Monday, July 27, 2009

Largess vs. Largesse

I hope you all had a good week. My week of vacation was spent by the beach and with rainy days filled with reading. 

It's always a pleasure to read, even when it's just a so-so novel. My beach-reading novel this year was The Spanish Bow, by Andromeda Romano-Lax, about a Spanish cellist who meets nearly every European luminary in the first half of the 20th century. The cello is my favorite instrument, though I can't say the unlikely events in the novel make this book my favorite novel. 

I was impressed, however, by the fine copyediting throughout the book. Try as I might, I just can't turn off my copyediting mind even when reading a novel for pleasure. I didn't spot a single copyediting mistake in the entire book--unlike the numerous mistakes I noted in Diane Athill's latest memoir, Somewhere Towards the End. The only questionable spelling was "largess," as in generosity. Webster's Collegiate Dictionary prefers "largesse," but lists "largess" as an alternate spelling. It's not wrong without the ending "e," it just caught my attention. 

How's your summer reading going? Do you have any recommendations or any copyediting tidbits? Leave a comment below.

Above illustration courtesy (click on the link for a definition of largess and an explanation of the illustration and pun).


  1. Thank you as used in the cartoon should be hypehated. Thank-you for allowing me to comment. I thank you once again.

  2. . . . and hyphenated should be spelled correctly in comments.

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. Thanks, Michael, but I believe the cartoon is correct as is.

    Thank-you, with the hyphen, is the noun: He sent a thank-you to Kim for the gift.

    Thank you, without the hyphen, is the verb. In the cartoon, the speaker is expressing gratitude for the donation.

  5. Well, I thank you for the excelent description of largess. I had always seen and used largesse, but my new e-mail server(Google) claims that "largess" is the only acceptable spelling. The on-line dictionary I checked defined them differently and did not reference one to the other. I thought I was losing my mind, then I saw your little article and immediately felt better. Thanks!


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