Pedants of the World, We Salute You

Bryan Henderson has corrected the same ungrammatical phrase on Wikipedia 47,000 times. With one gear-change he’d be a satirist

Have you ever shouted at the wireless when a guest on Today begins his first answer with the word so? Are you more shocked by greengrocers’ use of the apostrophe than by the cost of Little Gem lettuces? Do you never have less than seven items, but sometimes fewer? Were you annoyed by my use of the word wireless just now?

Your answers will indicate whether you think there’s anything at all weird about Bryan Henderson, aged 51, having corrected the same ungrammatical phrase 47,000 times. He does not like the construction “comprised of ”, and changes it where he can. Wrong: “The Commons is comprised of 650 MPs.” Right: “The Commons comprises 650 MPs.” Unlike guerrilla grammarians who correct street signs with felt-tip pens (as at “Scholars Walk”, in Cambridge of all places), Mr Henderson blamelessly makes corrections entirely on Wikipedia. The whole point of that online encyclopedia is to be corrected and amplified by a buzzing cloud-source of amateur pedants.

Mr Henderson’s corrections take him about an hour a week, and he does them on Sunday evenings mostly. No, not mostly, always. For Mr Henderson likes things to be regular. He always wears a red, short-sleeve polo-shirt to work. That is no crime. After all, Wittgenstein told his landlady that he didn’t mind what he had for dinner, as long as it was the same every day, and people who understand him tell me he was an excellent philosopher.

Giraffedata’s Wikipedia user page

One need not start talking about a spectrum of behaviour, I think, in order to explain the urge to correct. Goodness knows, any newspaper sub-editor develops a déformation professionnelle tempting him to edit your conversation even as the words tumble from your lips. He’s ready with his anti-error fly-swat the moment you say that Istanbul is the capital of Turkey.

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