Regrets, I've had TKHOWMANY | Bleader

Regrets, I've had TKHOWMANY

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While we spend the week revisiting past glories on the Bleader, I want to look back on the most shameful thing that was not my fault (as opposed to the most shameful thing that was my fault—a different matter entirely, and once it's identified I'll be sure to atone) that I've endured this year. It was on the occasion of the Reader's inaugural Valentine's Day issue, which a couple of coworkers and I were tasked (against our will) with putting together. When the thing was nearing completion I volunteered to write the introduction, seeing in it a chance to express myself the best way I knew how—with a minimum of tact, a maximum of vulgarity, and a lot of adjectives. I felt pretty good about this. You can read it here, if you'd like. The thing was sent to press and when I got to the office the next morning I looked at a PDF of the intro to see how it was laid out—very nicely, except that in the last paragraph, where I'd detailed all the different components of the V-Day issue, and attempted to refer readers to specific pages, there were no fewer than seven TKs in place of the page numbers. TK is editorial shorthand for "to come"—text symbolizing something that ideally will have been inserted into the piece before it's sent to the printer. Something that you, the reader, are generally not supposed to see when you open your newspaper.

I was having a pretty lousy Valentine's season anyhow.

There's not much I can find on the Internet on the provenance of this peculiar abbreviation, though Wikipedia suggests (legitimate research sources TK) that the intentionally misspelled version "may originally have come into use because very few words feature the letter combination of 't' followed by 'k'." And then, a bit wryly: "Occasionally a copy editor may mistakenly allow an article to be published with a stray TK intact, which is a source for much embarrassment and ridicule in the news room." Though, as Dave Weigel pointed out the other day, the specific TK formulation isn't necessary for this type of embarrassment—the other day the New York Times let slip an "And another line here."

A meeting after the fated V-Day issue dropped was devoted to teasing out "what went wrong" in the process, though nobody had to eat their sword (unmixed metaphor TK) or anything for it: those page numbers were filled in by somebody at some point, though somehow the wrong version was the one that was sent to the printer. Computers were blamed, in any event.

The placeholder text that's a little harder to let slip into print is lorem ipsum—thought of as fake Latin—because generally it can fill the place of whole paragraphs, and hopefully an editorial staff will be astute enough to notice when whole paragraphs of text are completely imcomprehensible. In 2001 Cecil Adams looked into the history of lorem ipsum, and determined it not to be fake Latin at all. Adams reported that a former Latin professor, Richard McClintock, had researched one of the more obscure-looking of the words in a standard block of lorem ipsum—consectetur—and traced it back to a speech by none other than Cicero, the only Latin-speaking person anyone outside of classics departments has ever heard of. The text is "slightly scrambled," Adams writes, but McClintock translated the Ciceronian text to this: "There is no one who loves pain itself, who seeks after it and wants to have it, simply because it is pain . . ."

Clearly a guy who's seen a TK or two make it into print.

Anyway, Adams was impressed with the staying power of lorem ipsum, which has remained through the ages to be the placeholder text of choice. This, though, was in 2001, and before Internet 2.0, which in its vast creativity has gifted us a number of variations on the standard lorem ipsum.

There's hipster ipsum. There's Samuel L. Ipsum. And there is—so sorry for this—lorem ipsum inspired by Fifty Shades of Grey.

Read more from Recycling Week, this week's Variations on a Theme:

"All week long, revisiting old Bleader writing," by Tal Rosenberg
"The terrorist mind—a look back at a 1972 plot to poison Chicago," by Michael Miner
"Chicago Gourmet: a look back," by Julia Thiel
"Have the NFL and referees finally come to an agreement?" by Jerome Ludwig
"Revisiting working hard and playing hard, but not 'work hard, play hard,'" by Steve Bogira
"Pathos in a shit storm," by Kate Schmidt

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