I wrote a usage tip last week about “cord” and “chord.” One of the commenters, Miaka Kirino, told me of a sign on a bus window that misused “chord” and she was kind enough to snap a picture and post it over on G+. With her permission, here it is: a truly cringe-worthy typo in the wild.
There sure seem to be plenty of typos in the news lately. (Probably the Mayans again.)
First, a man in Washington state used his tractor to plow a marriage proposal into a field. The letters were 150 yards tall. He flew his girlfriend, Jody, up in a plane so she could see the popped question from above. Unfortunately, his tractor didn’t have a spellcheck—he had plowed the first letter of her name backward.
(The photo comes from this site; I added the arrow.)
Next, we have another entry in the Worst Possible Way to Misspell “Public” Sweepstakes. This one also comes from Washington state. (Something in the water?) The Washington Charter School Resource Center placed a newspaper ad to spotlight an upcoming conference. Neither the center nor the newspaper noticed that a crucial “L” was missing from the word “public.”
(The photo comes from this site. Interestingly, the story there links to a similar mishap that happened in May 2012, when the University of Texas handed out commencement programs to families of students graduating from the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs. Yeah—you know what happened.)
Longtime readers of this blog might remember a banner displayed at a football game that asked sponsors to “become a partner in pubic education.”
And finally, the Toronto Sun newspaper recently ran a correction notice to fix an error about whether teachers had been paid during a work stoppage. Unfortunately, they now need to run a correction about the correction.
(The photo comes from this site; I added the arrow.)
Is there a lesson to learn here? Maybe it’s just that no matter how bad your typo is, at least it’s not plowed into the ground 150 yards tall. Probably. I can’t vouch for all of you.
I’d like to have a chat with you, my good reader (I know there’s one of you out there), about perception and how it relates to proofreading. More precisely, I want to talk about how it relates to the lack of proofreading. I even have a concrete example. Shall we?
This restaurant in Rockford IL is offering a “Final Feast” on the supposed last night of our lives, December 20, 2012. For $180 per person one can enjoy a nine-part dinner (an amuse bouche, courses one through three, an intermezzo, courses four and five, a cheese course, and dessert, each with wine pairings) including foie gras, caviar, Dungeness crab, Dover sole, filet mignon, and a chocolate cake adorned with edible 24k gold leaf. Pretty classy, right? Really upper crust, right?
Can someone please explain to me why no one proofread the menu? For that matter, no one proofread the webpage it’s on, either. Nor did anyone proofread their lunch menu, where one can get salad with “musclen,” or “mesclin,” or the actual “mesclun” blend. Yes. All three versions on one page, like some kind of bonus package. But I digress.
For a feast costing $180 a head, featuring such a five-star lineup of dishes and wines, I expect the printed menu (either online or on paper) to be error-free. I expect a high standard for the food AND for the written word in such an establishment. This ain’t EAT AT JOE’S with the one burned-out letter in the vintage neon sign. It’s a place run by an award-winning chef with a stellar reputation. Pity the printing on his menus didn’t receive the same level of attention as his dishes do. There is simply no excuse for “pared” instead of “paired,” or for “chives organic scrambled egg” (I’m pretty sure there should be a comma after “chives,” don’t you think?), or for “Tequilla.” And that’s only in the menu proper. There are also the errors in the text at the top of the web page, where we see that the staff is “exited to show off their . . . talent” and that the wines and liquor choices “will be announce closer to the dinner.”
Honestly, there is no excuse for this kind of sloppiness. As much as I despise using software to do an editor’s or proofreader’s job, in this case I don’t mind saying I think it would have helped. When I first heard about this “Final Feast” I thought it sounded like something I would actually attend, had I the wherewithal to do so. My perception changed when I saw how poorly the menu had been prepared. Perhaps one might say “He’s a chef, not an editor.” True enough, but–he should care as much about the printed description of his dishes as he does about the dishes themselves. As it is, I find I don’t really care that I can’t possibly afford to attend this “Final Feast.” As sloppy as the menu is, part of me wonders just how perfect the foods will really be.
Perception. It’s powerful stuff.
Some mistakes are harder to erase than others. In Oklahoma, state representative Mike Ritze sponsored a bill (and donated money) to install a granite monument of the Ten Commandments on the grounds of the state capitol building. The monument is 6 feet tall and 3 feet wide, and it weighs 2,000 pounds.
One potential problem is that it might invite a lawsuit from the American Civil Liberties Union because the monument violates the separation of church and state. But perhaps of more immediate concern is the fact that the granite contains a few spelling errors.
The Fourth Commandment mistakenly says, “Remember the Sabbeth day, to keep it holy.” (The correct spelling is Sabbath.)
The Tenth Commandment says, “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidseruant . . .” That final word, of course, should be maidservant. (Or perhaps this is actually a clever way to get around the rule. “Hey, God’s totally cool with me coveting my neighbor’s maidservant! It’s just the maidseruants I’ve gotta stay away from.”)
Ritze plans to have the misspellings corrected. No word on whether he’s adding another commandment that says, “Thou shalt not skip the spellcheck.”
The photo comes from this site.
I’ve been getting questions off-blog lately about simple past verb forms, most of which can be addressed via speaking to UK versus US usage. This subject has been addressed often elsewhere, but not here. I will suggest up front that if you want more information, by all means employ your own brand of Google-fu and go get it. It’s all out there, waiting for you. Meanwhile, I’ve distilled one small part of the gist of this subject for today’s post.
In general, a verb form ending in -t is indicative of UK usage. Likewise, one ending in -ed is indicative of US usage. Witness these examples.
I cannot stress enough that I am speaking in generalities. There are undoubtedly exceptions to what I’ve just said. If you feel the need to post them as comments, knock yourself out. I’m not trying for an exhaustive list, I’m just showing folks the way this works. (I’ll beat some of you to the punch. The past tense of “to deal” is “dealt,” no matter which usage you’re employing. There is no such word as “dealed.”)
“But Karen, I’ve used dreamt all my life and there’s no one British in my family!” Y’know, I believe you. I’ll tell you this much: You probably grew up/live in an area of the US with strong linguistic ties to England, which means that usage in your area leans toward the UK versions of things. I grew up in an area with strong Germanic/Dutch ties, so we had sayings like “The bread is all” meaning “There’s no more bread.” Linguistics are fascinating. Do some reading on the subject if you’re so inclined. Google-fu is powerful stuff indeed.
“But Karen, what about lent?” Well, I’ll tell you. Lent as a verb is the past tense of lend. Lend/lent, loan/loaned, lean/leaned. Lend and loan are mostly interchangable; the latter has the connotation of financial dealings, which is why we lend a hand, but loan a fiver. We lend an ear, because if we loaned one it would involve surgery. We can lend a bike, or we can loan one. Last week, I lent someone a book and I loaned my daughter a few dollars. It’s all good.
That tree leaned the other way before the big windstorm. If I lived in the UK, I’d say it leant the other way.
I’ll point you to the Daily Writing Tips blog (see it in our blogroll) for this kind of information. The online Merriam-Webster dictionary is good as well; when applicable, it notes differences in US/UK usage clearly. Remember that the preferred form appears first in the listing; coming second doesn’t mean a form is wrong, it merely means it is not the preferred form. (And that usually means that copy editors like me will change the less-preferred form to the more-preferred one, without a compelling reason not to. And by compelling, I mean stronger than “because I like it better.”)
Watch this space for an upcoming post about those pesky -ou- spellings (also UK usage), and perhaps even one about the correct past tense of “to plead.” You probably won’t like the answer. I don’t care. Ha.
Here’s a fantastic collection of photos showing some astounding that’s-gotta-be-Photoshopped typos on professional sports jerseys. The misspelled player names are fun, but the real wowsers are the team name screw-ups, like the San Francicso Giants (#9), the Kentcuky Wildcats (#11), the Cncinnati Reds (#23), and many more. My favorite might be the way “Navy” is misspelled on the jersey in the inset on photo #20:
(In fairness, that might pass as a phonetic spelling of the team name.)
No insightful commentary from me. Just go enjoy the gallery. And be glad that your typos aren’t usually displayed for all the world to see (and photograph).
(Thanks to Kevin P. for alerting me to this amazing gallery!)
The Red Lion Area school district in Pennsylvania tried to drum up some sponsors by creating a snazzy banner to display at football games. I imagine the idea was “Hey, once local businesses see how cool our banner looks, they’ll want to become sponsors and get their names up on the next banner!”
But their banner had a wee bit of a typo.
Don Dimoff, the marketing and communications manager for the district, said:
“Of all the missed letters, it had to be that one. The poor sign company feels horrible because they missed it. The people who hung the sign feel horrible because they missed it. I feel horrible. I’ve been losing sleep and haven’t eaten in two days trying to deal with this.”
The school district has apologized for what they described as an “unfortunate error.”
Cheer up, Red Lion folks! Maybe the banner will attract some sponsors after all—though maybe not the kind you were expecting.
A guy named Ben Akselrod is running for the assembly in the Sheepshead Bay neighborhood of Brooklyn, NY. His campaign sent out mailers that blamed an increase in crime on the policies of his opponent. But check out the highlighted phrase in the mailer:
If you can’t read it, the phrase says the opponent “has allowed crime to go up over 50% in our negrohood.” Yow.
Not to worry! Akselrod says it was just an unfortunate typo. He responded thusly:
“As the candidate, I take full responsibility for this inadvertent error and I am sorry to anyone who was offended by it.”
That’s some inadvertent error, all right. You really have to go out of your way to misspell “neighborhood” as “negrohood.” Most typos aren’t quite so . . . different from the original word.
But even if we give Akselrod’s campaign the benefit of the doubt and assume that the word truly was an unintentional typo rather than a Freudian slip, the mailer still makes him look pretty bad. It contains several other spelling and grammatical errors. For example, we learn of Akselrod’s desire to “Creat” jobs and the fact that he misspelled the very name of the district he wants to represent! Heck, even his name seems like a typo—I mean, is it just me, or do you want to mark up your monitor to change the spelling to “Axelrod”? Clearly, the text wasn’t even run through a spellchecker, much less proofed by human eyes.
Regular readers of GRAMMARGEDDON! will remember that we recently saw another creative misspelling of “neighborhood” on a Boston public school sign. Maybe there’s something in the water on the east coast.
(The photo comes from this article, which provides more details on this incident. I’ll be interested to see how it affects Akselrod’s prospects for election.)
Nothing instills confidence in your school like seeing a big typo on the sign by the front door.
Just think: someone (probably many someones) had to write those words, create the sign, proof the sign, drill it into the brick wall, look at it, nod contentedly, and walk away, whistling a happy tune.
The photo comes from the Dudley Street Neighborhood’s Facebook album, and if you check out the comments there, you’ll see that the school posted the photo proudly, then realized their mistake after several people pointed out the error. This article offers a good quote:
“I think we get a big, fat F for the spelling on this sign,” said Matt Wilder, director of media relations for Boston Public Schools. “We are already in the process of fixing it, and it will be taken down today.”
Kudos to the school for acknowledging the error and moving quickly to replace the sign. But this incident just goes to show you that, for good or ill, it’s hard to get away with typos in these days of instant feedback from social media.
Because I like the word “portents” in combination with “signs,” and for no other reason, I made that the title. I’m sure you’ll deal with it in your own ways.
Well, okay; part of my reason is also that I have this neat pic of a sign, which I’ve quite openly swiped from Amanda Patterson over at The Plain Language Programme (Aussies spell things with extra letters, just like the Brits do).
Here’s your sign. (Apologies to Bill Engvall for stealing his line, but in this case it really is relevant.)
All that’s needed to correct the problem is an “s” and an apostrophe. That’s all. Such a simple fix, yet so very far away . . .
Then there’s the gem I received via a Facebook message from a friend, Janet Deaver-Pack. She shared with me a typo from the cover of the newest catalogue from Bits and Pieces (http://bitsandpieces.com), which features a “secret book box” that I presume is like this one. I presume this, because the same error appears on this item. Look closely at the central “book” title. The last time I checked, something decorated with gold is “gilded.” Perhaps the creator of this product is a union supporter; that might begin to explain the typo.
As Janet said to me, “There are dictionaries in the world.” Of course, some folks need the special “misspeller’s dictionaries” because after all, if you don’t know how to spell the word to start with, how are you supposed to find it?