At our Rotary meeting last week, WKRG-TV Sports Director Randy Patrick commented that it is now so easy to verify information online that there is no excuse for propagating misinformation. As a copy editor (in which capacity I also serve as fact checker), I have no patience with people who have not bothered to even google the simplest facts. If you want your character to be jetting around in a Learjet, you better be sure it has been invented. If your characters are courting under a full moon, do yourself a favor and find a site that will tell you whether the moon was really full on the night in question (or when it was full, and then set the scene on one of those days).
I use the Internet in a variety of ways: as a spell checker, for example. If I’m in doubt about a brand name or company name, I usually don’t even have to go to the corporate site to confirm the spelling: just googling it will turn up a link to the site that will tell me all I need to know. Ditto for book and movie titles, names of famous people, and other easily confirmed facts.
It can be frustrating when the Internet just doesn’t seem to know anything about what I’m looking for. Currently, for example, I’m transcribing my father’s letters from Italy during World War II. After training in Caserta, he joined the 9th (Fifth Army) MRU (Machine Records Unit) in Florence. I can find very little about the Replacement Training Center at Count Ciano’s dairy farm (except a lot of complaints about the mud) and even less about the MRU at MTOUSA HQ in Caserta. And almost nothing about the 9th MRU.
On the other hand, it is a pleasure to look for information about the movies Dad saw and the books and magazines he read. And occasionally the Internet provides information that I can’t imagine could be obtained any other way—certainly not so easily. In a letter dated October 12, 1944, Dad wrote to Mother:
Yesterday I took my second hot shower since arriving in Italy! However, where I am now it will be possible to take a hot one every day, and that I will enjoy. As I’ve always said, next to you the thing I miss most over here is American plumbing—indoor variety. These Chic Sales are all designed for business and not for comfort or relaxation.
From the context it’s clear that “Chic Sales” refers to some sort of portable toilet or outhouse, but I could never have imagined the derivation of the term. I leave it as an exercise for the reader to experience the same joy of discovery that delighted me.