Thursday, June 16, 2016

Caolina (for Carolina)

George Stinney was executed by electric chair on this (awfully dark) day in 1944. A native of Alcolu, South Carolina, Stinney was only 14 years old when he was convicted and put to death for the murder of two young white girls. (He and his sister Aime were thought to have been the last people to have seen the girls, riding their bikes and searching for "maypops"). George looks like a sad and scared kid in these mugshots, but an all-white jury saw murderous intent in those big brown eyes and took all of ten minutes to arrive at a verdict. The trial itself lasted two and a half hours and admitted no blacks among the 1,000+ spectators. The only evidence brought against him was his (almost certainly coerced) confession. There is no transcript of the trial and no written record of the "confession." His lawyer neglected to call witnesses, declined to cross-exam any, and didn't reserve the right to appeal. That, perhaps, is the only cold comfort to be found in this shameful sham in which black lives definitely didn't matter. Because George Stinney so clearly received what is called "ineffective assistance of counsel" (it's hard to imagine a better example), a judge in 2014 vacated his conviction, believing the confession had probably been forced; in any case, he had been denied his Sixth Amendment right to due process. He's with the Lord now, as a friend of mine is fond of saying, but it would have been nice if he'd been allowed to grow up first. And there seems to have been no justice, no peace for those two little Carolina girls either. RIP, George, Betty, and Mary. Today's typo was discovered seven times in OhioLINK, and 123 times in WorldCat.

(George Stinney's mugshot, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Thousnad*, Thousnd* (for Thousand*)

On a recent trip to California, I saw an exhibit at the Bowers Museum called "Mummies of the World." In other words, not just the highly processed Egyptian mummies we're used to seeing or hearing about, but rather a whole array of them from various parts of the globe and various periods in time. Some of them were intentionally preserved and some accidentally. On a seemingly unrelated note, I was discussing with a couple of friends whether or not you can safely leave your butter sitting out, along with the relative merits of what's known as a "French butter dish" or "butter bell," etc., when suddenly the two topics were weirdly brought together with the news that a 22-pound "chunk of butter"—estimated to be more than two thousand years old—had been found in a peat bog in Ireland. "Didn't I tell you that it's OK to leave butter out?" says one. "Here's the proof." "I guess bogs are like refrigerators," says the other. "Better," I replied, "Better bog butter..." And then this little ditty began to form in my head:

Betty Peat began to putter,
All around some old bog butter,
It was big and in a bag, and really rather hard to lug,
But even after such a lag, was unmolested by a bug.

Enjoy your naturally softened butter and stay away from hydrogenated fats (which could probably give that bog butter a run for its money, longevity-wise). There were three (and two) cases of today's typos in OhioLINK, and 41 (20) in WorldCat.

(Bog butter in wooden vessel, 15th-16th century, found near Portadown, County Armagh, housed in the Ulster Museum, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Madsion* (for Madison*)

I just saw a great Tallulah Bankhead flick from 1931 called The Cheat. It was the third remake of the Cecil B. DeMille silent from 1915, and the second feature in a film series entitled "Murder, Morals and Music," which is currently taking place at the Madison Theater (one of the oldest movie houses in Albany, and its only surviving independent one) over the next few months. What really makes these movie nights fun, besides the chance to see such old fare on such a big screen, is the short preliminary video (à la Robert Osbourne on TCM) of our host and his "guest programmer" filling us in the film we're about to see—and gleefully dishing the dirt on its stars. "Tallulah never wore underwear!" we're told. She would strip naked at parties. She slept with both women and men. She openly used cocaine and she reportedly smoked 150 [!] cigarettes a day. She was like a cross between Mae West and Madonna. (Our hosts compared her to Lady Gaga, but I think she looks much more like Madge.) Even during the "pre-Code" era, Bankhead's "wild" roles on celluloid could scarcely compete with her actual life. The smoking thing may have been a bit of an exaggeration (merely lighting up that many times a day would be a chore), but I guess they really weren't kidding about the underwear. As soon as the film began to roll, here comes Tallulah in the sheerest little shimmy imaginable and nary a bra strap or panty line in sight. It seems that there were a few complaints, though, causing Alfred Hitchcock to famously quip during the making of Lifeboat: "I don't know if this is a matter for the costume department, makeup, or hairdressing." I really wanted to make today's typo Underware, but apparently that is a valid typography term (though a few of the seven hits we got in OhioLINK were for the type that Tallulah eschewed). You can give that one a try as well, but today's official typo is Madsion* (for Madison*), found three times in OhioLINK, and 151 times in WorldCat.

(Tallulah and Augustus John with her famous portrait, 1929, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Kernal* (for Kernel*)

Recently, I overheard a woman refer to that well-known feeling of dread or apprehension as "having this pit in my stomach." The correct expression, of course, is "having a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach," but it occurs to me that her "original" phrasing also evokes the classic childhood fear of what might happen should you accidentally swallow a seed, a pit, or a kernel. You could start growing an entire tree in there! (I was telling a friend the other day about how my grandmother once threw a peach pit into the backyard and it actually grew into a tree.) Apples have seeds and peaches have pits, but it seems like only corn have kernels. And in case you're afraid of germinating some giant Jack and the Beanstalk-like cobs in your tummy, remember what happens when you eat some unpopped [I just wrote that "unpooped"!] popcorn, otherwise known by some people I know as "duds" or "old maids": they basically pass right through your system essentially unchanged. Corn and computers appear to be the two primary areas that use the term kernel; in either case, though, Kernal would be a typo. And a pretty common one at that. Avoid any pitfalls, along with that pit in the pit of your stomach, and tackle this typo poste-haste. There were 47 cases of it found in OhioLINK today, and 1,049 in WorldCat.

(Popcorn 'Pink' or Zea mays, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Rennaisa* (for Renaissa*)

Dorothy West, born June 2, 1907, was a novelist, columnist, short story writer, and publisher during the Harlem Renaissance. She was brought up in Boston, the daughter of a former slave turned businessman. She was an only child, but had a large extended family, given that her mother was one of 22 [!] children. Dorothy wrote her first story at the age of 7, and had another one published at 14 in the Boston Post. When she was 19, she entered a writing contest sponsored by the Urban League, and tied for first place with Zora Neale Hurston, who was 16 years her senior and would later become a good friend. Dorothy attended Girls Latin School in Boston, Boston University, and the Columbia School of Journalism. She moved to Harlem with her cousin, the poet Helene Johnson, where she met other rising luminaries, such as Countee Cullen, Wallace Thurman, and Langston Hughes. "The Kid," as Dorothy was dubbed by Hughes, accompanied him to Russia in 1932 in order to make a movie about race relations in America. Though the film was never completed, the pair stayed in Russia for a year. During the 1940s, West wrote many short stories for the New York Daily News and had the distinction of being the first black writer to ever appear in those pages. She published the ground-breaking journal Challenge in 1934, along with its successor, New Challenge, and provided a ready conduit for many of her "colored" compatriots. While West only wrote two novels (The Living Is Easy in 1948 and The Wedding in 1995), her overall contribution to the world of letters was such that she was awarded the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award for Lifetime Achievement in 1996, just two years before her death. Acknowledging the hurdles she had faced as both a woman and a black person, when asked at the age of 91 what she would wish her legacy to be, she simply replied: "That I hung in there. That I didn't say I can't." Thanks for the inspiring words and example, Dorothy! There were 11 occurrences of Renaissance for (renaissance) in OhioLINK today, and 219 in WorldCat.

(Dorothy West, courtesy of Wikipedia.)

Carol Reid


Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Copywright* (for Copyright* or Copywrite*)

The first U.S. federal copyright act was passed today in 1790 and it's been kind of a hard word to get right ever since. I once had an unfortunate moment of "wordnesia" (during a spelling bee, no less) and inexplicably spelled the word playwright "playwrite," so I can understand how some people might be inclined to misspell copyright as "copywright." Or even "copywrite." Especially since those who write "copy" are called copywriters. Lots of copy has been written about copyright (both pro and con), but there may not be any dissent at all when it comes to the "best copyright statement ever," as helpfully supplied by a NYLINE member recently. It's from the Riverhead Books division of Penguin Random House and starts off typically enough ("Penguin supports copyright..."), but soon veers off into "a clear and charming argument for the importance of supporting intellectual property." The copyright statement, which was suggested by cartoonist Ryan North, author of a "choose your own adventure" series based on the stories of Shakespeare, continues for a while and then interjects: "Also, way to go on reading all this small print! Lots of readers just skip over it (they think it's "boring"), but it's nice to see that you, for one, are getting your money's worth out of this book by reading every single word it contains. In thanks, here are some special words just for you that won't appear anywhere else in this book: callipygian, saudade, and mamihlapinatapei. Look at those words! Those are some quality words, and everyone else who picked up this book is missing out." I know that callipygian means, to put it bluntly, having a big beautiful butt, but I had to look up the other two, an endeavor I highly endorse. And speaking of big butts, I was just discussing with a friend whether the more "proper" expression is "butt naked" or "buck naked." It's an interesting debate that may or may not involve a level of racial bigotry. Some words are intrinsically "offensive," I suppose you could say, while others are simply misunderstood (niggardly, picnic, etc.). Just ask your favorite copywriter. Today's typo came up seven times in OhioLINK, and 291 times in WorldCat. (In one case, though, what at first looked like a typo actually turned out to be a pun of sorts: The Copywrights: Intellectual Property and the Literary Imagination.)

(Three happy copywriters in 1950s Chicago, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Nuremburg* (for Nuremberg*)

Today in 1828, a raggedy, shambolic teen, who claimed his name was Kaspar Hauser, materialized on the streets of Nuremberg, Germany. He was carrying two letters with him, both of them written in the same hand. One was purportedly by the anonymous man who had raised him and taught him a few fundamentals, while the other was from his mother, stating that his dad was dead, but had once been a member of the German cavalry. (Kaspar was unable or unwilling to say much of anything else, other than: "I want to be a cavalryman, as my father was" and "Horse! Horse!") He later expanded his account, insisting that he had long been kept locked in a small dark enclosure with nothing but bread and water to subsist on, and a little toy horse to play with. Experts now believe the boy probably wrote both letters himself, but the real question is why. His story is a convoluted and confusing one, but Kaspar Hauser is still widely thought to have been the original "wolf boy" or "feral child." He died (by his own hand, and perhaps by accident) at the age of twenty-one. His epitaph reads: "Here lies Kaspar Hauser, riddle of his time. His birth was unknown, his death mysterious." Though some see him as a simple (if not simple-minded) prevaricator, his tale has resonated throughout the years. In 1974, director Werner Herzog memorialized it in The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser. In the film Fahrenheit 451, Guy Montag slips a copy of a book called Gaspard Hauser into his bag before the rest of the collection is burned. Hauser has been referenced by a great many writers, including Leo Tolstoy and Herman Melville. There's even a syndrome named after him—not for his possible "Munchausen" tendencies, but rather for his short stature and related physical anomalies. No lie, though, there were 100 cases of Nuremburg* (for Nuremberg*) in OhioLINK today, and "too many records found for your search" in WorldCat. The prevalence of this typo may be partly chalked up to the fact that there is also a city in Germany known as Nürburg. The two spellings for something like "fortified settlement on a hill" in German are often mixed up, even when it comes to words like iceberg, so be careful with this one (along with any other berg/burg typos that may turn up out there).

(Drawing of Kaspar Hauser, by Johann Georg Laminit, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid