I still remember one of my first edits, way back in 1990. An author had written a wonderful western and I was doing my earnest best to be a good editor.
But one phrase stopped me. “She took a wild hair.”
I remember trying to look that up. This was back in the editing on paper, hours standing by the copier with each version of the manuscript time. In fact, it was really pre-computer on the desk days! We had typewriters, carbon copy pages and I was the lucky assistant editor with two balls (italics and roman) for my typewriter!
A further digression—when computers came about, the office got two (or three?) and they were in general areas and you had to book time to use the computer, and your floppy disk (those 5 1/4” ones!) was quite valuable! Happily, they were mostly free after five and I remember enjoying writing/revising my letters in a quiet office with no one waiting on line.
In any case, I couldn’t figure out if this was a misspelling or not. Was it “hare” as in rabbit? They were farmers/outdoor characters, so maybe that hare was right?
Or was it a wild hair like the ones that grew out of your nose/ears in a different direction? But I couldn’t see that fitting in context.
I don’t remember much more, but I did flag it, figuring if I was stopped, others would be too.
And I vaguely remember the author coming back laughing at this native New Yorker who didn’t have a clue about a wild hair!
It turns out a “wild hair” is a sudden intense desire to do something. You’re “itching” and something is pushing you forward (like a stray hair after a haircut makes you squirm).
I have rarely seen that phrase in other titles, yet it always makes me think of that edit, of checking assumptions and the joy of discovering new words and new meanings to familiar things.
I did leave the phrase in, and it fits with the character and situation. But I do wonder sometimes about the balance between letting an author’s voice come through and making it easy for a reader to follow along.
These days, I will often trust the author, but question things I don’t know or aren’t familiar with. UrbanDictionary.com gets quite a workout on some titles! Though often that doesn’t help either. If it’s clear from the context, I’m more apt to leave it as is.
But there’s always the sheer pleasure of the possibility of words and sharing those phrases and twists with readers.
Any phrases that have delighted you?