Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Barbra, etc. (for Barbara)

In Miss Rumphius, Barbara Cooney paints the picture of a librarian who follows her grandfather's recipe for a purposeful life: "Do something to make the world more beautiful." She decides to plant lupines. Eleanor Estes once told an interviewer that the character of Rufus Moffat "was based on five-year-old Barbara Cooney who filed a library application, climbing the big stairs of New Haven's George Bruce Branch Library where I worked." I found several typos for the word Barbara sprinkled throughout OhioLINK, including one for Babrara and three for Brabara, but further variants proved somewhat elusive. A search on Babara retrieved 50 hits, but only a dozen after modified thusly: Babara + Barbara. Similarly, I reduced 76 hits for Barbar to the more appropriate ten for Barbar + Barbara. Doing this judiciously will help you effectively separate the wheat from the chaff, although it can also end up missing some of the wheat should an errant cataloger have used copy & paste, thereby replicating the typo consistently. Boolean searches will cut down on false positives, but won't entirely eliminate them. In another example, I got 39 hits on Barbara + Barbra, only 22 of which explicitly contained a typo. (One of those that didn't was Bernard Goldberg's 100 People Who Are Screwing Up America—and Al Franken is #37. He counts among such notables both Barbara Walters and Barbra Streisand, along with two other Barbaras.) Be sure to check the work itself if you're in any doubt. (Portrait of Barbara Cooney, who clearly left the world a more beautiful place, from the Favorable Impressions website and the Skidompha Public Library, in Damariscotta, Maine.)

Carol Reid

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