The Case of the Client from Hell

New Eltham, London SE 9

I'm sure most of you -- translators and editors -- have come across this loathsome character: the know-it-all Client from Hell.

This case started out innocently enough back home in Israel. A regular client, Ms. Fair Lady of Fair Translations, called and asked me to undertake a longish (~20,000 word) document describing an online computer game for kids, let's call it Lost in Adventureland. The job consisted of about 80% English editing and 20% Hebrew to-English translation. I can just hear the client, Mr. PiTA, saying haughtily: "My English is fine, I could do it myself only I don't have the time."

I took the job, mainly because I'd already done part of the project in the past and was more-or-less familiar with the subject; and because the timetable, believe it or not, was reasonable.

Reasonable, that is, until certain people, namely elderly mothers, started dying all around me. First my own dear mother, Clara C. Rimon, died; and during the week of mourning we were informed that my mother-in-law, Fay Davis, would not last much longer.

I told Ms. Fairlady that I was a mite preoccupied, and suggested that I send the job to my daughter Shira in Canada, who over the past few years has become a remarkably adept translator and editor. Fine, said Fairlady, provided I too would give the document the once-over, to ensure consistency of style.

Despite the gloom of having just lost two grandmothers (plus her bf's grandmother, to boot), my daughter came through and supplied the goods (though the timetable became very unreasonable as the deadline was moved forward to "right now"). I fulfilled my share of the bargain, and with a sigh of relief sent off some 70 pages back to Fairlady. Since there were a few unclear bits left over, highlighted in yellow and requiring answers/decisions from PiTA, I naturally added a note that I'd be happy to answer any queries and explain the yellow bits.

Next day, the document lands in my Inbox, with a note from Fairlady asking me to review the changes made by PiTA. With dire premonitions, I opened the document... and screamed.

Mr. PiTA, using Track Changes, had crossed out our thoughtful corrections of his poor English, and re-inserted his original mistakes. Page after page after page.

He inserted the where none was called for, and took it out where it was necessary.
He changed feedback to feedbacks and correct tense usage into incorrect forms of verbs. He changed in detail to in details and took my carefully placed onlys and put them back the way they were, in the wrong places. He deleted elegant sentences, reverting to his own clumsy, wordy phrasing. He created incorrect possessive forms by adding apostrophes left, right and center.

And so on and so forth.

What on earth possessed him?
Why did he bother giving the document to be edited, if he was so certain his English was perfectly good just the way it was?