Friday, June 29, 2007

June 29, 2007 - Ecomom*

The majority of economists are men, though most "home economists" have been women. In any case, the idea of EcoMom has resonance, if more as a symbol of green, life-affirming ecology than grim, gray-suited economics. Ecomom* rakes in 35 records on OhioLINK, Ecomon* grooves to 49, and Econon*, with 34, gets the least number of hits, but the most letters right, before simply repeating the N from two letters before. Other variants on the Ballard list include: Ecnom*, Econim*, Economc*, Econio*, Econm*, Economio*, Economoc, Economoic, Econoomic, and, humorously enough, Ecocomic. The simplest explanation for all of these typos is that the N and M keys are right next to each other and a little hard to reach, so it's easy to confuse them. Although, I still think Mom had something to do with it.

Carol Reid

Thursday, June 28, 2007

June 28, 2007 - Roomate*

If you have to share quarters in the Hundred Acre Wood, you could do a lot worse than Kanga and Roo, mates! Roomate* shows up 15 times in OhioLINK, making it a typo of moderate-to-high prob­ability on the Ballard list. Though roommates can crowd you, there should be enough room in there for both the M in room and the other one in mates. This sort of elision is rather common, though, and often plagues the spelling of such words as newsstand, bookkeeper, bathhouse, override, and withhold. "Tiddely pom," says Winnie-the-Pooh. And "Rum-tum-tum-tiddle-um." We, on the other hand, can not afford to be so fancy-free with our compound words. In most cases where two become one (like roommates who've fallen in love), all letters become joint property of the new word. (Picture shows the original Kanga and friends, now residing in the Donnell Center at the New York Public Library. Sadly, Roo was misplaced in an apple orchard in the 1930s.)

Carol Reid

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

June 27, 2007 - Speach

Speech is sort of like writing. It can be formal or a form of verbal phonics. Speech even has its own version of typos—"talkos" if you will. (Just yesterday I heard a talking head on CNN describe someone as "stale wart." Eww.) But you don't need to be able to spell to speak. When giving a speech, speech may be spoken as "speach"; when writing a speech, speech may not be written as "speach." Speech is written as Speach 31 times in OhioLINK and registers in the "high probability" range of the Ballard list. I must speak out in partial defense, though: my own catalog had only three of these and they were all from the seventeenth century (when writing was sort of like speech). Speach can also be a surname (as can Speek). So be sure and watch your "speach" when seeking out this typo. (Escape to freeze peach.)

Carol Reid

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

June 26, 2007 - Drunkeness

Drinking and spelling don't generally go together, perhaps because imbibing makes one "cockeyed," "pie-eyed," or "blind drunk," in addition to impairing one's judgment. At a recent barroom spelling bee (where vision isn't a factor and your judgment may already be in question), I walked the line pretty steadily up until the end when the last two competitors went at it in dizzying fashion for another sixty-some rounds. The eventual winner did accept a drink on the house—a J√§germeister—midway through the face-off, although it's usually best to attempt such feats sober. OhioLINK contains 15 cases of public Drunkeness, a typo for drunkenness that reaches "high probability" levels on the Ballard list. Granted, the word's a bit easier to say that way, especially after you've knocked back a few, but that's really no excuse. (Photograph by P.I. King.)

Carol Reid

Monday, June 25, 2007

June 25, 2007 - Transporat*

When Borat was transported from the Glorious Nation of Kazakstan to the United States of America, audiences around the world were transported as well. Some to helpless laughter, others to righteous anger. Transporat* has moved to first class on the Ballard list and shows up 153 times in OhioLINK. This looks like a common case of letter reversal kicking in, or maybe there's an automatic tendency to forget about the middle T since more words end in –ation than –tation. It could also come from being too eager to reach one's destination.

Carol Reid

Friday, June 22, 2007

June 22, 2007 - Micorf*

When I was in library school, I had the good fortune of being introduced to the idea of intellectual freedom—and delight in the field in general—by the former dean, a wonderfully eccentric gentleman who was once dubbed the "most verbose" library science professor in the country. One day in class he expressed his reservations about microforms in the following fragment (with implied apologies to Edgar Allan Poe):

Microforms are akin to a midden
And have their ghastly origins
In the rank miasma of the tarn.

The Ballard list includes Micorf* in its "highest probability" section; Micoform, Micrform, and Microfom in its "high probability" section; Micoro*, Microfirm, Microforn, and Mocrofirm in its "moderate probability" section; and quite a few other tiny-related typos wafting their way through the rest of the list. (Note that some of these could mean either microform or microfilm.) Wipe out one or two each day so you don't get swamped.

Carol Reid

Thursday, June 21, 2007

June 21, 2007 - Summm*

It's summertime, summertime, sum, sum, summertime ... Mmm! But in our enthusiasm for the season, it's sometimes easy to overdo it. The Ballard list puts Summm* in its "high probability" category of library typos; OhioLINK had 23 records, while my own library had 12. They weren't all cases of the summertime blues, though. In fact, typos for summary/summaries slightly edged out those for summer/summertime in both of these databases, followed by misspellings of summit, summa, summoned, and summos. You can also find typos that err on the other side, having one M instead of two. OhioLINK returned eight hits for Sumary, five for Sumaries, and three for Sumertime, just to give you some idea. So, umm, enjoy your vocation and don't let the M and M's melt in your hand. (Photograph by P.I King.)

Carol Reid

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

June 20, 2007 - Priviledge*

Priviledge is ranked as a "highest probability" typo on the Ballard list simply because it's hard for many people to spell properly. Perhaps that's because ledge is a familiar English word that refers to something above and apart from the rest—privileged. Or because if you're too underprivileged (or overprivileged, or just plain edgy), you might find yourself tempted to jump off of one. Lege, on the other hand, is not a real word. Although the late great Molly Ivins used to frequently skewer the "Texas Lege," with which the word privilege is is fact linguistically and commonly associated. Aids to memory like this can be fun, but they must be carefully derived from the spelling of a word, not whimsically or unconsciously imposed upon it. So devise carefully. Mnemonics are a privilege. (Photograph by P.I. King.)

Carol Reid

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

June 19, 2007 - Psued*

A popular pseudo-spelling of the word pseudonym is Psuedonym: the Ballard list puts Psued* in its "highest probability" category with 114 hits on OhioLINK. A tendency to reverse those first two vowels may be partly due to the embedded name Sue, which would be a suitable pseudonym for a girl. And if there really were a boy named "Sue," perhaps he'd spell it "Psue"—and then sue his parents for naming him that. At any rate, for a corrective mnemonic, let's try this: A pseudonym is not a real name. So it should be Seu, not Sue. Or else tell yourself that it's like Dr. Seuss, a pseudonym for Theodor Geisel.

Carol Reid

Monday, June 18, 2007

June 18, 2007 - Westminister

Overwhelmingly apt to be a typo for Westminster, Westminister could be the rare exception that proves the rule. I say "could" because it's hard to tell. There are so many instances of the latter on Google that it almost seems as if one or two of them might actually exist somewhere. But none of the gazetteers I looked at included this spelling. Of course, "-minster" means minister, so perhaps we can be forgiven our spelling sins. The magnitude of this typo reaches almost Biblical proportions: there are 324 instances of it in OhioLINK and 138 in my own library’s catalog. Westminister appears on both the "highest probability" and the "high probability" portions of the Ballard list, linked with London, Press, Abbey, England, and University. (Illustration is The Thames Below Westminster by Claude Monet.)

Carol Reid

Friday, June 15, 2007

June 15, 2007 - Ulysees

Tomorrow is Bloomsday, when James Joyce fans around the world raise a glass to their opaque auteur. June 16 was the single-day setting for the famously banned book Ulysses, having also been the date of the author's first date with his wife Nora Barnacle. Ulysses was published in the first of many editions in Paris, France, on 2/2/22. And, yes yes yes indeed, the number two seems to be the factor driving most of the typos for this word: Is it one S or two? One E or two? One L or two? OhioLINK turns up two for Ulysees, two for Ulysess, and four for Ullys*. Pardon the French, however, in such proper names as Ulysse (main character in Planet of the Apes), along with other possible foreign-language variations—such as the author Ulyses Petit de Murat. (Illustration is of James Joyce statue in Trieste.)

Carol Reid

Thursday, June 14, 2007

June 14, 2007 - Buenos Aries

Jorge Luis Borges was born in Buenos Aires during the dog days of summer (August 24, 1899) and died just before its dawn on June 14, 1986. Blind for most of his adult life, Borges was remarkable for his ability to speak extemporaneously as if reading from a prepared script. His attention to detail was scrupulous and all-encompassing, much like that of an exemplary cataloger. And Borges, in fact, did work in libraries, eventually becoming director of the National Library of Argentina. According to Wikipedia: "In 1937, friends of Borges found him work at the Miguel Cané branch of the Buenos Aires Municipal Library as a first assistant. His fellow employees forbade Borges from cataloging more than 100 books per day, a task which would take him about one hour." Despite such incredible feats of assiduity, it's hard to picture Borges carelessly making errors. The spelling of his hometown, however, does give some of us lesser mortals a bit of trouble. The Ballard list includes the following typos for Buenos Aires: Buenos Aries, Buenos Aire, Buenos Aies, and Buenos Ares.

Carol Reid

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

June 13, 2007 - Vistor

When Daisy Ashford, at age nine, composed The Young Visiters (or, Mr. Salteena's Plan), the book's frequent misspellings were part of its charm. It was so perfectly precocious, in fact, that many readers wrongly supposed it had been written by J.M. Barrie, who had lovingly penned the preface. It also inspired Ring Lardner's short story "The Young Immigrunts," source of that immortal quotation (and title of a 2004 memoir by his granddaughter): Shut up, he explained. Incidentally, most title entries for the Ashford and Lardner works fail to include "sic," which, though technically required, would seem to be a winking nod to the literacy of both these writers and their readers. Vistor* and Revisted are considered "high probability" typos; the following appear elsewhere on the Ballard list: Vist, Visting, Revisting, Revists, Visii*, Vists, and Rivisited. (Note that the word visiter is French for "to visit.")

Carol Reid

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

June 12, 2007 - Proctor & Gamble

Proctor & Gamble is a typo of the "highest probability," according to the Ballard list, and it's easy to see why. As a society of test takers, we're accustomed to being proctored and taking a gamble on the right answer. Procter and Gamble were a candlemaker and a soapmaker who married sisters and became business partners in 1837. William Procter may have tested his products before turning staples like Ivory Soap and Crisco into household names, but he spelled his own name differently than those other sharp-eyed testers (who often appear nearly as ancient to their sweaty-palmed charges). Another nervous reason people might tend to make this mistake is that in Arthur Miller's play The Crucible, John Proctor is accused of being in league with the Devil—as was Procter & Gamble itself when some conspiracy theorists with too much time on their hands started a rumor that the P&G logo was "satanic." This typo appears 32 times in OhioLINK, five times in my own library's catalog, and 737,000 times on Google (about half as many hits as you get for the correct spelling).

Carol Reid

Monday, June 11, 2007

June 11, 2007 - Innoculat*

Innoculate is a typo symptomatic of a common confusion over its spelling, caused by an innocent comparison with the word innocuous. Inoculate has only one N, making it a popular tripper-upper in spelling bees. (Bee venom, by the way, has been used to inoculate people against a host of diseases.) You have a good chance of catching this bug in your catalog as it turns up on the "high probability" section of the Ballard list. My own OPAC had half a dozen outbreaks, and OhioLINK, with 20, was not immune either. Innocuous comes from the Latin prefix in- (meaning "not") and nocuus (meaning "harmful"), whereas inoculate comes from the Latin preposition in- (meaning "into") and oculus (meaning "eye"). Given that inoculate can also mean "to introduce an idea or attitude into the mind of," remembering the roots of these words may help to prevent the spread of this typo in our library databases. Let's give it a shot.

Carol Reid

Friday, June 8, 2007

June 8, 2007 - Tallahasee

Tallahassee -- it may be the most frequently misspelled state capital in the U.S. The version with one s is the most popular on our lists (B list).

Image of early Tallahassee, Florida, from the Yale University Library.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

June 7, 2007 - Cemetary

Another typo for a word ending in ery is cemetary for cemetery from our B list. A Google image search for cemetary brings up some 72,000 hits, along with the usual polite inquiry "did you mean cemetery?"

Lindisfarne Cemetery, on the coast of northeastern England.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

June 6, 2007 - Jewelery

Jewelery can be a typo for either jewelry (U.S.) or jewellery (U.K.) -- it comes from our Moderate Probability C list. There are two more related typos on the E list : jewerly and jewlery.

The Hope diamond.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

June 5, 2007 - Cincinatti

It's WKRP in Cincinnati -- two n's and one t. This error is common enough to place it on our A list.

Fountain Square : shown at the beginning of each episode of WKRP in Cincinnati.

Monday, June 4, 2007

June 4, 2007 - Arcobat

Today's typo(s) are various contortions of the word acrobat. In our databases, the word is probably more likely to represent the Adobe software than the gymnast -- in that case Acrobat upper-cased is correct. Arcobat and its companions acrabat and acrobar come from the D list. For extra credit look for these ne'er-do-wells from the E list : acobrat, acroat, and acrobad.

The Acrobat (1930) by Pablo Picasso

Friday, June 1, 2007

June 1, 2007 - Widecreen

Widecreen and its companion Widesscreen are most likely to occur in video and DVD bibliographic records. Current best practice places information about aspect ratio in the 538 field, but it also may show up in an edition statement in the 250 field. New televisions are designed to show widescreen format to best advantage, so people will be looking for this word in the records. Since it probably appears only once, correct spelling is critical. Be sure the 538 field is searchable in your system. These typos come from the new typos to be added to the D list :

On the same page waiting to go on the E list is Widescreeen, which sounds like the perfect format for a horror movie.