Monday, August 15, 2005


I note this error in the New Yorker not out of any sense of superiority, but out of admiration for how rare it is to ever find an error--or even a typo--in America's greatest magazine. So here's Galley Friend C.L. noting a big mistake in Peter Schjeldahl's piece on Winslow Homer:
Schjeldahl writes: "In the second-one of Homer's last works-two foreground ducks taking off from turbulent waters are hit by a distant hunter's double-barrelled buckshot; one has flipped upside down, and the other is transfixed with neck straining and wings spread, startled by death."

Anybody who's ever hunted ducks knows that you would never, ever, ever use the word BUCKSHOT. Buckshot (like the name pretty much says) is intended for big game; birdshot (like the name pretty much says) is intended for birds. If you hit a duck with buckshot--that's a huge if, by the way, since putting a single slug on a flying mallard at normal range would
challenge even a fantastic shooter--the thing would evaporate. You might as well shove a stick of dynamite up its ass. More to the point, a bird hit with buckshot wouldn't look like the birds in Homer's "Left and Right." It would look like a puff, and a few floating feathers.

There it is. We probably won't see a mistake in the New Yorker again until March 2007.


craig said...

correcting the correction:

the writer implies that buckshot is a single projectile. Buckshot loads have anywhere from 9 to 30 projectiles. They are like birshot, just bigger pellets.

The main point still stands-- you don't hunt ducks with buck shot.

Aaron said...

More important New Yorker question: When is your beloved New Yorker going to stop publishing the insufferable John Updike?

Bill Walsh said...

So here's some good shotgun trivia. Did you know that in the Old West, people frequently carried ten-gauge shotguns? (With double- and triple-ought shot!) Which is essentially like having ten .32 or .38 bullets in a barrel with a charge behind them.

Famously, Wyatt Earp stumbled into a shotgun duel with the leader of the Cowboys, who got off the first shot. Amazingly, he tore up Earp's coat, but missed him. Earp gave him both barrels and essentially tore him in half.

Lesson: Don't stand in front of a shotgun.

Michael said...

Additionally, "double-barreled" is not an adjective that applies to shot, neither the bird nor buck variety. It's a perfectly good adjective to apply to a shotgun, however, double-barreled shotguns are pretty much only used for birds and bird-simulations like clay targets (John Kerry received much heckling after courting the hunting vote with tales of stalking deer by crawling through the mud with his trusty double-barrelled shotgun.

Bill Walsh said...

Ok, poked around a little on the Internet. It was "Curley Bill" Brocious whom Earp ventilated with his shotgun. R.I.P., shootists.