Friday, November 30, 2007

November 30, 2007 - Chatanooga*

Chatanooga*, for Chattanooga, is a typo from the B list (High Probability). Two other versions of the same typo are Chatatnooga* and Chattanog*, both from the E list.

Image of Walnut Street Bridge in Chattanooga, Tennessee, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

November 29, 2007 - Dobly

Dobly for Dolby is a High Probablity typo most likely to show up in audiovisual records.

Ray Dolby of Dolby Laboratories, member of the Inventors Hall of Fame.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

November 28, 2007 - Digitial*

Digitial* for digital is a typo of Moderate probability, as is digtial* (to be added this year). Less likely to be found are digtal* and digiital*.

Image of digital metronome courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

November 27, 2007 - Hospt*

Hospt* (truncated form to be used with wildcard symbol) is a High Probability typo for hospital, hospitalization, etc.

Other less frequently found typos for the same words include: hospita, Hopital*, Hopsi*, Hostpi*, Hopist*, Hosital*, Hospitol*, Hsopital, and Hospitalizt*.

CORRECTION: David Moody commented that the acronym NASA stands for National Aeronautics and Space Administration. A different meaning was given in yesterday's post.
Ward in the hospital in Arles by Van Gogh courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Monday, November 26, 2007

November 26, 2007 - Aeronatuic*

Today's typo, aeronatuic* for aeronautic*, comes from the Moderate Probability list. As always, using the wildcard symbol from your system will pull up the greatest number of typos. Other misspellings of the same word include Aeonau*, Aeornautic*, Aeoronautic*, Aernonautic*, Aeronalutic*, Aeronatutic*, Aeronauatic*, Aeronautc*, Aeronutic* (D list) and Aeornauatic* and Aernoautic* (E list).

A related issue concerns the full name of NASA : National Aeronautics and Space Agency rather than Aeronautic, as frequently found in Wikimedia Commons.

NASA image of Florida peninsula courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Friday, November 23, 2007

November 23, 2007 - Belive*, etc. (for Believe)

René Descartes famously declared, "I think, therefore I am," a sentiment that can sort of be squashed into a single non-word, our typo of the day: Belive. We believe things, which makes us live or be. Or, rather, 'twould be impossible to be a living human being and not a believing one, or a thinking one. My high school English teacher, Helen Adler, who passed away last year to the great sorrow of a great many people, liked the Blaise Pascal quote, "Man is but a reed, the weakest in nature, but he is a thinking reed," and as a result the school's creative writing and art publication was called The Thinking Reed. Another serious thinker, Edward R. Murrow, developed a five-minute radio program during which both famous and ordinary Americans would read personal essays on the subject "This I Believe." This, I believe, was a fairly bold statement at the height of the McCarthy era when all kinds of Americans were being persecuted for what they believed. Belive* is a "high probability" typo on the Ballard list, occurring on 76 records in OhioLINK. Belieiv* appears in the "lowest probability" section. Specific forms of the typo are found in OhioLINK as follows: Beliver* (eight times), Belives (five), and Belived and Beliving (one time apiece).

Carol Reid

Thursday, November 22, 2007

November 22, 2007 - Thankgiving, Indain*, Pilgrams, and Trukey*, etc. (for Thanksgiving, Indian*, Pilgrims, and Turkey)

Today we can all give a word of thanks for the fact that there are relatively few typos in OhioLINK for the word Thanksgiving. To be exact, we found eight for Thankgiving, three for Thansgiving, two for Thanksiving, and one for Thnaksgiving. (Regrettably, we had to pass on Tanksgiving and Thinksgiving, potential variants that tickle the funny bone, although for that very reason there seem to be numerous sites on Google employing them each as puns.) As for the three main players at the First Supper, there are seven servings of Indain*, three of Pilgrams, two of Trukey*, and about 35 of Turky (which was apparently an alternate spelling for both Turkey and turkey back in the day).

During this time of reflection on our British forebears, it might also be a good time to point out that you can distinguish, in many cases, between typos and good old-fashioned "spelings" by consulting the Oxford English Dictionary, which is freely accessible online through your local library's subscription and still consuming about as much room in print as the original Thanksgiving dinner did, on shelves in any good, large library. (Pictured here is The First Thanksgiving, by Jean Louis Gerome Ferris, from Wikimedia Commons, available there because its shelf life, unlike that of today's leftovers, has long ago expired.)

Carol Reid

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

November 21, 2007 - Festchrift*, etc. (for Festschrift)

Festschrifts (or Festschriften) are generally solemn publications, but can sometimes be quite funny when humor is what is called for. In 1971, admirers of the linguist Jim McCawley published one "on the occasion of his 33rd or 34th birthday" entitled Studies out in Left Field: Defamatory Essays Presented to James D. McCawley ("in reality … an unforgettable collection of ludo- and scatolinguistics"). Prior to Molly Ivins' death in 2007, the Berkeley Daily Planet launched the "Molly Ivins Festschrift," writing: "Academics are wont to create festschrifts on the occasion of a revered colleague's sixtieth birthday, for example. Molly's already sixty-two, but no time like the present to catch up with what we should have done two years ago. And we might call it festschrift if we could reliably remember how to spell or pronounce that German word, but let's just call it the Molly Ivins Tribute Project."

Defined as "a volume of writings by different authors presented as a tribute or memorial especially to a scholar," Festschrift is another example of a word that is difficult to spell and therefore prone to typographical error. Festchrift turns up 19 times in OhioLINK; Feschrift three times; and Fetschrift once (correspondingly, 357, 54, and 25 times in WorldCat). There are a total of 93,044 correctly spelled instances in WorldCat and 436 incorrectly spelled ones, which is to say that out of every 200 or so records containing this word, one of them has it spelled wrong. (A somewhat lower ratio obtains in OhioLINK.) While correcting this typo, note that it should also be capitalized and coded 1 under "Fest" in the Fixed Field of your record. (Photo of cataloging maverick in 1963 and subject of the 1995 Festschrift Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sandy Berman but Were Afraid to Ask.)

Carol Reid

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

November 20, 2007 - Ophtalm*, etc. (for Ophthalmology)

Most of us would rather make an appointment to see one and be made to read that last little line of letters on the wall than have to spell the word ophthalmologist. William Proctor, in The Terrible Speller, shamefacedly owns up to having written a book in which he consistently misspells it throughout. "Pronounce the word correctly," he says, "and you'll greatly increase the odds that you'll spell it correctly." Ophtalm*, Opthalm*, and Ophtham* are charted as "high probability" typos on the Ballard list (with Optham* and Opthom* showing up lower down). This eye-popping word is difficult to pronounce and even harder to put together. Simply put, one needn't be a visionary to know that it spells trouble. (In a must-see performance, Bette Davis is kept in the dark by her doctor husband about an inoperable brain tumor in the film Dark Victory.)

Carol Reid

Monday, November 19, 2007

November 19, 2007 - Potrait*, etc. (for Portrait)

Red, yellow, green, and purple, the Teletubbies make quite a picture. Although their traits are more than just tints. And Tinky Winky isn't the only one capable of raising eyebrows. The red one, Po, for example, while she hasn't exactly been accused of being a Communist, has been described as having indeterminate gender (she's really just a tomboy) and the ability to speak Cantonese. She's the smallest and most mischievous of the four and the reported favorite among young viewers. In OhioLINK, Potrait* pops up about ten times ("Again! Again!"), which lands it in the "high probability" section of the Ballard list. Portriat* pulls in 7 hits, but Portait* with 50 and Protrait* with 55 are the clear winners when it comes to misrepresentations of portrait. (Teletubbies tenth anniversary photo op from New York Magazine, March 28, 2007.)

Carol Reid

Friday, November 16, 2007

November 16, 2007 - Willl* (for Willa, William, etc.)

I know a girl named Willa who is so nice you want to spell her name twice. Or perhaps even thrice. The letter L appears three tangential times in today's typo, which itself is found 63 times in OhioLINK, for names beginning with Will. Bear in mind, though, that while many Willas, Willems, and Williams, for example, do come from Germany, there are other German words that legitimately have three letters lined up in a row. This is due to a recent spelling reform concerning compound nouns in which the first element ends in a double letter and the second one starts with the same letter. (Prior to the reform, one of those double letters would have been omitted.) An acceptable variant allows for inclusion of a hyphen, especially in the case of vowels. So you will have to be vigilant when searching for triple-letter typos, but where there's a will, there's a way, and when it comes to names with the letter L, zwei ist company und drei ist ein crowd. (Picture of Willa Cather on the Burlington Railroad.)

Carol Reid

Thursday, November 15, 2007

November 15, 2007 - Orchesta*, etc. (for Orchestra)

In another nonsensical Carroll classic, Humpty Dumpty declares: "When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less." One imagines him taking a similar approach, more or less, to the spelling of a word as well. Likewise, many librarians seem to find that the word orchestra contains one more letter than they'd like it to, as there are fully 73 examples of Orchesta*, and 20 of Orcestra*, currently causing disharmony in OhioLINK. These are typos of "high probability," 21 of them occurring in title or subject fields. The July 6 entry Ochestra set the stage for today's typo, with the Ballard list including the following variations on a theme: Orchetra*, Orchstra*, Orcherstra*, Orchesrt*, and Orchestrs. Tune up your OPACs by cleaning up these clams and pretty soon we'll all be making beautiful music together. (Illustration from Alice in Orchestralia by Ernest la Prade, 1925.)

Carol Reid

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

November 14, 2007 - Hybird*, etc. (for Hybrid)

Perhaps the best thing about spell checkers is the way they introduce you to interesting new words (while completely missing the mark in terms of doing their actual job). My own guide to spelling was recently startled by a tagline, urging me to change it to "tiglon." Curious as a cat, I pounced upon a dictionary, whereupon I learned that it's a hybrid, the offspring of a male tiger and a female lion. (Also known as a "tigon" or "tigron.") The converse is called a "liger." (Tiger, see Lion. Lion, see Tiger. Nine months later ... ooh, what a cute little cross-reference!) These are portmanteau words, a coinage from Lewis Carroll's Jabberwocky: "Well, slithy means lithe and slimy ... You see it's like a portmanteau—there are two meanings packed up into one word." Today's typos are also hybrids of a sort. They're what happens when a good word meets a bad writer. Hybird* appears in OhioLINK seven times, Hybid* and Hybrd* one time each. (Tiglon rendering from website To Worlds Unknown.)

Carol Reid

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

November 13, 2007 - Einsten, Enstein, Einstien & Refridg*

No, that's not a law firm, and I'm no Einstein, but at least I can spell his name right. As no doubt can most people, given that Albert Einstein was one of the most famous men who ever lived. Albert himself, however, was an abysmal speller, possibly due to having dyslexia. OhioLINK contains three instances of Einsten, two of Einstien, and one of Enstein. On November 11, 1930, our boy genius, along with his protégé and pal Leó Szilárd, came out with a cool invention that came to be known as the "Einstein Refrigerator." Which brings us to our second typo of the day: Refridg*. It appears on the Ballard list in the "lowest probability" category, and while that might not sound too bad, it's all relative, since refrigerator is not a word that gets out that much. It's clear, in any case, why it tends to get misspelled: It's a back-formation from "fridge," which is spelled that way because the pronunciation is less ambiguous than were it spelled "frig," and because it's less likely to look like a euphemism for fuck (despite its also-sexual relationship to the word frigidity). As for the Einstein Refrigerator, what's next? The Quantum Vacuum?

Carol Reid

Monday, November 12, 2007

November 12, 2007 - Anias Ninn (for Anaïs Nin)

With almost 3,000 Google hits on Anais Ninn, and nearly 1,000 on Anias Nin, today's typo (often mispronounced with a long, stressed i) is a classic misreading at first blush, much like the author herself was at times. A French-born scribbler of high-toned erotica, erudite diarist, and intimate friend of Henry and June Miller, Anaïs Nin was a study in contrasts. Study the way her name is spelled and you'll always know what an A is. In fact, there were only four misspellings of it found in OhioLINK (Anas for Anaïs), probably due to the diacritics, which prompt either close attention to transcription or the shortcut of "copy and paste."

Carol Reid

Friday, November 9, 2007

November 9, 2007 - Progam*, etc. (for Program)

Progam* is a typo of "highest probability" and appears 114 times in OhioLINK, along with a handful of second-stringers such as Porgr*, Progm*, Pogram*, Prorgram*, and Progrom*. If you want to rid your database of typographical errors, you'll need to get with the program and kick it into high gear. Learn how to consult the Ballard list; properly truncate your search terms; separate acceptable variants from actual misspellings; employ "sic" or "i.e." and your 246 fields to indicate printer- as opposed to cataloger-supplied errors; and keep in mind which words are hard to spell versus which are hard to type. Today's entry is a case in point concerning the various and predictable ways that transcribing a simple word can go awry: letter inversion (roor), letter elision (omitting a letter, usually a vowel), substituting one vowel for another (especially when they sound alike), etc. With regular practice, you'll come to intuit which sorts of words are problematical and therefore likely to generate typos. And pay attention to the way your own fingers dance across the keyboard. If you tend to trip up in certain ways on certain words, chances are that others do too. (Photo of the Rockettes from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Thursday, November 8, 2007

November 8, 2007 - Withcraft, etc. (for Witchcraft)

Whether with one c or two, witchcraft contains a lot of contiguous consonants, which might be why it's so easy to fall under a confused spell while spelling it. OhioLINK turns up an unlucky 13 cases of Withcraft, three of Whichcraft, and one of Wichcraft. Much like the guilt of accused witches in Salem, Massachusetts, it's a matter of "high probability." Practice the craft with which you've been entrusted and you should be able to transform these typos to their original state without resorting to magic. Have no fear, though. The Pope himself has recently decreed that witchcraft (at least of the Harry Potter sort) is no longer considered "anti-Christian."

Carol Reid

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

November 7, 2007 - Rockfeller* (for Rockefeller)

During the 1960s, Governor Nelson Rockefeller displaced 9,000 residents of downtown Albany in order to make room for the new NYS Library and Museum, among many other state offices. This whitewashed wind tunnel of teeming civil servitude (inspired by a visit from Princess Beatrix of the Netherlands and described by art critic Robert Hughes as having a somewhat fascistic aesthetic) is also known as the Nelson A. Rockefeller Empire State Plaza, not to be confused with the (John D.) Rockefeller Plaza in New York City. There are 27 hits on Rockfeller* in OhioLINK and, although this upper-crust clan is pretty populous, I'm quite sure none of them spell their name that way. "Rocky" served four terms as governor, along with veep to Gerald Ford, and repeatedly ran for president. Although he carved out a successful career in politics, Nelson never ascended to the heights of these other rocky fellers. (Photo of Mount Rushmore from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

November 6, 2007 - Supris* (for Surprise)

Election Day is the day we find out whether this year's "October Surprise" was sufficient in its shock and awe to swing some undecided voters. I wasn't too surprised to see five instances of Supris* in my library catalog, though I was a bit more alarmed at the 97 results revealed by OhioLINK. Here is an example of a word so routinely mispronounced (cf. "beserk" for berserk) that it simply leads many people to write it the way it sounds. One thing that did surprise me was when I recently discovered that the Merriam-Webster online dictionary lists surprize as an acceptable variant. (It was a common form of the word in the 1700s, which may be inferred from the 209 examples in OhioLINK.) While the Brits tend in general to favor zed-less spelling, Americans often prefer their zees. There are complicated rules governing this, but in short, according to "... There are only about four words where -ize is obligatory, viz prize, size, assize, and capsize." (Kinder Surprise pic from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Monday, November 5, 2007

November 5, 2007 - Survery*, etc. (for Survey*)

Making lists and taking surveys are both popular American pastimes (except for when the phone rings during dinnertime), as numerous best-selling "books of lists" and TV game shows like Power of 10 can attest. A survey of OhioLINK showed Survery* 38 times, Suvey* 19 times, and Suvery* three times. Surveys map our lands as well as our Zeitgeist, and run the gamut from the U.S. Census to American Idol. Gallup is the oldest continuously running opinion poll in the country, which I guess makes it very "survery." As Bob Dylan might have said: They poll ya when you're trying to cast your vote, they poll you even when they say they won't…

Carol Reid

Friday, November 2, 2007

November 2, 2007 - "Betweeen" for Between

Mark Twain said, "The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.” You hate to misquote a saying, but to misspell a word in a quote takes all the punch out of it. The same is true of online catalogs. Several typos of "Betweeen" are most likely waiting for correction in your catalog--particularly in title fields, summary and contents notes, and 260 field dates when the cataloger has given a range of possible dates, such as "between 1856 and 1862."
Wendee Eyler
Photo credit:

Thursday, November 1, 2007

November 1, 2007 - "Novermb*" for November

"Novermb*" is only one way to mangle the spelling of the month and has a high probability of being misspelled in your catalog.

Wendee Eyler