Plague of the dead-ants

It was Monty Python who rhymed “pedant” with “dead ant”. Not that it matters, really. The thought only occurs to me because I an thinking that the English language needs a new word.

It already contains the much-misused “pedant”, all too often applied to those who simply favour accuracy. Let us be clear about this; a pedant is someone who obsessively finds fault in unimportant points without seeing the “big picture” (For example, Adolf Hitler was a pedant, as witness his obsession with the minutiae of German armour; the “big picture” was that the USA and USSR were each making several times as many tanks as Germany).

The new word, though, is for a type that is showing up on the internet. It has some similarities to the pedant but there is the crucial difference that this new type finds fault where fault doesn’t exist.

To illustrate, some time ago, I encountered one of these creatures commenting on Blake’s Jerusalem, making the observation that it was geographically inaccurate; Jerusalem wasn’t built in England.

Of course Jerusalem wasn’t built (or even builded) in England. As anybody who has ever bothered to read the poem properly knows, it contains the rhetorical question, “was Jerusalem builded here…?” and we are supposed to arrive at the answer “no”. In any case, he is not talking about the physical city. You must be very stupid not to be able to grasp this, yet this individual felt qualified to dismiss one of the classics of English poetry out of hand for something Blake never wrote.

Rather less famously, my novel The Cage is on Goodreads. This book is a dystopian piece in three parts, the first set in Shropshire, the second in Chester and the third in Wales. The blurb mentions North Wales, this being the location of the eponymous “cage”. But the Goodreads system includes locations and mentions Chester. Nothing wrong with that, you might think; the book is set in both places.

Well, someone did find something wrong with it. Another of these individuals felt it necessary to comment on the book, to the effect that Chester isn’t in North Wales. I know that! Everybody knows that! The book doesn’t say that Chester is in North Wales; the Goodreads page doesn’t say that Chester is in North Wales. This individual hasn’t read the book (virtually no one has — you try selling dystopian fiction in these days!) yet he feels qualified to point out an error the book doesn’t make. (You might also wonder why he is taking the time to pick holes in an obscure novel he hasn’t bothered to read — GAFL!).

So, do we need a new word to cover this type of thing or is there a word already but one — like “misandry” — which is so rarely used that almost no one knows it? If you know, do let me know!

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