Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Instanbul, etc. (for Istanbul)

"It's Istanbul, not Constantinople..." sang the Four Lads, a Canadian pop band that had an instant hit with this song in 1953. We might also chime in here that it's Istanbul, not Instanbul, as recorded on 12 records in OhioLINK (two with the qualifier "sic"). There were also 12 instances of Istambul and two of Istabul. "Istanbul (Not Constantinople)" was covered more recently by the alt-rock group They Might Be Giants. The Four Lads knew a thing or two about name changes, having originally been known as The Otnorots ("Toronto" spelled backwards). The song goes on to say: "Even old New York was once New Amsterdam. Why they changed it I can't say. People just liked it better that way..." The New York State Library catalog contained a single typo for Istambul. (Photo of the Four Lads from Jerry Mason's An American Pioneer Gypsy website.)

Carol Reid

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Sate (for State)

My great-aunt Hilda, who was a stickler for proper syntax and baker of sinfully sweet treats, was prone to state upon completion of a meal: "I'm replete." It was almost as if she were daring us kids to try "I'm full" or, even worse, "I'm stuffed!" instead. A search on State + Sate brings up 23 records in OhioLINK, proving that even when you think you're all done, there are often a few more plates to be cleaned. (Just (too many) desserts from Wikimedia Commons.)

By the way, the expression is "just deserts," not, as commonly supposed, "just desserts," and if there are grammar and cookies in Heaven, I'm sure my relative is getting hers there.

Carol Reid

Monday, April 28, 2008

Sourse* (for Source*)

Somebody's been monkeying around here, making today's typo a real lemon. There are 13 hits in OhioLINK for Sourse*, including one "sic" and a few with an apparently variant spelling from earlier times. It's souring my mood just contemplating the idea that there might be catalogers who can't spell the word source, but rather than assume they got soused on whiskey sours at lunch, I'll just point out that, despite our opposable thumbs, it's easier to slide from the R to the S key than it is to reach down for the C. Anyway, that's the best I can come up with right now, but as the saying goes, if life hands you a lemon, make lemonade. And don't forget to check your source. (Painting by Gabriel Cornelius Ritter von Max, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Friday, April 25, 2008

Reocrd* (for Record, etc.)

The REO Motor Car Company and its founder and namesake Ransom Eli Olds richly deserve their street cred. (The latter's name was also immortalized in the General Motors Oldsmobile.) The company vacillated between spelling it REO and Reo, but went on record with it as an acronym ("Rio"), not an initialism as the rock band REO Speedwagon did. I've often referred to typos as speed bumps while reading (though perhaps potholes is a better metaphor) and currently there are 28 records in OhioLINK that could be retrieved with a little more speed if they didn't include this one. (Pictured here is the REO Speed Wagon Fire Truck at the Jack Daniel's Distillery in Lynchburg, Tennessee, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Phsy* and Pshy* (for Phys* and Psych*)

The physical and the psychological have often been treated as opposites, and the way each of these types of words is spelled tends to spell trouble for the other. A search in OhioLINK for Phsy* reveals 32 typos for a range of words including physical, psychoanalytic, physician, physiology, psychotherapy, psychology, and physics. Reversing the second and third letters (Pshy*) returns seven results. While some practitioners in these fields (physicians, physicists, psychiatrists) need to have advanced degrees like Ph.D.'s, others barely rise to the level of pseudoscience (psychics, physiognomists, certain psychologists). None of which has anything to do with the order of the first three letters, actually, but that very variability makes mixing up their spellings a little easier to do. If you're feeling a little mixed up right now, before you start thinking about seeing a witch doctor or which doctor to start seeing, simply slow down and sound things out. Pshaw, it's not as bad as it looks. (Burlington-based jam band Phish, from the Ickmusic website.)

Carol Reid

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Fuschia, etc. (for Fuchsia)

I once heard fuchsia called the hardest word to spell in the entire English language. And I'm more or less willing to grant it that dubious distinction, provided the field is narrowed to words we've actually heard of before—as opposed to those obscure behemoths put in the mouths of babes at the Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee. With only 71 instances spelled correctly in OhioLINK, we face a fusillade of snafus for it as well: one hit each for Fushia and Fucsia, two apiece for Fuscia and Fushcia, and 11 for Fuschia, amounting to a ratio of less than 4:1. Often compared to magenta, cerise, and fandango, fuchsia has long been an honored hue, if not on the red carpet, then on the silver screen. (The color is also known as "Hollywood cerise.") Perhaps my favorite description of something really red lies in the old tune "Liza up in the 'Simmon Tree" by Bradley Kincaid: "Cheeks are like the cherries, cherries like a rose..." In gay circles, a "fuchsia queen" is a beautiful woman and, according to the "handkerchief code," the shade means that the brandisher has a spanking fetish. But before I blush fuchsia, I'm going to have to bring this blog entry to an end. (Fuchsia photo from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Postscript: A friend informs me that fuchsia is named after the 16th-century German botanist Leonhart Fuchs, which is both fun to know and a useful mnemonic. (Or, as another friend put it, "Thanks for clearing up the confuchsian.")

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Wildife, etc. (for Wildlife)

In honor of Earth Day, today we have a bit of a case of gulls gone wild. OhioLINK turns up 13 examples of Wildife, five of Wiildlife, four of Wildlfe, three of Widllife, and two of Widlife. In Finding Nemo, Nigel the pelican dismisses seagulls as "rats with wings," but others have been far more admiring. Anton Chekhov wrote a play called The Seagull in which the eponymous bird is symbolic of our broken dreams. They were my nature-loving grandmother's favorites. And in the movie Harold and Maude, she points to them and tells him: "Dreyfus once wrote from Devil's Island that he would see the most glorious birds. Many years later in Brittany he realized they had only been sea gulls... For me they will always be glorious birds." (Picture of careening seagulls by "Angie" from Japan, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Monday, April 21, 2008

Perserv* (for Preserve, Preservation, etc.)

There are just 39 calories per serving in the average fruit preserves. However, there are 82 hits in OhioLINK for this morning's typo du jour: Perserv*. Some preserves (variously known as jellies, jams, marmalades, compotes, confitures, etc.) comprise nothing but fruit (and the occasional vegetable), but others contain some added sugar, which not only sweetens the pot, but helps preserve the preserves. (Samples from Senegal, on display at Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Friday, April 18, 2008

Athelete (for Athlete)

Athelete can be found on the B or High Probability section of Typographical Errors in Library Databases at . This means that the error had at least 16 hits in OhioLINK at the time of its discovery. This seems to be the sort of typo generated by the fact that somebody didn't know how to spell the word, and the proofreader was thinking about something else - perhaps last night's baseball. There are only 42 hits for athelete in WorldCat, but a large percentage of these are in the title - the worst sort of error. Google has more than 300,000 atheletes, but of course you can only see the first 1000. Today's picture shows Mets 3rd baseman David Wright circling the bases after landing one over the right field wall.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Preceedings (for Proceedings)

Preceedings is in the C, or moderate probability section of the main list of typographical errors in library databases at, meaning that it was found between 8 and 15 times in OhioLINK at the time of its discovery. We found it to be the kind of typo that gets a double take because it looks real at first glance. There is a relatively low hit count for this in Google at just over 50,000. That is likely due to the fact that Proceedings is not a word that would have turned up on Groucho's list of words that describe something you would find around the house. A quick strategy for dealing with this typo would be to perform a double keyword search of Preceedings and Proceedings.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Taxanation (for Taxation)

We all know from grade school that you can't allow taxanation without represetation (deliberate reference to another word on our lists). Fortunately, today's word is on the lowest level of the main list at, meaning that the word had only one hit in OhioLINK at the time of its discovery. Furthermore, there is only one taxanation in WorldCat - a 1951 title by the "National Association of Manofacturers." Somebody was having a bad day when this record was added to OCLC. In an all-time record, there is only one reference to taxanation in Google that is actually a typo. Of the four references in Google, two refer to our lists, and one is a scientific article that may or may not be legitimate.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Catolic (for Catholic)

With Pope Benedict's visit to America in the news this morning, we looked for something topical in the 7000 entries in Typographical Errors in Library Databases at . Surprisingly, none could be found, so we went to OHIOLINK to discover one. Sure enough, there were five hits for Catolic. Three of them were non-English and may have been correct. Two were definitely errors. This typo is very widespread - we found more than half a million of them in Google. To repeat our standard disclaimer, the presence of this word in your catalog may be an error and it may not. All records must be checked individually before a correction is made.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Cselected (for Selected)

This typo is in the low probability list in the page Typographical Errors in Library Databases at . It was selected as an illustration of subfield tagging gone awry. The upshot of this is that there aren't very many CSelected cases, but there is a potential for a number of other typos derived from an inappropriate subfield. Users on Millennium systems could probably run a review file with the presence of {space}/c in the 245 fields to systematically snag them. Otherwise, it would be a needle in a haystack.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Bibical, Bilical, etc. (for Biblical)

Lilith is as old as Adam and as serpentine as Eve, and, much like the two of them, she apparently came without an umbilical cord. But, unlike them, she isn't considered entirely Biblical. Her story—which is that she was Adam's first wife—is literally apocryphal; it does not appear in the Bible proper. Nevertheless, the Lilith brand has been incorporated into many cultures and over many centuries: a couple of contemporary references include Lilith Fair, a feminist music festival, and Lilith Sternin, Frasier Crane's unwholesome shrink of a wife on Cheers, played by Bebe Neuwirth. Bibical turns up nine times in OhioLINK—and two or three's company for each of the following: Bilical, Bilbical, and Biblcal. (Portrait of Eden's "Other Woman," Lilith by John Collier, 1892, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Encyclopd*, etc. (for Encyclopedia)

A good proofreader needs to use both eyes and keep an open mind. Or as Dr. Seuss once put it: "If you read with your eyes shut, you’re likely to find that the place where you’re going is far, far behind. So that’s why I tell you to keep your eyes wide. Keep them wide open ... at least on one side!" Although there are some seers who can operate without eyesight, most of us need to pay strict attention to the screen or the page in front of us. The otherworldly creature pictured here is using his one large eye to focus on his unwary prey, while his creator concentrated on dreamlike visions that would someday show up in a 2005 retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art entitled "Beyond The Visible." The following typos appear on the Ballard list for words relating to encyclopedia:


(The Cyclops by Odilon Redon, 1914, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Pronograph* (for Pornography)

Marie Barone on "Everybody Loves Raymond" once asked her son if the DVD player his wife had gotten him for Christmas was a "pornography machine." Which isn't too far off the mark for some people, although you're unlikely to see them marketed as "pornographs" anytime soon. Pronograph* appears in OhioLINK five times (with WorldCat revealing ten cases of Pronography and three of Pronographic), but with email this sort of thing is apt to be intentional, since many office apps are tricked out with crude filters that can't distinguish between actual porn and the word "porn." Another word my own system can't abide is "Lolita." This makes it difficult to discuss the debate over porn filters in libraries—or the Nabokov classic and its two film adaptations, all of which have been the targets of censorship. Purposeful misspelling of these words is an effective workaround. (Former A.G. and antiporn guy John Ashcroft standing in front of the "Spirit of Justice," which he preferred to be hidden by a curtain, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Hans Christian Anderson (for Andersen)

The author for whom an international award for children's literature (often called the "Little Nobel Prize") is named was born in Odense, Denmark, on April 2, 1805. According to Wikipedia, most English, German, and French sources use the name Hans Christian Andersen, but in Scandinavia he is generally referred to as H.C. Andersen. In Denmark, Hans Christian is a traditional forename and considered a single unit; it's improper to employ only one of the two parts. In any event, it is always wrong to spell his name with an o rather than an e. There are 102 hits in OhioLINK on Hans Christian Anderson (27 when enclosed in quotation marks). Google shows one misspelling of his surname for about every ten spelled correctly. The reason there are so many typos like this is probably due to the fact that there are more Andersons than Andersens. So don't be like the hoi polloi afraid to point out the emperor's new "close." Instead, be like the princess who could always feel that round little pea where her "ease" should be. (Hans Christian Andersen in the garden of Religheden near Copenhagen in 1869, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Monday, April 7, 2008

Apirl, etc. (for April)

T.S. Eliot may or may not have been right about it (Christopher Hitchens asks in The Atlantic: "In what conceivable universe … is April the cruelest month?" and is cruelly accused of "freakish literal-mindedness" by a reader), but the right pearl or pill can sometimes soothe the moodiest blues. Apirl appears two times in OhioLINK, Apil four times, and Arpil 11 times. (Wearing something old and something blue, and borrowed from Wikimedia Commons, The Girl with the Pearl Earring is considered to be the most famous painting by Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer.)

Carol Reid

Friday, April 4, 2008

Did you mean "Ottowa"?

Ottowa (for Ottawa)

"Ottowa" for Ottawa is a high probability typo. The typo is most likely caused by mispronouncing the word. My point is not to start an argument on the correct Canadian and/or U.S. pronunciation, although many folks agree on "AH-ta-wa." When the word is pronounced as "AH-tow-wa," however, then the misspelling begins. A Google search of "Ottowa" hits 340,000 entries plus the helpful hint: "Did you mean: Ottawa."

Picture: Peace Tower at Parliament Hill, Ottawa, Canada, during the Spring Tulip Festival.

Wendee Eyler

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Down "Under tanned"

Undertand* for (Understand*)

"Undertand" sounds like you have an Australian suntan--you've been "Down Under tanned!" "Undertand" has a moderate probability of being a typo in your catalog. "Moderate Probability" means that the typo was searched in OhioLINK and resulted in 8-15 hits. The typo "Undertand" is a one of 945 new typos found during 2007 and added in 2008 to Terry Ballard's list "Typographical Errors in Library Databases" at

Wendee Eyler

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

"Eary" works to 1800

Eary (for Early)

"Eary" is a typo for Early. Many "Eary" typos are in contents notes and subject headings, particularly the subject typo of "Eary works to 1800." Be careful when changing this typo: "Eary" is a correct spelling for surnames and for "Ear-y" in the delightful title Mabel O'Leary Put Peas in Her Ear-y.

Wendee Eyler

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

April Fools' Day Joke? Lookout "Mountian"?

Mountian (for Mountain)

The Colorado Department of Transportation should check out Typo of the Day for Librarians at Recently Colorado's Exit 256 received a new green sign notifying motorists of the upcoming exit in the westbound lanes: Lookout Mountian. Motorists notified the highway department right away, and a plate was put over the typo "mountian" until it can be corrected. "Mountian" was listed as a typo of the day in January 2007. I'm as vigilant as possible for my own catalog, but a quick peek found one more "mountian" in my catalog. Unfortunately, once a typo is cleaned up a constant check is needed to keep from adding the typo again with new cataloging.

The picture of "Lookout Mountian" was provided by Jeffrey Beall.

Wendee Eyler