I would love to have a little talk with Paul Simpson, author of The Rough Guide to Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials, a title in the Rough Guides Reference Series, published in 2007 by Rough Guides, a division of Penguin in the UK and of Penguin Putnam in the US. First I’d sit him down and we would visit How to Recognize Plagiarism, a service of the School of Education, Indiana University where we would look at its fine collection of examples of plagiarized passages, paying particular attention to what is and isn’t a paraphrase.
Then we would open my book, The Elements of His Dark Materials (Niles, IL: Fell, 2006), and the US edition of his and compare a few passages. I’d take three highlighters and mark exact copying in blue, near exact in green, and close substitutions in pink. Look how colorful the passages become! Unfortunately, this doesn’t allow me to mark the similarities in sentence structure, but it will do.
Elements 255: Mrs Coulter reaches for Metatron’s hand as she leads him toward the abyss, but there is nothing for her to grasp, even though the angel seems to yearn for physical contact with a woman. Moments later,Metatron delivers skull crushing blows and experiences great pain when Coulter stabs her fingers into his eyes.
Rough Guide 54: When Mrs Coulter reaches for Metatron’s hand near the abyss, there is nothing to grasp. Yet the dusty regent is soon delivering a few skull–crushing blows and cries out in pain when Mrs. Coulter stabs his eyes with her fingers.
Elements 17: Boreal/Latrom is the only character besides John Parry/Stanislaus Grumman to have established lives and identities in both Lyra’s and Will’s worlds. Unlike Parry/ Grumman, he has been able to travel from one to the other at will, thus retaining his physical health.
Rough Guide 102: Lord Boreal—or Sir Charles Latrom, as he is known in Will’s world—is the only character to have established identities in both Lyra’s and Will’s world, and, unlike John Parry/ Stanislaus Grumman, can travel at will between both to maintain his health.
Elements 176: The cave is located in a lush, windy, misty valley with a river running through it near the snow line, among rhododendrons and pine trees. The high altitude sunlight, ice and mist combined “enveloped the head of the valley in perpetual rainbows” (AS 2). The only settlementis some herdsmen’s houses. Prayer flags mark a shrine near a glacier at the valley’s head.
Rough Guide 240-41: Lush, windy, misty, with a river running through rhododendrons and pine trees, the valley is, at its head, always enveloped with rainbows. The only settlement is a few herdsmen’s houses and prayer flags mark a shrine near a glacier.
Then I’d wait for an explanation before continuing with my examples of more weak paraphrases, and then we’d move along to failures to attribute credit to sources used.
To be continued…
(Note: The Elements of His Dark Materials, is available only in the US and Canada. A revised version published by Scholastic Ltd as Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials: The Definitive Guide  is available elsewhere.)