This just in: we are idiots

May 14, 2009

Do you want to know how stupid my co-blogger Matt Wedel is?  Having already discussed the ostrich Struthio camelus in Wedel et al. (2000b), that total idiot went on to misspell the trivial name as “camellus” in Wedel and Cifelli (2005:52).  What a doofus.

And do you want to know how dumb my other co-blogger Darren Naish is?  Throughout Naish and Dyke (2005), he consistently misspelled the species name of Elopteryx nopcsai as “nopscai“, despite extensively discussing Nopcsa, who the species was named after.  What a moron.

It’s a good thing I would never do anything so stupid.

Er.  Read on …

Brachiosaurus altithorax holotype FMNH P25107, last five dorsal vertebrae in right lateral view.  Photograph by Phil Mannion.

Brachiosaurus altithorax holotype FMNH P25107, last five dorsal vertebrae in right lateral view. Photograph by Phil Mannion.

So I have this paper in press about the two “Brachiosaurus” species and how they are not really congeneric — I think we’ve mentioned it a few times.  It’s now very nearly a year since I submitted it, under the title: A re-evaluation of Brachiosaurus altithorax Riggs 1904 (Dinosauria, Sauropoda) and its generic separation from Giraffatitan brancai Janensch 1914.  And now — now, a year on, after having re-read this manuscript some insane number of times — I finally notice my own grotesque error: Riggs of course named B. altithorax in 1903.  Argh!  So in the last few days, I’ve spent some crazy amount of time going through and changing this title in my dissertation (where it pops up as Chapter 2), in my CV, in my on-line publications list … and of course, making a GIGANTIC sign in flashing red neon, to be suspended before my eyeballs at all times, reminding me to fix this in the page-proof when that turns up.

(Actually, I think this error is the most astounding of all: not only did I miss it myself, but so did my Ph.D supervisor, the handling editor at SVP, both peer-reviewers, the self-invited third “reviewer” who sent his unsolicited comments, both of my examiners and the two or three people that I’ve sent preprints to.  Incredible that ten or more people could all miss such a horribly obvious mistake right there in the title.)

So.  You’d think that just about exhausted Matt’s, Darren’s and my doofosity, right?  Oh ho ho.  Not so, because we have a paper in press that we wrote together.  We submitted it, revised it according to the reviews, commented on the page-proofs and told the journal it was all ready to go.  And then — THEN — we noticed a horrible, stupid mistake right in the middle of the abstract.  The paper is about osteological neutral pose, but we’d written “osteological neural pose”.  And all three of us missed it.  (Happy ending: we told the journal what we’d done, and it wasn’t too late to fix.)

So the moral of the story is: we are idiots.

Just thought you ought to know.



17 Responses to “This just in: we are idiots”

  1. hypocentre Says:

    The royal mail published a set of dinosaur stamps to celebrate 150 years of Owen’s term ‘dinosauria’ only for Hugh Torrens to point out that it was actually a year out.

  2. As an idiot myself, it’s good to know I’m in such esteemed company…

  3. Zach Miller Says:

    That’s too funny. Everyone knows that B. altithorax was named in 1904! You silly geese. Now, personally, I’m very excited about your neutral posture paper. I read the abstract at Acta Palaeontologica Polonica.

  4. Mike Taylor Says:

    Hey, Zach,

    We’ll be talking about the paper in detail RSN. Please hold fire till then. For now, we need to concentrate on … uh, how stupid we are.

  5. Andrea Cau Says:

    Citation: “that total idiot went on to misspell the trivial name as “camellus” in Wedel and Cifelli (2005:52).”

    “Camellus” is a lapsus calami referring to camellate internal structure ;-)

  6. How about having “Cretacreous” (in my 1994 tyrannosaurid paper in Journal of Paleo), or “hellene” for “hellenae” in the Holtz & Osmolska Saurischia chapter in Dinosauria II?

  7. Mike Taylor Says:

    Excellent! I don’t often get to say this when not functioning as a reviewer of 1950s cartoons, but: it turns out that Tom and Jerry are idiots, too!


    Anyone else have a confession they want to unload?

  8. David Marjanović Says:

    Well, yes. My own first paper (never mind the coauthor) – Systematic Biology, impact factor of up to 10 – proudly assigns the frog Baurubatrachus to the Campanian because that’s what the ancient amphibian literature did (and I do mean ancient amphibian literature, not just ancient-amphibian literature), and then proudly goes on to conclude that the bufonid-hylid divergence is the only dated divergence in the tree for which the date is congruent with the molecular estimate. Hello? Bauru? It’s from the Marília Formation, as at least one of my sources states plainly. I knew full well that’s Maastrichtian. To sum up, I’m too stupid to read.

    What’s the citation for Riggs 1903, actually? Surely it’s not the same paper that sinks Brontosaurus into Apatosaurus?

  9. Mike Taylor Says:

    When I was minus sixty-five, it was a very good year:

    Riggs, Elmer S. 1903a. Brachiosaurus altithorax, the largest known dinosaur. American Journal of Science 15(4), 299-306.

    Riggs, Elmer S. 1903b. Structure and relationships of opisthocoelian dinosaurs. Part I: Apatosaurus Marsh. Field Columbian Museum of Geology 2: 165-196.

  10. Dave Godfrey Says:

    I spelt Mastigophora wrong throughout the whole of my dissertation and only noticed when it came to the viva and saw the corrections on the paper. You’d think I’d get it right having discussed the thing extensively and read umpteen papers, and looked at several specimens of the thing.

  11. David Marjanović Says:

    Ah, so it’s not the same paper, and it really is 1903 nonetheless. Thanks.

  12. Scott Hartman Says:

    Um yes…dummies. Glad I’ve never had a typo crop up in a paper of mine…

    BTW, I think the blame is misplaced here; isn’t it the role of the editors and peer-reviewers to render omniscient opinions on errors in the paper? Surely, THEY are the idiots. Right?



  13. Scott Hartman Says:

    True story: One of the SVP posters I was a co-poster-er on was done fairly last-minute (ok, all of them were, but we’re making fun of my errors here, not my scheduling ability!). We sent it out to a colleague to have it proofed at the last minute, and sure enough it came back with a large number of homonyms and grammatical mistakes of the type that result from late-night editing. As a joke, in our acknowledgments where we thanked the reviewer we used every homonym and grammatical error we could muster.

    We all had a laugh at our cleverness, but when I showed up to defend the poster one coauthor’s advisor (who shall remain nameless but takes spelling *very* seriously) was there, shaking his head at the coauthor and providing verbal reprimand.


  14. […] consolation left–if you’re lucky–is getting to be the one to rat yourself out (we have to do this a lot). So here goes. Neck angle […]

  15. Graham King Says:

    That’s nothing. NHM signage here misspells the renowned Othniel Charles Marsh’s first name as ‘Othneil’.

    Or at least it did on the 5th of May 2008 when I was last there.

    In the typographer’s favour, I believe the names of the dinosaurs this sign credits Marsh for naming are spelt right.

  16. […] the full-sized version.  But we paid no attention to its barely-longer-than-a-meter neck, because we were young and stupid back then.] Cervical vertebra 5 of dromedary camel (Camelus dromedarius), OUMNH 17427, in left […]

  17. […] and photograph it from every angle. But we didn’t. Because, as noted here and yesterday (and previously, come to think of it) we used to be idiots back then. As Matt has pithily […]

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