Q: What do you call a neighborhood for hobos?

Nothing instills confidence in your school like seeing a big typo on the sign by the front door.

O no!

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.


Signs and Portents

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?


Let’s shoot the chute!

I have to say this isn’t a very common error, at least in my experience stalking the wild typo. In the coffee aisle (not isle) at the local big box department store, next to the pricey “designer coffee” with its own grinder, I spotted this sign.

Maybe it’s missing a comma?

In fact, this is such an uncommon example I stood there for a few seconds while my brain processed the information. I wasn’t in “editing mode” during this part of our trip, admittedly. Usually that mode is always engaged and running in the background. The delay rather unnerved me, truth to tell. However, once I realized what I was seeing, I snapped a photo for posterity (and you, kind readers) because it was just too good to pass up.

As for my caption: I did come up with a rather unconventional correction that could conceivably make sense. Kinda. A little. Okay, not really, but it amused me to think of it. “Slide bag behind, shoot to activate lever.” Nice comma fault, that way, isn’t it? A semicolon makes better sense.

Or, we could just–y’know–use the correct word. “Chute.”

Two really unfortunate typos

Hi, folks! I haven’t been too present on the blog lately. I was away for much of last week on a family vacation, and tomorrow I’m heading to GenCon to see old friends, but I recently found* two typos that I had to share. Consider them snacks to tide you over until a real post comes along.

First, you’ve heard of Porsche, right? Their cars ain’t cheap, so you’d figure the company would have a little money to invest in producing great ads. However, they seem to have skimped on the proofreading in this series of billboards promoting their Boxster. I always say if you’re going to misspell the name of your own product, you might as well do it big.

Next up is this obituary, which contains a hilariously inappropriate acronym in the photo caption. Apparently, some folks on Twitter have called this the “worst caption fail of all time.” I really don’t know how this particular error can be explained. You’d have to go out of your way to make this mistake. One theory is that the caption writer meant to signify “lots of love,” but that just makes me LOL.

(When I say I “found” these typos, I mean I read about them online. One of them was sent to me by a friend, and one of them was discovered while browsing. I much prefer taking photos of real typos in the wild, but until Karen and I launch a Kickstarter campaign to fund our world travels for that very purpose, a prescriptive grammarian’s gotta do what a prescriptive grammarian’s gotta do.)

Possession: The Sequel

I stumbled on this sign (well, not literally–it’s on a stand on a bin, not lying in the aisle) this afternoon while meandering around the nearby Goodwill store.

I’m honestly unsure of why it reads the way it does. It could be that whoever was making the signs felt the need to be consistent, since the other bins are labeled “Men’s Bin,” “Women’s Bin,” and “Children’s Bin” (all correctly, which was in itself a pleasant surprise). Of course, the linens don’t own anything. Nothing in the bin is for use by linens. The bin contains linens, for use by people. I think “People’s Linens Bin” probably sounds a little bit too Chairman Mao-ish. The correct signage would be “Linens Bin.” That’s all. Just “Linens Bin.” Then, of course, it doesn’t match the other signs–and I suspect that’s where it all went sideways.

Of course there’s also the argument that “$1.49” must apply to the bin as a whole, since the word “each” isn’t present on the sign. However, it does state “Ticketed items priced as marked”–so I think one can safely assume that the price applies to individual items that aren’t otherwise priced. (I wonder what would happen, though, if someone tried to make the claim for the entire bin for $1.49.)

I should note that I did not find any demons, demon souls, demon’s souls, or demons’ souls in Goodwill. At least, none that were labeled as such.


You are not orientated correctly, irregardless.

I had hoped to catch another “typo in the wild” as Ray put it last week, but sadly the sign I spied over the weekend was gone today. It was one of those mobile signs with removable letters, sitting in the parking lot of a small resale shop. I did a double-take when I spied it because a) I wasn’t sure I saw it correctly and b) I was driving, and had to watch the traffic. The sign proudly proclaimed “SHABBY SHEEK.” Yeah. “Sheek.” Perhaps it was a “cute” misspelling of the kind I first learned about in 6th grade English class, and which I’ve hated from that very day. Perhaps it was really about a down-at-heel Saudi fellow, in which case it was still spelled incorrectly, but the end result would’ve been far closer to the actual spelling. Sadly, I suspect that neither of those possibilities is what actually happened. I suspect that whoever placed the letters has no clue that “chic” is the word they were after, and just went with the closest phonetic spelling. We’ll never know for sure.

Now, for the rant. As the blog entry says, “You are not orientated properly, irregardless.” Backformations drive me batty. Some of them are indeed correct, standard English words. However, “orientate” is not standard American English. It’s more commonly used in British English. This article explains that speakers and writers on both sides of the Big Pond bemoan the other’s usage.

As for me and my house (is that Biblical enough for you? I hope so, it’s about as Biblical as I’ll get–and notice, that’s capitalized because I’m referring to the Bible, not to something generally enormous. But I digress.), we will continue to use the American standard formation of “orient” because it’s standard American English. And because it sounds better. So there.

Regardless of what we choose to do, you are free to do as you please. Note, I didn’t say “irregardless”–because that’s not a word. It’s wrong. The word is “regardless.” Just because “respective” has as its antonym “irrespective” does not automatically mean that “regardless” needs an “ir-” prefix. It’s not only redundant (the word already means “without regard for”), it’s wrong. Stop it. Please.

That’s a pretty short rant, but it’s nearly 100 degrees outside and I’m easily tired today. I hope it’s still enjoyable. Later, folks.


[calendar pages fly in a strong wind, moving from July 23, 2012 to March 24, 2015]

[dolly shot from calendar to editor’s work space, hands on a backlit keyboard]

Wow, how times change a person. Well, times and continued education and making connections in other fields related to one’s chosen area. Linguists are way cool, I’ve found out.

And because I’ve been hanging with linguists and lexicographers and other editors with experiences different from my own, I need to update this post a little. I’m here to tell you that “irregardless” is, indeed, a word. It is. It has meaning; we know exactly what someone means when they say it (the same thing as “regardless”), even if we get on our high horse and pontificate about how we can’t possibly know because the person’s not speaking proper English and that’s not even a word and how dare they you get the picture, I hope.

It’s even in the dictionary.

Watch Kory Stamper of Merriam-Webster explain “irregardless” by clicking this here link thing.

Now, before you stomp off into the distance raving about my traitorous stance, hear me out. One of my favorite sayings is “Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.” Usually I apply that to things like scientific fringe procedures that I find ethically (and probably morally) questionable. However, it also applies to language usage. Sure, “irregardless” is a word. That doesn’t oblige ANYONE to use it. It simply means that those who choose to use it have made that choice.

What others think about them for having made that choice is up to those others. For myself? I don’t use it. I don’t care to hear it and I certainly twitch when I see it in print (unless I’m reading Internet comments or very casual writing). As for me and my house, we will still say “regardless.”





So me the money!

Should weekly grocery-store ads count as low-hanging fruit and thus be excluded from the wrath of GRAMMARGEDDON!? (Hmm . . . note to self: don’t end a question with the name of the blog again.)

Well, here’s one, anyway, sent in by my old college pal Kevin, who apparently received the ad in his email. It’s from the H-E-B chain of grocery stores in Texas, which I had not heard of before. Can you spot the typo in the ad? I’d so it to you, but that would cheat you out of the fun of finding it yourself. Okay, okay, there are at least two things wrong in the ad, but I’m talking about the most obvious error.

Is this too nitpicky of us? I don’t think so. It’s just another example of a blatant typo that really should have been caught—and it probably would have been, if it weren’t for those meddling kids! Er, I mean, if anyone at H-E-B had spent 10 seconds reading over the ad. But they probably just ran a spellcheck and called it a day.

This lowly typo reinforces one of our blog’s main points: if you can’t be bothered to check your work for errors and present a professional front when communicating, you can’t expect people to treat you professionally.

Sorry, H-E-B. And thanks, Kevin!