect because it is not found in the abridged, online version of a dictionary nearly 70 years after its publication.

flyawayxxballoon's avatar

If it is in any dictionary at all, you have found no error.

lefteh's avatar

Besides, perhaps, urbandictionary.

JackAdams's avatar

I go by the dictionary I cited.

August 24, 2008, 3:32 PM EDT

lefteh's avatar

The abridged, online version of a dictionary published 70 years after that novel?

Whan that aprill with his shoures soote
The droghte of march hath perced to the roote,
And bathed every veyne in swich licour
Of which vertu engendred is the flour;
Whan zephirus eek with his sweete breeth
Inspired hath in every holt and heeth
Tendre croppes, and the yonge sonne
Hath in the ram his halve cours yronne,
And smale foweles maken melodye,
That slepen al the nyght with open ye

I wish you the best of luck finding many of those words in the dictionary that you go by. That does not mean that Chaucher is incorrect. Language changes.

JackAdams's avatar

I stand by my previous comment.

August 24, 2008, 3:41 PM EDT

lefteh's avatar

So Chaucher and Shakespeare are incorrect? I don’t understand your thinking here.

JackAdams's avatar

I stand by my previous comment.

August 24, 2008, 3:47 PM EDT

dsjhfsg's avatar

I have a business card I got from a plumber, and I go by THAT as my reference for valid words.

I conclude that all but 8 of the 165,000 words in JackAdams’ beloved Merriam-Webster dictionary are invalid.

That plumber’s card is the dictionary I go by, and I stand by this comment.

lefteh's avatar

@JackAdams: I realize this. Would you mind defending it?

JackAdams's avatar

Nope. My previous comments are sufficient.

August 24, 2008, 3:41 PM EDT

lefteh's avatar

No, they are not. You have not made it clear why you think that it is acceptable to apply an abridged version of 2008 English to a 1939 novel.

JackAdams's avatar

My previous comments are sufficient.

August 24, 2008, 3:53 PM EDT

crunchaweezy's avatar

fail fail fail fail

osullivanbr's avatar

lefteh. You might as well give up. He’s just a bit sore now because we told him he was wrong.

chutterhanban's avatar

Jack, you are a funny fellow. Everyone else, don’t let him get to you. He’s sitting at his computer laughing at you all for continuing to reply. Anyone intelligent enough to post a question like this is not ignorant enough to really think that his “previous comments [were] sufficient.”

Lightlyseared's avatar

The Oxford English Dictionary recognizes crittur as a jocular variation of the word creature first recorded use 1815 D. HUMPHREYS The Yankey in England “Cooking for the crew, and taking care of the dum critturs”.

As the word is part of characters speech anyway I don’t really think it counts as writers often misspell words so they sound how they think the character would say them so as to enforce the character and the world they are trying to create.

So to answer your question no you did not discover a spelling mistake.

And I stand by my dictionary of choice. Literally, the damn thing comes in 20 volumes and weighs 137llbs

jlm11f's avatar

I have nothing to say about the actual Q, but after going to the link provided in the Q, I read the whole “author’s note”, and i found it interesting how he said that he didn’t even use the words “Chapter #”, because he didn’t want the “e” in even the heading. Yet he used #s to symbolize different chapters, such as “1”, “3” etc, which when spelled out, would have the “e”. I am not complaining or saying i found an error etc, I just found it interesting that he didn’t think of another way to denote/symbolize chapters after going through “five and a half months” of detail as it is.

JackAdams's avatar

He probably should have labeled the chapters as: A B C D F G H I, etc.

August 24, 2008, 5:48 PM EDT

jlm11f's avatar

that wouldn’t work, because then it would be obvious he was leaving out the E and that would go against the chronological order of the alphabet. it would have to be a system, where he isn’t blatantly avoiding the E.

JackAdams's avatar

The entire BOOK “blatantly” avoids the “E,” respectfully.

August 24, 2008, 7:03 PM EDT

JackAdams's avatar

Many years ago, I was an avid Scrabble (board game) fan, and actually participated in a few local tournaments, winning none, but having fun playing them, just the same. In all of these tournaments, it was understood that if you participated, you had to agree to abide by all of the rules, and all of the decisions by the judges, during tournament play.

One rule that could not be violated under any circumstances nor conditions was that if a challenged word was not found in the Official Scrabble Dictionary, it could not be used in official tournament play, even if it was indeed found in another kind of dictionary.

On the board in front of me in one official (local) tournament game, was the word “TIC.”

I took the letters “ATAVIS” from my tray and placed them in front of the word “TIC,” making the new word, “ATAVISTIC.”

My opponent challenged that word, saying that it could not be used, because such a word was NOT in the Official Scrabble Dictionary. A judge confirmed that that word was indeed missing from the Official Scrabble Dictionary, and the word was disallowed, despite my vehement (and very vocal) protestations.

I had a non-Scrabble dictionary with me, and proved to the judge that the word was real, and did, in fact, exist.

The judge smiled at me and said, “Sorry, you lose this one.”

The word CRITTUR may indeed be in YOUR dictionary, but it is not in the online dictionary I originally referenced in the details section of the question I created, so it is “disallowed” by me.

“Sorry, you lose this one.” (LOL)

Moral: “Learn to accept defeat, graciously.”

And for those of you who THINK you “know it all,” please tell me (and everyone else) the maiden name of my first grade school teacher, and the color of her hair, to PROVE that you indeed, “know everything.”

Remember, please, that I called no one a “liar,” nor did I say that I didn’t believe you. I said that I am going to accept as “final,” the online dictionary I referenced, just as the judge in the above example, accepted only HIS dictionary reference, and not the one I showed to him.

What is “fair” for ONE, must be “fair” FOR ALL.

I wouldn’t mind politely discussing this issue, of course, but I refuse to argue with anyone, because, as I have witnessed in other Q & A forums, “arguers get suspended,” as did some friends of mine, over at “Brand X.”

August 24, 2008, 7:09 PM EDT

lefteh's avatar

Scrabble is your argument? Really?

osullivanbr's avatar

Oh right so. Since you mention the scrabble judge that makes all the difference. ~

You found an error. Well done ~

JackAdams's avatar

Glad you understand. I shall share my lottery winnings with you.

August 24, 2008, 7:28 PM EDT

jlm11f's avatar

@JackAdams – you might want to brush up on this old but important thread Also, your scrabble story, though heart wrenching, is not a good argument since in that story, the judge was given the duty to decide what is and isn’t a word. You, sadly, have no such provided duty. So you cannot “disallow” anything. Well, in your mind, the novel can be fake, but you cannot expect others to agree with this delusion.

Let me remind you that your Q asked “have i found an error bla bla”, the collective has decided that no, indeed, you haven’t found an error. You might agree/disagree with the collective, that’s your prerogative.

JackAdams's avatar

“Let me remind you that your Q asked “have i found an error bla bla”, the collective has decided that no, indeed, you haven’t found an error. You might agree/disagree with the collective, that’s your prerogative.”

Eight different posters does not a “collective” make, if we are to assume that there are 10,000 registered members.

The question (and details) poses that if only the source mentioned ( ) is used as a guide/yardstick, and the word in question is not found (as it was not found), then has an “error” of some kind been discovered?

Yes, it has.

If every English-language dictionary in the world is consulted, has an error been found?

No, it has not.

But again, the original question and details did not ask if such was true with ALL dictionaries.

The person writing any question in here, in a way, sets the parameters within a question, or within the details section, as I have done.

I can agree with the other 8 people discussing this question, or I can disagree with them, as is my freedom to choose.

I can also reply, or not reply, as I choose. It’s called, “Freedom of Expression.”

The same rights/policies that allow you to say whatever you wish to me, as you have done, give me the self-same “permission” to say whatever I wish to you, or anyone else, in response.

Based only on the parameters of the question and the details, I have indeed found a genuine error in the story. If the parameters are changed to accommodate you and some others, then I have not.

One thing I was not allowed to do when taking college examinations, according to one of my professors, was “change the question.”

He told me, “You must answer the question, based only on how it is asked, if you want your answer to count.”

I heard and believed, and all was good.

And on the 7th day, I rested.

August 24, 2008, 9:30 PM EDT

chutterhanban's avatar

Are you aware of the definitions of the words “abridged” and “unabridged?” ... which, I might add, are surely found in each of our dictionaries. I think you know where I’m going. BUT, of course, you’ll say that you don’t. Enjoy the predictability.

Still, that doesn’t matter at all. The problem here is that you weren’t asking us. You were telling us that you are completely convinced that you found an error—which is evident in your denial of the unanimous response. As PnL said, you don’t decide which dictionary to use (which works out well because it looks like you have chosen an incomplete one).

Let me wrap it up… whether you like it or not, we all know (including you) that you are sitting there defending a lost cause—if your “argument” had to go before whatever committee it could go before, you would lose. Furthermore, if that wasn’t what you were looking for, then you asked the wrong question.

JackAdams's avatar

If I had your attitude, I could have been prosecuted, convicted and jailed.

I was impaneled on a jury, several years ago, and the Judge, in his jury instructions, set the parameters for us to use in determining the defendant’s guilt or innocence.

I adhered to those parameters, and voted accordingly, based only on them.

Perhaps, had I been like you, I would have said to myself, “Well, I hear what the Judge is saying, but I’m gonna reject his parameters and decide, based on other criteria.”

In other words, I will use my OWN “dictionary” (“evidence, testimony”) and TO HELL with what the Judge said in his instructions.

One of the reasons that I do very well in my profession, is because my clients set the parameters for what they expect me to do for them, and I don’t change or challenge those ground rules, without first discussing any propsed changes with them, in advance.

If you will carefully examine questions that I did not create, but to which I have supplied an answer, I don’t believe you will find one instance where I said to the poser, “Can you please change the parameters of your question, so my answer will become appropriate?”

If you can find such an instance, please point it out to me, and I promise to publicly apologize for it.

August 24, 2008, 9:59 PM EDT

Tantigirl's avatar

Ahhhhh JackAdams, argument for argument’s sake huh?!!! lol

I guess we have to agree to disagree on this one.

JackAdams's avatar

That’s what I love!

Someone who KNOWS when to quit (while they’re behind).

After all, no money is involved in this, right? LOL

August 24, 2008, 11:06 PM EDT

Tantigirl's avatar

HEY, don’t insult my behind!!!! lol

delirium's avatar


I swear, this is relevant.

Trance24's avatar

::Bang:: ::Boom:: DEAD…

I believe it is very relevant delirium

JackAdams's avatar


I’m HIT!

August 24, 2008, 11:39 PM EDT

Tantigirl's avatar

It wasn’t a dictionary that hit ya was it JackAdams? lmao

JackAdams's avatar

That’s “Mister Adams” to you…


August 24, 2008, 11:50 PM EDT

chutterhanban's avatar

Adams 1
Fluther 0

Harp's avatar

Adams 1
Human Reason and all that’s sacred 0

JackAdams's avatar

No No No!

We’re TIED!

August 25, 2008, 4:29 AM EDT

Lightlyseared's avatar

The difference between an abridged pocket dictionary and a complete dictionary is simmilar to the difference between the Junior Encylopedia of the human body and Netters Anatomy. Both are technically correct but I would prefer it if my doctor got his info from the latter

JackAdams's avatar

We are in complete agreement, regarding that statement.

August 25, 2008, 4:57 AM EDT

robmandu's avatar

“Some people are determined to deliberately misunderstand much of what they encounter in life. Sometimes I have a hard time realizing that that’s their problem, not mine.”

—Clusterflock interviews Jason Kottke

dsjhfsg's avatar

OK then Jack.

If YOU were somehow granted the authority to decide, retroactively, the single dictionary to which GADSBY should be held, then yes, you found…

NOPE! The answer is still “no”. You didn’t “find” an error, you created an error in a hypothetical situation.

But even for that to work, you would have had to say ”hypothetically, if this one dictionary were the only legitimate reference, would I have [created] an error?”. Then you would have the authority to decide which dictionary is the only one to use, and the answer would be “yes”.

But if you want to create your own hypothetical reality to create an “error”, why not go ahead and re-write all of GADSBY? You could ask “Hypothetically, if the book GADSBY accidentally used the word ‘the’ 6 times, and in some locations just replaces e’s with x’s, would I have created hypothetical errors?”

Yes, and you would be just as clever as you currently think yourself to be.

JackAdams's avatar

Try to remember that my original Q stated, in the “details” section, that “The word “CRITTUR” is NOT FOUND at

That’s a true statement, as far as it went.

Had I done a better job of checking (and used more than one dictionary source) I would have found the word, and would not have created the original question.

But again, using the original parameters of my question, however limited they were, I did, in fact, find an error, and my original contention (based on my limited checking) was truthful.

I should have checked every online dictionary source available, but for some reason, I chose to use the most popular source available, and erroneously assumed that if the word wasn’t in it, then it might not be in the others. I was wrong to make sucn an assumption.

August 27, 2008, 7:05 AM EDT

Harp's avatar

Your statement, “The word “CRITTUR” is NOT FOUND at” is not a question, but a description of your methodology for answering the question.

The actual question, as you yourself formulated it, is “Have I found an error in the 1939 novel, ‘GADSBY’?”.

Nowhere in your question or the details do you say that the answerer must use your(admittedly flawed) methodology to answer the question.

The answer is that the error lies not in the book, but in your methodology.

JackAdams's avatar

I already admitted to that. You are being dedundant.

August 27, 2008, 10:28 AM EDT

robmandu's avatar

< < thinks dedundant just sounds funny (albeit strangely apropos here)... and wonders what dictionary it’s in.

JackAdams's avatar

[heavy sigh]

All right, which one of you hacked into my account, and changed REDUNDANT (which I had originally typed)?

If you confess, things will go easier for you.

We have ways of making you talk…

August 27, 2008, 3:12 PM EDT

lefteh's avatar

Really Jack?
You have an awful hard time admitting mistakes, eh?

JackAdams's avatar

Some people are unable to recognize sarcasm, even when it is “rectally inserted.”

August 27, 2008, 8:07 PM EDT

delirium's avatar

Ironic you say that…

lefteh's avatar

Ironic indeed.

JackAdams's avatar

Glad we agree…

August 27, 2008, 9:19 PM EDT

lefteh's avatar

We do not.

JackAdams's avatar

Then erase the, “Ironic indeed,” comment.

August 27, 2008, 9:52 PM EDT

lefteh's avatar

I was agreeing with delirium, not you. You probably don’t understand why it is ironic.
Now, I am done honoring your nonsense with responses.

JackAdams's avatar

Thanks. I look forward to not reading any more of them.

August 27, 2008, 10:01 PM EDT

chutterhanban's avatar

what a phenomenal set of posts!

Response moderated (Unhelpful)

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