In a Word

n. careless handwriting

Of all editorial writers, Horace Greeley was most noted for illegible copy. On one occasion the ‘modern Franklin’ penned something about ‘Suburban journalism advancing,’ but the typesetter, thinking it one of his famous agricultural articles, launched out wildly with the words, ‘Superb Jerusalem artichokes.’ The stories of the wild work made by compositors with Mr. Greeley’s writing are endless, and probably most of them inventions; but the fiction cannot possibly outdo the reality. One of his editorial headings, ‘William H. Seward,’ was turned into ‘William the Third’; and the quotation from Shakespeare, ”Tis true, ’tis pity, and pity ’tis ’tis true,’ came out ”Tis two, ’tis fifty and fifty, ’tis fifty-two.’ That a sign-painter turned the placard ‘Entrance on Spruce’ to put up on the Nassau Street door during repairs, into ‘Editors on a Spree,’ is probably apocryphal; but the familiar legend that a discharged printer took his note of dismissal and used it for a letter of recommendation, securing a place on the strength of the signature, which was all anybody could read, is likely enough to have been true.

Travelers’ Record, April 1889

See Pen Mystique.