Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Synonymn* (for Synonym*)

I have an odd love of synonyms that seem like they should be opposites, but aren’t. Flammable and inflammable are the classic pair: it’s easy to assume the in- in inflammable means not, as it does in involuntary, invisible, or inarticulate – the opposite of flammable. But the prefix in-, in this case, actually comes from the Latin in as in “in” rather than in as in “not” (think indoctrinate, involve).

Are you with me yet? I thought about adding a few more quotation marks up there but quickly gave up. As it is, I’m going to be seeing ins in my dreams tonight.

In addition (now I can’t stop), while I was double-checking my facts on flammable versus inflammable, I quite enjoyed the sidebar advertisements generated by my internet sleuthing. Thanks to ads, I now know far more about how to make handheld fireballs than I ever cared to (the most important thing I learned? Don’t try it at home).

Synonymn* is a high probability typo (it’s easy to slip on that extra n while typing), occurring 75 times in Worldcat.

Leanne Olson

(Inflammable/flammable image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Monday, September 15, 2014

Iinv* (for Inv*)

Let me invite you to celebrate mystery writer Agatha Christie’s birthday by sharing one of my favourite quotes that has little to do with writing or mystery (or does it?):
I don't think necessity is the mother of invention - invention, in my opinion, arises directly from idleness, possibly also from laziness. To save oneself trouble. – Agatha Christie

This is something I can relate to. I think of a time when I lay on the couch unable to reach the TV remote, but the invisible hand of laziness kept me from rising. To fetch it I carefully constructed a “robot arm” from nearby pens and masking tape. Another day, I sewed a purse from a pair of old corduroy pants because it seemed easier than going to the store to buy one.

Christie was the subject of an investigation 1926, when she disappeared for eleven days. Her fans were not idle: over a thousand police officers and 15,000 volunteers were involved in the search. She was found at a hotel under an assumed name, and claimed amnesia.

But much speculation remained, and some hinted at a twisted form of laziness: Was she trying to fake her death and have her husband accused of the crime, thinking it easier than divorcing him? Was she doing research for a new book? Or was she simply bored and idleness led to the invention of her death? We may never know.

Our typo today begins with a double i and has over 530 hits in Worldcat.

Leanne Olson

(Photo of Agatha Christie courtesy of Wikipedia Commons)

Friday, September 12, 2014

Baltmore (for Baltimore)

Henry Louis Mencken was born on September 12, 1880. Known as the "Sage of Baltimore," Mencken was a "an American journalist, essayist, magazine editor, critic of American life and culture, and scholar of American English," according to his obituary in Variety on February 1, 1956. H. L. Mencken wrote The American Language, a multi-volume study of American argot and slang, in 1919. He coined the phrase "Scopes Monkey Trial" while satirically reporting on the famous 1925 Tennesee court case. His blunt, curmudgeonly approach is well-captured in "Libido for the Ugly," an essay about the urban blight of Pittsburgh and western Pennsylvania, in which he curtly concludes: "Out of the melting pot emerges a race which hates beauty." In surprising contrast, his memoir Happy Days, 1880-1892 is a fond look back at his early life growing up in Baltimore. One such childhood memory was the reading of Huckleberry Finn at the age of nine, which he later called ""the most stupendous event in my life" (and by which he apparently meant his entire life, not just the first decade). Treatise of the Gods (1930), a survey of the history and philosophy of religion, was Mencken's personal favorite, which he called "my best book, and by far." Mencken was not above perpetrating silly literary pranks either, such as the "Bathtub Hoax," a completely fictitious history of the bathtub, published on December 28, 1917, in the New York Evening Mail. In 1949, he wrote: "The success of this idle hoax, done in time of war, when more serious writing was impossible, vastly astonished me. It was taken gravely by a great many other newspapers, and presently made its way into medical literature and into standard reference books. It had, of course, no truth in it whatsoever, and I more than once confessed publicly that it was only a jocosity..." On a more somber note, Mencken was a fan of Friedrich Nietzsche and not exactly one of the Jewish people, although his views on the latter appear to have "evolved with time," says Wikipedia. After once having written that "the Jews could be put down very plausibly as the most unpleasant race ever heard of," he was later defended by Gore Vidal, who argued: "Far from being an anti-Semite, Mencken was one of the first journalists to denounce the persecution of the Jews in Germany at a time when the New York Times, say, was notoriously reticent..." Mencken was similarly ambiguous, if not downright ambivalent, about the fairer sex (a term I employ ironically, although I've always liked it for its own ambiguity, the word fair, of course, meaning both comely and justice-minded), as shown in the book In Defense of Women. His biographer, Fred Hobson, wrote: "Depending on the position of the reader, he was either a great defender of women's rights or, as a critic labelled him in 1916, 'the greatest misogynist since Schopenhauer,' 'the country's high-priest of woman-haters.'" He also inveighed against "Christian Science, social stigma, fakery, Christian radicalism, religious belief, osteopathy, anti-evolutionism, chiropractic, and the 'Booboisie,' his word for the ignorant middle classes." The Arkansas legislature once passed a motion to pray for H. L. Mencken's soul after he had referred to the state as the "apex of moronia." Despite his well-known opposition to marriage, votes for women, certain aspects of the American South, and the very idea of religion—Mencken himeself married a suffragist, from Alabama, in a church, and on a "hunch." There were seven cases of Baltmore (for Baltimore) in OhioLINK today, and 76 in WorldCat.

(Portrait of H.L. Mencken, by Oliver Richard Reid, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Acorss (for Across)

I've been doing a lot of crossword puzzles lately. I like the way they make you think both in and outside the box. As a matter of fact, I've become so compulsive about it that, while doing one in the park the other day (while also sitting on the ground), someone actually approached me and asked if I needed "money." Not unless it's the answer to 115 ACROSS, or something, I might have said, uh, crossly. But didn't, of course. (It was really rather nice of them, after all, and perhaps I did look a bit "sketchy," hunched there with crude writing implement in hand and sort of a wild look in my eye.) In any event, the practice has prompted a number of questions—from me if not necessarily to me. To wit: Why do multiple puzzles on the same day (or even on the same page of the newspaper, as in this case) often contain the same answers (with different clues)? For example, "Martial arts teacher" and "Karate instructor" (SENSEI) or "NYC airport" and "JFK alternative in N.Y.C." (LGA). I mean, WTF? (Or "How in heck is that possible?" briefly.) And why is the only way to be angry, mad, or irritated around here IRATE? Oh wait, I know the answer to that one! Crossword puzzle makers love words that have more vowels than consonants. It makes them so much more compatible with other words. And everybody loves a vowel. Just ask Vanna White. The answer to both those questions is the same, really. A great many puzzle words are used repeatedly, and there are also many ways to define, allude to, or exemplify them. Short words, acronyms, homonyms, prefixes, suffixes, vowels, and common consonants are favored. (Latin, French, and Spanish show up frequently; German, Welsh, and Icelandic, not so much.) And lastly, in somewhat more of a zen mode (zen is also popular with puzzlers): Why, as I now sit staring blankly and bemoaning my stubborn insistence on doing these things in pen, combined with an unfortunate tendency to not even always count the number of letters, much less check the perpindicular hints, before gamely setting off—why did my garbled gaze suddenly drift from this sad inky Rorschach test over to "Dear Abby," whose own theme for the day was: Choose Your Words Carefully. Well?? Answer that puzzling crossword puzzle question, Mr. Will Shortz! (Another word for very cool coincidence? WOW.) Today's typo was revealed twice in OhioLINK and 74 times in WorldCat.

Note: Just like crying in baseball, there are NO typos in crossword puzzles. If you should ever come across one, please let us know.

(Apparently homeless man doing crossword, by Ivaan Kotulsky ca. 1995 , courtesy of the City of Toronto Archives and Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol

Monday, September 8, 2014

Amsterdan (for Amsterdam)

The fall of New Amsterdam, the day that Director-General Peter Stuyvesant surrendered the island of Manhattan to the British, led by the Duke of York, took place 350 years ago today. And while history is reportedly written by the winners, New York City isn't exactly throwing a party to mark the occasion. In 1864, the city's bicentennial was celebrated with a gala New-York Historical Society dinner at the Cooper Institute; the official founding date may have prompted the otherwise bad timing of the New York World's Fair in 1964. But as the years wore on, New Yorkers grew to appreciate the history of New Netherland and the many contributions of the Dutch. (Tolerance and tulips alone are not a bad legacy!) In the 1970s, City Council President Paul O'Dwyer even launched a successful campaign to have the date on the NYC seal changed from 1664 to 1625. And up here in the state capital of Albany, formerly known as Beverwyck, our hearts and heritage have always been with our original Dutch masters. (A Dutch friend, who still refers to this as the "theft of New Netherland," writes that "almost 400 years ago, on 11 October, one might say New Netherland was born, with the patent granted to the New Netherland Company. The first time this name was given to the area. That's much more memorable, as in a way New Netherland still exists.") There were only three cases of Amsterdan (for Amsterdam) found in OhioLINK, but a rather surprising 1054 in WorldCat.

(The Fall of New Amsterdam, by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Friday, September 5, 2014

Televesion (for Television)



When I travel, I enjoy watching the local television news coverage to see how it differs from place to place.  In particular, I like to see what new regional expressions I can pick up on.  For instance, in my adopted state of Arkansas, two things I hear all the time are “wreck” (as in “auto”) and “busted” (for “break”).  Now to me, “wreck” just doesn’t sound appropriately serious for a car accident (although, perversely, it does have the proper gravitas for trains or ships), and “busted” is what happens when someone is caught in the act.  Food for thought: what if the chorus of Depeche Mode’s 2005 single “Precious” began with the words “Things get busted, things get wrecked”?  I ask you—would it have made it as far up the charts as it did?

Televesion is a low-probability typo with 3 entries in the OhioLINK database and 41 in WorldCat.  Don’t let your catalog get busted with this in its possession.

(The wreck of a stolen Swedish commuter train, 2013, from Wikimedia Commons)

Deb Kulczak

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Synomy* (for Synonym, Synonymous, etc.)



Arkansas is hardly synonymous with polo, and yet for the last quarter century, Fayetteville has been home to a benefit match in early September to support Life Styles, Inc., an area organization whose worthy goal is “helping individuals with disabilities achieve the skills and talents they need to live as independently as possible.” According to their Web site, Polo in the Ozarks is the oldest charity event in Northwest Arkansas and draws nearly 2,000 spectators each year.  Speaking from experience, it’s a lot of fun!


The same cannot be said of the typo Synomy*.  A search of OhioLINK yields 11 entries, and WorldCat hosts 322 such errors.  Some are for materials is languages other than English, but it would be worth looking at all the results in your own catalog, as this particular typo crops up in places like parallel titles and subject heading strings.

(Polo players, from Wikimedia Commons)

Deb Kulczak