The 217-day siege of Mafeking was a pivotal episode in the Second Boer War that ended in a decisive victory for the British and made a national hero of Robert Baden-Powell. The site of the siege, now a provincial capital of South Africa, has been known by various names—Mafeking, Mafikeng, Mahikeng—but never by the one Màrius Carol used in his editorial in La Vanguardia on Friday. Not even close.
What factors conspired to allow this blemish to appear under the name, signature and photo of the paper’s editor-in-chief?
We propose several possible explanations, in ascending order of likelihood:
1. La Vanguardia does not actually have an editor-in-chief; “Màrius Carol” is the pseudonym of an organ grinder monkey with a typewriter who, until last Friday, had been on a lucky streak.
2. Màrius Carol is a double agent for El Foreing Office.
3. Nobody copyedited this editorial.
4. Somebody copyedited the editorial but let the typo slide so as not to irk the boss.
5. The correct spelling of “Mafeking” is a matter of utter indifference to Màrius Carol. So obscure is the siege to all but the slimmest fraction of La Vanguardia‘s readership that he fears no reprisal. Nor does he feel guilty about misinforming the populace; his mention of the siege is but a pawn in the service of his greater point about—no less!—the indispensability of newspapers and the extent to which readers are prepared to overlook their shortcomings. He regards La Vanguardia‘s readers as unlettered rubes on whom factual accuracy would be wasted. The copyeditor is also an unlettered rube, and a lazy one at that.
Special thanks to JM, a member of that slimmest fraction.