Friday, November 20, 2015

Wahle* + Whale* (for Whale* or Wahle*)

Moby Dick. The great white whale. Okay, I'll admit that (unlike Woody Allen's tragicomic poser Leonard Zelig) I've never actually read the book. But a good friend of mine just did, and now he can't shut up about it. Moby-Dick was inspired, at least in part, by an 80-ton sperm whale that on November 20, 1820, attacked a ship from Nantucket called the Essex while it was sailing in the South Pacific. This led to an awful ordeal for the surviving crew, but the amazing tales told in its wake are believed to have formed the basis for Herman Melville's famous novel published in 1851. There are at least two other contenders for that honor, though: one Mocha Dick, the storied "White Whale of the Pacific"; and yet another one that the Dutch settlers of Albany (which was then called Fort Orange) swear they once saw floating up the Hudson River. According to a report by Antony de Hooges, taken from the Van Rensselaer Manor Papers held at the New York State Library: "On the 29th of March in the year 1647 a certain fish appeared before us here in the colony, which we estimated to be of a considerable size. He came from below and swam past us a certain distance up to the sand bars and came back towards evening, going down past us again. He was snow-white, without fins, round of body, and blew water up out of his head, just like whales or tunas. It seemed very strange to us because there are many sand bars between us and Manhattan, and also because it was snow-white, such as no one among us has ever seen; especially, I say, because it covered a distance of 20 [Dutch] miles of fresh water in contrast to salt water, which is its element. Only God knows what it means. But it is certain, that I and most all of the inhabitants [watched] it with great amazement. On the same evening that this fish appeared before us, we had the first thunder and lightning of the year..." Herman Melville was born in 1819 in New York City and moved to Albany with his family at the age of eleven, where he continued to live throughout the 1830s. So it certainly seems conceivable that our very own "white whale" could have been the same one that animated Albany's budding young writer. Finding a typo to go with today's story, much like the hunt for Moby Dick himself, proved to be a rather elusive quest, but I finally harpooned three of these in OhioLINK and 110 in WorldCat—most of them for proper names like Whalen or Whaley. One which especially caught my eye was for James Whale, the 1930s filmmaker who brought another 19th-century literary leviathan to life.

(Mocha Dick, by Jeremiah N. Reynolds, 1870 UK reprint, in the public domain.)

Carol Reid

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Atomsph* (for Atmosph*)

I was filling in at the library on a dismal Saturday afternoon recently when I glanced out the dirt-streaked window to catch some streaks of another sort entirely. What Hi and Lois's baby Trixie would surely have greeted as friends were pouring forth from between long dark cracks in the cloud cover. "Look at that!" beamed my coworker. "Crepuscular rays!" Although it sounds a little bit like an alarming blood disease diagnosis (the word actually means "twilight"), that note is more than made up for by the array of arresting nicknames that have been accorded this phenomenon. Names like "backstays of the sun" (since they resemble the stays that support the mast of a ship); "Ropes of Maui" (from a folk tale in which ropes are attached to the sun to make the day last longer); and "Sun drawing water" (reflecting an ancient Greek belief that sunbeams drew water into the sky, which is really a rather nice description of evaporation.) Oftentimes, they're called things like "Fingers of God," "Jesus Rays," "Jacob's Ladder," or "Buddha Rays." As well as "cloud breaks," "shafts of light," "sunbursts," etc. There are a lot of stunning photos out there depicting this not-uncommon atmospheric condition, but I couldn't resist this one, which perhaps more directly evokes the idea that these heavenly-looking sunbeams are truly gifts from God. (There are "Devil Rays" also, but that only refers to the "anticrepuscular" kind.) God, or those of us crafted imperfectly in Her image, appears to have given us sixteen cases of today's typo in OhioLINK, and 181 in WorldCat.

(Ochsenfurt, Katholische Stadtpfarrkirche St. Andreas, Innenansicht mit durch die weihrauchgesättigte Luft einfallendem Licht*, November 2011, from Wikimedia Commons.)

*Google translates this to "Ochsenfurt, Catholic Parish Church of St. Andrew, interior with incident through the incense saturated air light"—which may be as good a way of putting it as any!

Carol Reid

Monday, November 16, 2015

Edtion* (for Edition*)

Today's typo is a fairly routine one, being for a word that is quite common to catalogers, and to all of us, really. But apparently it is one we've never blogged about here before. Friday may have started out routinely as well, for most of us, but as the whole world now knows, it ended in an unspeakable tragedy in France. And yet there is almost a fearful sense of predictability, a grim mundanity about it all—the "banality of evil," as Hannah Arendt once put it. Je ne sais quoi is a lovely French phrase for "an indefinable, elusive quality, especially a pleasing one." It literally means: "I know not what." The enormity of the Paris attacks can scarcely be put into words either, it seems, and some of our most trenchant and passionate commentators went with empathy over editorializing in their immediate wake. Stephen Colbert was both moving and amusing at once when he assured his listeners: "If it makes you feel a connection to the people of Paris, go drink a bottle of Bordeaux. Eat a croissant at Au Bon Pain. Slap on a beret and smoke a cigarette like this. Go eat some French fries, which I am now calling Freedom fries in honor of the French people. Anything that is an attempt at human connection in the world right now is positive... Did you get up this morning and not try to kill someone? Then you’re on the right side." Early and late press releases are full of the terrible news today. But there will always be time for a new edition. There were 56 cases of this typo in OhioLINK, and "too many records found for your search" in WorldCat.

(Stephen Colbert in May 2012, holding his Peabody Award, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Friday, November 13, 2015

Opportuniy (Opportunity)

I have made this typo myself, on occasion, so I thought I would take the opportunity to offer it to you as well. Some people use mnemonics to help them remember difficult spellings, or simply to remind them of what a word itself means, or perhaps even to inspire a certain esprit de corps ("There's no I in TEAMWORK"), but that sort of thing rarely helps with a simple slip of the finger. Today's word contains both a Y and an I, and even a Y-O-U of sorts, not to mention two O's, two P's, and two T's. So you've got a lot of options here. It's just a matter of taking it slow, making sure you've dotted your I's and crossed your T's, and then not blowing the whole thing right at the very end. There were three missed opportunities in OhioLINK today, and 23 in WorldCat.

("We're ready! For the challenge of tomorrow. Let's do the job ... together!" Poster art, 1941–1945, courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration, and Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Improvm* (for Improvem*)

Does doing a lot of improv improve one's acting? I think that most people who got their start on shows like SCTV (an offshoot of Toronto's Second City troupe) would very likely answer "yes" to that question, or at least something else along the same lines. Though I'm a big believer in the importance of good writing when it comes to television and movie scripts, it's also pretty clear that mastering improv techniques can help an actor or comedian seem more "natural" or spontaneous. Some recent TV shows, like Curb Your Enthusiasm and Reno, 911!, were (amazingly) essentially improvised, and had just general plot outlines to follow, while others, such as The Office or Parks and Recreation, were tightly scripted, but allowed their cast members some leeway for deviation, and often some of the show's best lines. And then there's Whose Line Is It Anyway?, where the entire premise of the program is improv. You can make some important improvements to your own catalog today by searching out and correcting this "high probability" typo, which was found 46 times in OhioLINK, and 1194 times in WorldCat. And with such a high hit count, one could probably try improvising some other typos for this word as well.

(Rick Moranis at the 62nd Academy Awards, photo by Alan Light, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Monday, November 9, 2015

Altantic (for Atlantic)

It seems like an awful lot of changes are happening here in Albany (as well as in my online life) over the past couple of weeks now, and unfortunately, none of them are really happy ones. Three local institutions (all dating from the 1970s and '80s) are, if not quite going kaput, being considerably altered. Our longtime health-food co-op's management has determined it can no longer support the "member worker" program, essentially turning Honest Weight into a regular old retail store. Our beloved independent movie theater, the Spectrum, has been sold to a national chain. And possibly worst of all, the wonderful and award-winning alternative newsweekly Metroland was seized by the state for non-payment of back taxes. Finally, in a disorienting coup de grâce, fans have just learned that Emily Yoffe (aka "Dear Prudence") will be leaving Slate this week to take a new job at the Atlantic. Times do change, it's true, especially the older you get, but it's all still a bitter pill to swallow. In any event, life goes on; what's the alternative? The Atlantic Monthly (an alternative to the NYC-based Harper's and the New Yorker) was founded in Boston, Massachusetts, on November 9, 1857 (according to Wikipedia's article for November 9, although that looks like it might be a typo itself since the page for the Atlantic says that the first issue was published on Nov. 1), and it's still around today. There were 16 examples of Altantic (for Atlantic) found in OhioLINK, and 423 in WorldCat.

(Photo of Atlantic magazine cover on newsstand, 30 November 2014, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Literatature* (for Literature, etc.)

Each autumn I look forward to the week-long announcements about the various Nobel Prizes. As you might know, this year’s award for literature went to Belarusian writer Svetlana Alexievich. The Swedish Academy honored the author of Voices from Chernobyl (Charnobylʹskai︠a︡ malitva) and other works for “for her polyphonic writings, a monument to suffering and courage in our time.” Ms. Alexievich was chosen from a field of 198 individual nominees.

Did you know the literature prize itself has an interesting story? According to the official Web site, since the bestowing of the first prize in 1901, a total of 108 Nobel prizes in literature have been awarded. (No prizes were awarded during the years 1914, 1918, 1935, or 1940-1943.) On four occasions, the prize was shared by two authors, bringing the total number of Nobel laureates in literature to 112. To date, only 14 women have achieved this high honor. The most common languages for award winners to write in are English, French, German, and Spanish.

Literatature* is just one of the many potential typing pitfalls for the word literature. It can be found 5 times in OhioLINK and 10 in WorldCat. You might not win any prizes for tidying up such errors, but at least you can take pride in knowing that your catalog is a better place.

(Svetlana Alexievich, by Elke Wetzig, from Wikimedia Commons)

Deb Kulczak