Typos 150 Yards Tall and other stories

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.)

Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs issues pubic typo correction

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.

Carved in stone

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.

Let’s cheer on the Cncinnati Reds!

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!)

Super Mario and Hitler

I went to GenCon last week and have been thinking a lot about games, so what better time to bring you a trio of game-related typos?

Our first howler comes from New Super Mario Bros. 2, a recent release for the Nintendo 3DS. The Mario games are extremely popular across all Nintendo game systems, so this isn’t exactly a tiny error in an obscure product that no one will ever see.

No, Mario, I don’t want to click OK! That implies my acceptance of the typo hovering right above the button! (The above image is a screenshot I took of a short video that documents the error, proving it isn’t a fake.)

Our second typo is also from the New Super Mario Bros. 2 game, this time from the manual. (Yeah, yeah, I know—errors in an instruction manual? The devil you say!)

According to the note below the cute diagram, co-op play requires two Nintendo 3DS systems, two game cards, and two game cards. Is that Nintendo’s sneaky way of saying you need to buy four game cards? (The above image comes from this article that documents the typo.)

Let’s give poor Mario a break now and turn to our third typo, which comes from the world of Major League Baseball. I can’t improve on the title of the article where I found this typo, so I’ll just echo it here: There are closed captioning typos, and then there’s calling Carlos Pena “Hitler.”

It’s nice to know that Godwin’s law holds even in baseball games. (By the way, the expression on Pena’s face above is crying out for a “WTF?” thought bubble to be Photoshopped above his head.)

Thanks to the GRAMMARGEDDON! readers who alerted me to some of these mistakes. And if you see anything worth spotlighting on the blog, feel free to send it in. Your efforts will be also be appreciated.

New Olympic sport: typo squatting

What with the Olympic Games playing out across the pond, lots of people are hungry for up-to-the-minute news about the events and athletes, so they head straight for the official website—or they try to, at least. But if they make any mistakes while typing in the URL, they might end up on a fake page instead, where spammers are happy to offer many wonderful ads for their clicking pleasure.

Last week Zscaler, a cloud security company*, reported that 80% of all Internet domain names that contain the string “olympics” are actually scams or spam, and many of these domains are incidents of typo squatting. That’s when a spammer registers a website with a URL that is extremely similar to the real one but with deliberate misspellings designed to catch careless typists. Zscaler’s sample list includes the following fake sites, which I advise you not to visit:

cnbcolympics.com (extra c)

nbcolympic.com (missing s in olympics)

wwwnbcolympics.com (missing dot between www and nbcolympics.com)

msnolympics.com (msn instead of nbc)

nbolympics.com (missing c in nbc)

nbcolympics.org (.org instead of .com)

nnbcolympics.com (two ns in nbc)

mbcolympics.com (m instead of n in nbc)

ncbolympics.com (c and b inverted in nbc)

Of course, the fact that some websites are scams isn’t exactly news to anyone who’s spend more than, oh, five minutes on the Internet. But given that the Games are such a hot topic at the moment, I couldn’t pass up this opportunity to tie them to the need for better proofreading. By typing carelessly, you could be putting money in the pocket of a scam artist. So do the right thing and mind your URLs.

* That’s how Zscaler describes itself on the company website. I know the slogan refers to cloud computing, but I prefer to think that they sell trained attack clouds that will guard your home. I’d buy one of those, wouldn’t you?

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.


The Hatter, the Hare, and the Dormouse had it right, you know.

Mad Hatter: You might as well say that “I see what I eat” is the same as “I eat what I see!”
March Hare: You might just as well say that “I like what I get” is the same thing as “I get what I like!”
Dormouse: You might just as well say that “I breathe when I sleep” is the same thing as “I sleep when I breathe!”

They’re not the same thing at all, really, even though poor Alice tried to say that “I mean what I say” is the same as “I say what I mean.”

How did I arrive at this literary source material? By way of a friend who shared this image with me, which I now share with all of you.

No word on whether AT&T responded to this with a corrected Tweet or not. I could hope, but I won’t.

I’m reminded of a handout I created during my tenure at TSR, Inc. about how word order changes meaning. The word “only” isn’t much of a word, really, having a mere four letters and two syllables–but watch how the sentence meaning changes with the position of this lowly modifier (it can be an adjective or an adverb or even a conjunction depending on placement).

Only the bear ate the hunter. (There were other animals, but the bear’s the only one that ate the hunter.)

The only bear ate the hunter. (No other bears were around, and the other animals are innocent.)

The bear only ate the hunter. (The bear didn’t kill the hunter, but he did eat him.)

The bear ate only the hunter. (The bear ignored the wife and kids, but ate the hunter.)

The bear ate the only hunter. (There weren’t any other hunters.)

Perhaps I should send this to AT&T’s social media peeps. Then again–naah. I need the blog fodder, y’know.



I only read Playboy for the typos

Early Saturday morning, Salon posted a story about Jenny McCarthy posing for Playboy at the apparently shocking age of 40. Unfortunately, the article’s subhead didn’t really make sense. It said: “At 40, the celebrity is insults women who don’t have her advantages.” See the screenshot below (click to enlarge).

Later in the day, a commenter called out the typo.* But as I write this, the clock just rolled over to Sunday morning, and the error still has not been corrected. Scott Douglas, friend of this blog and the eagle-eyed spotter of this typo, remarked:

It would be one thing if this were on Open Salon (a volunteer community), but I’m wondering, do the Salon folks (who are paid employees) have anybody working on the weekends? If you’re going to publish, shouldn’t you have at least a community coordinator around?

Yeah, you’d think. Also, it’s not like the error is hard to notice. In fact, you’d have to work hard to miss it. But sadly, not everyone is as obsessive pedantic diligent as we are here at GRAMMARGEDDON!

Thanks, Scott, for sending us the story and the screenshot.

* Several commenters on Salon’s post also argued over the fact that the subhead says Jenny is 40 but the article says she is almost 40. I don’t have a problem with that. Subheads need to be concise, and the difference between 40 and 39-and-three-quarters isn’t worth worrying about. (I can say that because I’m over 40.)

Actually, I didn't know they still published Playboy

Check out our Blogroll, folks!

I’ve added a few of my favorite language-related blogs to our main page (down there on the right, at the bottom). I’m sure that eventually Ray will do likewise.

In particular I want to point out Daily Writing Tips. This site is wonderfully all-encompassing. If you want help with grammar, spelling, vocabulary, fiction, business writing . . . it’s here. I especially enjoy reading and re-reading “7 Grammatical Errors that Aren’t.” Need to know whether to say “cement” or “concrete” for your novel (or business letter)? The answer’s here.

As for me, I’ll be printing a copy of “Breaking Muphry’s Law” for the wall over my desk. (It’s under Writing Basics. Go see.)