Thursday, December 31, 2009

Theend (for the end)

Today is the end of 2009. Tomorrow we all have to start dating our documents 2010, which is a switch I always find difficult, especially when both digits change. We are now also at the end of an interesting and memorable decade in American history. However, before we say goodbye for the year, make sure we don't rush to the end and squish our words together. This is not a common error, and seems to occur most of the time in summary notes.

Happy New Year!

Liz Bodian
Chicago Public Library

Image of the ball and fireworks in Times Square at the end of last year from Wikimedia Commons.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

xHistory (for $xHistory)

There is a series of these sexy typos, many of which have been mentioned before on this blog. This can happen when the delimiter sign disappears or is doubled. There are 9 occurrences of this typo in the OhioLINK catalog, and I even found some in the Library of Congress catalog. WorldCat has so many entries they won't all display.

Make sure your database is not x-rated or these records will be history!

Liz Bodian
Chicago Public Library

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Acapella (for a cappella)

Two weeks ago, I was captured by the reality TV show "The Sing-off." Since I was an a cappella singer in college, and since said college was represented by the 2nd place team, I was very curious to see what would happen. Acapella is actually the first typo listed on the Ballard list as sorted by probability, and according to, is "among the most butchered and misunderstood musical terms." It is found in the OhioLINK online catalog 142 times, many of which are in titles.

So go sing your way through checking this typo in your own database!

Early image of the Yale Whiffenpoofs from Flikr on Creative Commons license.

Liz Bodian
Chicago Public Library

Monday, December 28, 2009

Assesment*, Asessment* (for Assessment*)

As a librarian, I should probably know this by now, but I'm never quite sure how to spell the word Ssshhh. Are there more S's than there are H's or more H's than there are S's? And just how many of each are optimal? How best to assess the situation, given that apparently not all dictionaries consider the shortening of shush to be worthy of inclusion? (Of the ones that do, sh is generally given first, with shh as an alternate spelling.) My 50-year-old, hand-me-down, non-Merriam Webster's is one that doesn't. It furthermore pretty much defines making an ass of oneself when it gives the last meaning of sh as: "in bookbinding, sheep." (Naturally, it meant sheet. But it's not every day you find a typo in the dictionary!) Our typo for the day takes many S's—four of them in fact. Assesment* (cited as "high probability" on the Ballard list) gets 104 hits in OhioLINK and Asessment* (which is not yet listed there) gets 26.

(Latin letter S, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Friday, December 25, 2009

Poinsetta* (for Poinsettia*)

Here’s a little bit of Christmas trivia for today: The poinsettia, a potted plant often associated with Christmas in North America, actually originates from Mexico and Central America. There, the poinsettia bush actually grows up to three metres (ten feet) high!

The red “petals” are actually leaf-like bracts, with small yellow flowers in the middle. And poinsettias don’t just come in red—the bracts are also available in white, pink, mottled, and striped varieties, according to the Encyclopedia Britannica.

Imagine giving a ten foot tall, striped poinsettia to your hostess for Christmas…I bet she’d be quite confused.

Leanne Olson

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Conngress* (for Congress*)

December 24, 1851 was the date of the worst fire in the history of the Library of Congress. It lost two-thirds of its books, or around 35,000 volumes.

Fires are not uncommon reasons for destruction of libraries, unfortunately, even in modern days. The Norwich Central Library in August 1994 was considered the worst British library fire in living memory; it destroyed the entire building.

The fire at the Library of Alexandria in ancient times is probably the most famous, but no one knows if it actually happened. Some say Julius Caesar burned the library in 48 BCE; other evidence suggests it was destroyed later, in the succeeding centuries or during the invasion of Arab armies in 642 CE. Perhaps we’ll never know.

The typo conngress* retrieves 13 records from WorldCat; not quite a disaster of library-burning proportions, but good to clean up all the same.

(Photo of the dome in the Main Reading Room of the Library of Congress from

Leanne Olson

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Floklore (for Folklore)

There’s a lot of folklore surrounding the Christmas tree. Many ancient civilizations, including those in Egypt and China, used the fir tree to symbolize eternal life. In medieval Christianity a fir tree hung with apples (a “paradise tree”) was used in pageant plays to symbolize the Garden of Eden.

According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, the modern Christmas tree developed in Germany out of the paradise tree and the Christmas pyramid--a series of wood shelves that held decorations such as candles, figurines, and a star. Combining the triangular shelves (holding decorations) with the paradise tree led to the modern concept of the Christmas tree.

The decorative tree eventually migrated across Europe, to North America, and even to China and Japan in the 19th century.

Decorations throughout history have included toys and gifts, ribbon, paper, candies and cakes, glass ornaments, electric lights, and more. I’ve even seen Christmas trees at floral shops in Toronto made entirely out of peacock feathers.

(Photo of a crystal-adorned Christmas tree in the Eaton Centre, Toronto, from Wikimedia Commons)

Leanne Olson

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Cole Poter (for Cole Porter)

While Cole Porter is best known for his standards such as Begin the Beguine, You do Something to Me, and I’ve Got You Under My Skin, his early songwriting was somewhat...different.

As an undergraduate student at Yale, he wrote fight songs, some still used today, including Bulldog:

Bull-dog! Bull-dog! Bow, wow, wow,
Eli Yale!
Bull-dog! Bull-dog! Bow, wow, wow,
Our team can never fail.
When the sons of Eli break through the line,
That is the sign we hail,
Bull-dog! Bull-dog! Bow, wow, wow,
Eli Yale!

Leanne Olson

(Photo of Handsome Dan, the Yale mascot, from

Monday, December 21, 2009

Solists (for Soloists)

At first upon seeing solists, I thought it was a typo for solstice, but searching it in Worldcat brings up a number of music recordings and it’s clearly an error for soloists instead.

This makes a lot more sense—it’s much easier to miss an o than forget the c and e, and mix up the order of the s, t, and i. Still, I might manage that if my hands were particularly cold, maybe from spending time outside today, during the Winter Solstice?

And here’s a photo of a soloist playing cello in the snow, perhaps during the Solstice? Photograph by Christine Romano, from her Flickr page.

Leanne Olson

P.S. And in further news, it seems this typo is not that uncommon...we blogged about the singular version two years ago!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Chipmonk* (for Chipmunk*)

On the TV show Monk, Tony Shalhoub plays an obsessive-compulsive detective (an OCD, if you will), while in this vintage "Alvin and the Chipmunks" clip, Alvin is clearly of a similar bent. Chipmonk* was found four times in OhioLINK, registering as a "low probability" typo on the Ballard list, but one that chips away at our credibility nonetheless. Alvin's father and manager registers in the high range as he tries to get the hula-hoop-seeking critter to quit poking around amid the presents and pay attention: "Al-vin!!" This type of spelling error is a fairly common one, caused by unconsciously substituting a known word for an unknown one ("monk" instead of "munk"). Watch your P's and Q's—or in this case your O's and U's—and perhaps Santa Claus will bring you what you've been wishing for: a catalog with a lot fewer typos in the New Year than there were in the old.

("Monk: 100 Episodes and Counting..." Tony Shalhoub at the Paley Center for Media, Dec. 2, 2008, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Strenght*, etc. (for Strength, etc.)

Buddhism is the fourth most popular world religion, ranking below Christianity, Islam, and Hinduism and above Sikhism and Judaism. Most Buddhists live on the Asian continent, but Buddhism has adherents all over the world. In one sense, it barely qualifies as a religion at all since it eschews the doctrinaire approach most religions employ; rather than requiring its followers to profess an official belief system or to embrace blind faith, it urges them to question authority and base their spiritual quest on empirical evidence. Many religions find strength in numbers, but Buddhism stresses the individual. We uncovered nine examples of Strengh, along with two each of Strenghe* and Strenghs, in the OhioLINK database. Undoubtedly, though, the strongest response was to Strenght*, a typo found 68 times there.

(Cover of Emptiness: A Study in Religious Meaning by Frederick J. Streng, one of the founders of the Society for Buddhist-Christian Studies and the man for whom the Frederick J. Streng Book Award is named, from

Carol Reid

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Commedy (for Comedy)

Some people hate laugh tracks (also known as "canned laughter," evoking comparison with the canned-meat product Spam) and will even go so far as refusing to watch sitcoms or other TV shows that use them. I, on the other hand ... not so much. An informed and well-calibrated laugh track just seems to me like part of the overall creative effort. And, frankly, I don't always think that highly of my fellow amused. For example, I prefer to go to the movies when there aren't a lot of other people in the audience because carbon-based giggles and guffaws can be distracting. People often laugh when they shouldn't and don't when they should. They laugh too hard, or too long, or not hard and long enough. I worry that they don't really "get it." This sort of thing really ought to be left to the professionals, I'll find myself sniffing. These amateurs simply don't know what they're doing. Today we found nine cases of Commedy (for comedy) in OhioLINK, which is nothing to laugh at. (Note, though, in very early works this could be an acceptable variant.)

(Inventor Charles "Charlie" Douglass and his infamous "Laff Box.")

Carol Reid

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Classrom*, etc. (for Classroom*)

It seems that classrooms nowadays are all about the computer—we've gone from learning our ABCs to our CD-ROMs in a flash. By contrast, I love the retro-looking book-filled cubbyholes pictured here and the "Guidelines for Readers Workshop" posted on the wall:

1) You must always be reading or writing your thoughts about reading;
2) You need to work silently to enable your peers to their best thinking;
3) Use a soft voice when conferring;
4) Select books you think you will enjoy and abandon books that aren't working for you after you've given them a good chance;
5) Record your reading in your reading log every day;
6) Always do your best work.

Classrom* and Clasroom* are both present nine times in OhioLINK, along with Classrooom* five times. Taken in the aggregate, these typos would be classed as "high probability" on the Ballard list with plenty of room to spare.

("A typical classroom library—probably 3rd grade—at an American elementary school," from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Monday, December 14, 2009

Knwo*, etc. (for Know*)

"I know you are but what am I?" one can imagine Pee-wee Herman and Bigfoot both saying—with knowing, kitschy outsiderness. First of all, let me say, I loved "Pee-wee's Playhouse" and I love Bigfoot. Once upon a time, when two relative wee ones would set foot in my house (repository of the complete set of "Playhouse" videos), the littlest one would instantly cry, "Pee-pee!" (It didn't mean what you might think.) "Pee-wee," the bigger one would correct him, rolling her eyes just a bit. You may roll your eyes too when I tell you that a Minnesota Bigfoot was recently caught on tape by a couple of skeptical hunters. Okay, I know how it sounds, but you know, who knows? Knwo* was found eight times in OhioLINK, Konw three times, Kowled* and Knwl* twice, and Knolw* once. Takes one to know one.

(Michael Rugg, curator of the Bigfoot Discovery Museum, and American actor Paul Reubens, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Friday, December 11, 2009

Wenseslas (for Wenceslas)

Have you ever wondered about Good King Wenceslas of Christmas carol fame? As a child, I simply learned this song by rote, as I did so many others, and I never stopped to think about him at all. Wenceslas I was born circa 907 near Prague. As prince of Bohemia, he was a pious ruler and zealous in the cause of advancing Christianity, which gained him many enemies. His undoing, however, was his submission to invading German King Henry I the Fowler in 929. At the prompting of discontented nobles, his younger brother Boleslav murdered him outside the church door as Wenceslas made his way to mass. Wenceslas was eventually canonized and became the patron saint of Bohemia and the Czech Republic. His feast day is September 28.

Wenseslas is a typo of low probability. There are 3 entries in the OhioLink database for it, all in contents notes.

(Statue of St. Wenceslas, Olomouc, Czech Republic, from Wikimedia Commons)

Deb Kulczak

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Chicester* (for Chichester)

Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990) composed his lovely work Chichester Psalms in 1965. It was commissioned for a festival at Chichester Cathedral that same year and features Hebrew psalm texts for countertenor and chorus set to an orchestral accompaniment. The third movement, taken from Psalm 131, begins as follows (in translation):

Lord, Lord,
My heart is not haughty,

Nor mine eyes lofty,
Neither do I exercise myself
In great matters or in things
Too wonderful for me.

As someone who makes a fair number of typos, I find this a suitable mind set to adopt when approaching the work of finding and correcting them! Chicester* is a high-probability error on the Ballard list, but presently there are only 8 entries for it in OhioLink, mostly in transcribed fields.

(The nave of Chichester Cathedral, Sussex, England, from Wikimedia Commons)

Deb Kulczak

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Editedby (for Edited by)

Today’s typo was, as our blog indicates, added to the “lowest probability” section of the Ballard list between 2000 and 2007. This means one should expect to find only 1 hit in a database the size of OhioLink. However, a current keyword search for Editedby yields 27 entries in that database, as well as 255 hits in WorldCat! I will decline to speculate publicly about the cause of this increase, but it’s possible there are similar errors that can be edited by you in your own catalog.

("Keyboard" by clix, from the Stock.XCHNG photo site)

Deb Kulczak

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Arrr* (for Arrange, Arrangement, etc.)

When is a typo not a typo? According to Web site for International Talk Like a Pirate Day (September 19th of every year), Arrr is anything but. In pirate lingo, it’s one of the “five basic words that you cannot live without ... if you just want a quick fix, a surface gloss, a ‘pirate patina,’ if you will.” The definition continues:

This one is often confused with arrrgh, which is of course the sound you make when you sit on a belaying pin. "Arrr!" can mean, variously, "yes," "I agree," "I'm happy," "I'm enjoying this beer," "My team is going to win it all," "I saw that television show, it sucked!" and "That was a clever remark you or I just made." And those are just a few of the myriad possibilities of Arrr!

A search of the OhioLink database does in fact reveal some legitimate entries for Arrr! and Arrrgh! But Arrr* is also a typo found in words such as arranged, arrangement, and arrow. There are currently 11 instances of it in records for English-language materials, and it’s categorized as an error of moderate probability on the Ballard list.


(Pirate, from Wikimedia Commons)

Deb Kulczak

Monday, December 7, 2009

Peom* (for Poem, etc.)

I heard a bird sing
In the dark of December
A magical thing
And sweet to remember.

"We are nearer to Spring
Than we were in September,"
I heard a bird sing

In the dark of December.

Oliver Herford

A number of years ago, I received a gift inscribed with the first verse of this poem. I was at the time living in my native state of Ohio, where the winters were indeed dark and dreary, and I treasured the image these words evoked. Today, I still recall them fondly whenever I see the birds enjoying a (somewhat rare) snowy day at the feeders in our front yard.

Alas, the high-probability typo Peom* will produce no warm feelings in the hearts of catalog searchers. There are 22 occurrences of it in OhioLINK English-language entries (35 overall), and some may be lurking in your own database too.

(Northern Cardinal by Thomas G. Barnes, NCTC Image Library, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

Deb Kulczak

Friday, December 4, 2009

Unifrom* (for Uniform*)

You can't get there from here, as the old hayseed-to-city-slicker saying would have it. However, you'll have an easier time getting here, there, and everywhere if you pay attention to the traffic signs that line each and every road in the country and are chronicled in the federal document Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices. A search in OhioLINK on Unifrom* points us to five records containing today's typo; coincidentally enough, the last one is for the 1935 edition of this very manual, which, according to our state librarian, is a top seller among SuDocs. (In addition to that fascinating fact delivered at our last library staff meeting, we each received a little pin with the official directional sign for libraries as pictured here.)

(Canadian rock group Five Man Electrical Band, who were best known for their 1971 hit single "Signs").

Carol Reid

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Field* + Feild* (for Field* or Feild*)

Today's literary lion, born in 1850 on the plains of Missouri, was undoubtedly outstanding in his field. Following the death of his mother, the young Eugene Field was taken in and raised by an aunt in Amherst, Massachusetts. His father was the attorney who defended Dred Scott in the lawsuit that is thought to have started the Civil War. Eugene grew up to work on various newspapers in St. Joseph (Mo.), Chicago, and Denver and began writing for children just several years before his own premature passing at the age of 45. A search on Field* + Feild* yields 55 records in OhioLINK: a number of them clarify the misspelling with a [sic], while others do not involve a misspelling at all (e.g., Feild* being the correct spelling of a personal name). Several records also include the Middle English spelling of field, which is apparently feilde. One associates Eugene Field, whose poems were often illustrated by Maxfield Parrish, with such wonderfully sentimental poetry as "Wynken, Blynken, and Nod." But he could also be quite the wag. Reviewing an actor named Creston Clarke in the role of King Lear, Field once wrote that Clarke "played the king as if under momentary apprehension that somebody else was about to play the ace."

(Edward McCartan's statue of the "Dream Lady" from Field's poem "Rock-a-by-Lady," erected in 1922 at the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Harvey + Harvy (for Harvey or Harvy)

There are plenty of Harveys (some of whom spell it Harvy, though most spell it Harvey), but none so strange and Zelig-like, one might venture to say, as Harvey Matusow, a former member of the Communist Party and basically a hack for HUAC who then tried to take it all back. Matusow, who has been called "the biggest snitch in American history" and "the most hated man in America," had a discomfiting fit of conscience after an innocent labor leader was sent to prison based on his testimony. His public retraction of this lie, among others (he famously testified against Pete Seeger and the Weavers), resulted in a perjury conviction (not for saying that his colleagues were commies, but for saying they weren't), a three-year prison sentence, and ultimately being put on the blacklist himself. The Ohio State Library's online catalog turned up an even dozen hits on Harvey + Harvy, a finding which strongly suggests that each of those records harbors at least one pinko, I mean typo. (Matusow once claimed that there were 126 Communists in the New York Times Sunday Department, even though the total number of employees was only 100.) You should definitely investigate such a work firsthand (especially if the record does not include an authorized heading) to be certain of how to spell the Harvey or Harvy in question. You can never be too careful when it comes to naming names.

(Picture of Harvey Matusow from a photo shoot for a proposed "humorous book on life as a witness.")

Carol Reid

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Ryhm* (for Rhyme, etc.)

There are seven cases of Rhym* + Ryhm* in OhioLINK. Or so I think. (No, no, I jest. In fact I know. I did that so the rhyme would go.) The Boolean AND search may work best here, by the way; a simple search on Ryhm* alone got 26 results, most of which were for foreign words and personal names (mainly the marvelously monikered Inge L. Ryhming). If your catalog is not as large as OhioLINK's, you could try searching on just Ryhm* (limited, perhaps, by certain NOT operators). Or else search separately on Ryhme (two in OhioLINK) and Ryhmes (five). Nicholson Baker, whom librarians tend to passionately either love or hate, has a new book-related book out called The Anthologist. It concerns a writer whose task it is to come up with an introduction to an anthology of poetry. Specifically, that is, to poems that rhyme. I like that premise since I have always enjoyed the musicality of such poetry and the way it requires working within the constraints of the form. (To me, free verse often seems like little more than prose without the grammar.) Perhaps rhyming poetry is too often associated with the nursery. But then again, you've got The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, with an iambic scheme of ABCB, along with a lot of other great stuff. So check out The Anthologist, a book about rhymes, which got a good review in the New York Times!

(Nicholson Baker, 2007, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Monday, November 30, 2009

Mispell* (for Misspell*)

Some of our readers have recently left comments saying that perhaps we need to go back to school. Or that at least we should quit calling the kettle black, considering the number of typos that have appeared in our own profile. Please allow us to set the record straight. Those are typos that other bloggers have made on their own blogs; we're just pointing them out. The typo pictured here in big white letters is a truly wonderful one (as some typos most assuredly are) since school kids are forever being shushed and are furthermore consumed with what's cool. Sadly, we're told in the caption accompanying this photo that "crews were expected to correct the mistake on Thursday."

Mispell* is a commonly misspelled word (in fact, it was the first word given in a recent local spelling bee), although I found just four instances of it in OhioLINK, and only three were legitimate typos. The fourth was from the 1997 book Spelling, edited by Rebecca Treiman. The intentionally misspelled word appears in the chapter titled "Is It Misspelled or Is It Mispelled? The Influence of Fresh Orthographic Information on Spelling." One rather ironic instance occurs in the record for the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, the summary for which claims that it contains: "315,000 entries accessible by headword, even if mispelled. Users can find definitions from any word within a definition, find anagrams or browse alphabetically." (Also, I'm not sure, but I think that "from" should be a "for.")

The last one I found extremely puzzling: Webster's New World Misspeller's Dictionary with two varying forms of the title as follows: Mispeller's Dictionery and Misspeller's Dictionary. Note the fact that there are misspellings in both words in the first 246 field (and none in the second), which leads me to suspect that these misspellings (or at least the first one) must have been introduced on purpose. However, none of the six records for this title on OCLC include these fields, so I'm really not sure what to think. Perhaps it was just some cataloger's idea of a joke—just like it was ours to spell Beatles "Beetles" and Garfunkel "Garfunkle."

("A street near Northwood Elementary in Kalamazoo, Michigan, has the word school misspelled on the pavement"—AP photo.)

Carol Reid

Friday, November 27, 2009

Mono Lisa (for Mona Lisa)

The Mona Lisa, Leonardo da Vinci’s portrait of the woman Lisa del Giocondo, is one of the most famous paintings in the world, striking its blend in colours and lines between landscape and sitter. The painter set a new standard for portraits during the Renaissance and after.

But did you know that Leonardo’s choices for the Mona Lisa also influenced the clothing worn by the subjects of paintings? In his Treatise on Painting, he stated:
As far as possible avoid the costumes of your own day.…Costumes of our period should not be depicted unless it be on tombstones, so that we may be spared being laughed at by our successors for the mad fashions of men and leave behind only things that may be admired for their dignity and beauty.
Something tells me Leonardo da Vinci would not have appreciated high school yearbook photos from the 1980s.

Leanne Olson

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Oxgen (for Oxygen)

Before the discovery of oxygen, 18th century scientists believed in the phlogiston theory: all combustible substances contain phlogiston, a mysterious substance that is freed during burning. When wood, for example, is burned, phlogiston escapes and ash remains. Phlogiston was also used to explain the oxidation of metals—rusting occurred when phlogiston was lost to the air.

What made this theory unlikely to some was the difference in weight: when wood burns, the remaining ash weighs less (implying that the escaping phlogiston has some mass) while when metal oxidizes, it does not.

With the discovery of the element oxygen, this theory was discredited by Antoine Lavoisier in the late 1700s. It makes me wonder just how many beliefs we hold today that may one day be proven wrong.

Oxgen is a low probability typo for oxygen.

Leanne Olson

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Pinao* (for Piano*)

The piano was invented in the 18th century, likely by Bartolomeo Cristofori. He named it the gravicembalo col piano e forte, meaning “harpsichord with soft and loud,” referring to the pianoforte player’s ability to vary the volume of the notes s/he is playing.

Playing the piano requires dexterity precision and I wonder, do pianists make fewer typos than non-musicians? Judging by my own typing errors, the answer is no—but then, I’m not exactly a virtuoso on either type of keyboard.

Pinao* is a high probability typo on the Ballard list, occurring 37 times in Ohiolink and over 400 in Worldcat. With the asterisk, this includes pinaos and pinaoforte.

(Piano photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Leanne Olson

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Anniversay (for Anniversary)

One by one
Only the good die young
They’re only flyin’ too close to the sun
And life goes on
Without you
- from No One But You (Only the Good Die Young) by Queen

November 24, 1991 is the anniversary (not anniversay) of the death of Queen frontman Freddie Mercury, from pneumonia brought on by AIDS. While Mercury was not open about his HIV status until the day before his death, his experience and subsequent AIDS awareness tribute concert put on by Queen did a lot to raise awareness of the disease.

Mercury is also considered by Time Magazine to be one of the most influential Asian heroes of the past century, Rolling Stone ranked him as one of the top 20 singers in rock and roll--incredible achievements in his too-short 46 years of life.

(Statue of Freddie Mercury in Montreux, Switzerland - photo from

Leanne Olson

Monday, November 23, 2009

Nineteeth (for Nineteenth)

Have you ever had one of those dreams where, one by one, your teeth fall out? Many dream interpreters say that the loss of teeth represents a feeling of powerlessness or anxiety, or sometimes a fear of growing old or death. These dreams can take a variety for forms, including the teeth crumbling into sand, rotting, or falling out one by one.

I think that if I woke up with only nine teeth, I might throw a bit of a fit. Something like the Rolling Stones’ 19th Nervous Breakdown, perhaps? To ease my worries, I might pop down to the golf course and have a few drinks at the 19th hole (also known as the clubhouse bar).

Nineteeth is a high probability typo on the Ballard list, appearing 39 times in OhioLINK.

(Tooth diagram from Wikimedia Commons)

Leanne Olson

Friday, November 20, 2009

Potatoe (for Potato)

Michael Pollan's book The Botany of Desire was the basis for a recently aired program on PBS, which purported to show how "four familiar species—the apple, the tulip, marijuana, and the potato—evolved to satisfy our yearnings for sweetness, beauty, intoxication, and control." Yeah, I thought upon reading that, the potato is kind of controlling. Think about it. It's got all those eyes watching you all the time. It goes with almost everything: "Do you want fries with that?" And, unlike the more live and let live tomato, it can carry the dreaded "late blight" over from one season to the next—something I learned this year as a novice community gardener. Plus, of course, it won't let you hold the remote when you're sitting on the couch. One potatoe, two potatoe, three potatoe ... make that 33 of 'em recently in OhioLINK. Some of them are probably written that way on the piece itself; others may be variant spellings from the 1700s. (Dan Quayle spelled it like that, even though he was only from the 1990s.) When the word is plural it correctly takes an e. My favorite potato "poem" was found on a shipping box in the local food co-op. I think it went something like this: Yucca Taro / Sweet Potato / Ruby Taro / Beet Batata... You say po-tay-to, I say po-tah-to, let's leave the last e off!

(Heart-shaped potato from Germany, dug up on Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Glossay, Glossry, Glosary (for Glossary)

Often you can tell what a word means simply by seeing it in context; other times you'll need to check the glossary. If you were reading about house painting, for example, you might find this definition for gloss listed in the back of the book: "A surface shininess or luster; polish or sheen." Paints are usually designated according to such a scale (gloss, semi-gloss, or flat). But some manufacturers take it even further in terms of nuance, bandying about such sensual-sounding but mystifying descriptors as silk, suede, eggshell, platinum, pearl, melamine, velvet, and satin. You may not find good definitions for these words on the back of a paint can, but when it isn't enough to just say "gloss," you can always consult the MPI standards. Glossay appears five times in OhioLINK, Glossry another five times, and Glosary ten times, making them all semi-glossy typos of low-to-moderate probability.

(Peeling paint at a New York City subway station, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Muscial* (for Musical*)

Today's typo turns up a toe-tapping 34 times in OhioLINK, which makes it a "high probability" typo on the Ballard list. The Eldest Nibling (which sounds like it might be a Gilbert and Sullivan song, but is in fact based on a submission to the "Word Fugitives" column in The Atlantic meaning "offspring of a sibling, one's niece or nephew") was recently seen playing the part of the Pirate King in the musical The Pirates of Penzance. The plot is driven by a sort of auditory typo—young Frederic is mistakenly indentured to a group of pirates, rather than pilots. Opening at the Fifth Avenue Theatre in 1879, this was the first G&S vehicle to premiere in New York City. Copyright protection did not exist at that time and the two artists were anxious to prevent the "pirating" of their opera abroad, a fate that had befallen H.M.S. Pinafore and would continue to plague future collaborations. Just like the eponymous "pirates" playing at illicit adventures on the high seas, my nibling's middle school production had a lot of flash, dash, and panache. Yo-ho-ho and a package of gum! Bravo, kids!

(Photo of Catherine Ferguson, Nellie Briercliffe, and Ella Milne in The Pirates of Penzance, 1930, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Souvenier*, Souveneir* (for Souvenir*)

The word souvenir comes from the French for memory and means "memento or keepsake; an object a traveler brings home for the memories associated with it." The Eiffel Tower was the key to the 1878 Exposition Universelle and has served as a symbol of Paris ever since. In So Long at the Fair, the 1950 British thriller starring Jean Simmons and Dirk Bogarde, extraordinary measures are taken to prevent people from panicking in the streets, setting off an escalating chain of events, and fleeing the city. The title comes from the nursery rhyme that goes: "Oh dear, what can the matter be? Johnny's so long at the fair..." The mystery is not unlocked until the final moments of the film, which has a wonderfully Hitchockian flair. I won't say any more in case you haven't seen it yet, but here are a few other things I learned about the 1878 World's Fair. While the fair revolved around the tower, it also exhibited some other remarkable sights, such as the head of the Statue of Liberty, various inventions by Alexander Graham Bell and Thomas Edison, and even, per Wikipedia, "a human zoo, called a 'negro village,' composed of 400 'indigenous people.'" The exposition also gave rise to a series of meetings eventuating in the formulation of international standards and copyright law, the standardization of mail flow from one country to another, and the universal adoption of Braille. Souvenier* appears 28 times in OhioLINK and Souveneir* twice.

(Keychain of the Eiffel Tower, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Errata: A reader writes in to correct an error by pointing out that the film was about the 1889 exposition, not the 1878 one. (There were expos in Paris during each decade of the last half of the 19th century and beyond.) Apparently, the "negro village" continued to be the main attraction in 1889, but the other details mentioned above pertain to the 1878 fair, not the 1889 one that introduced the Eiffel Tower.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Pronouncia*, etc. (for Pronunciation, etc.)

Pronouncia* is our typo for the day. It occurs 59 times in OhioLINK, registering as "high probability" on the Ballard list. (Pronuci* is found there 12 times and Pronouc* nine times.) Depending on how you look at it, Toki Pona is a feel-good, prescriptive, politically correct, minimalist, or Zen-like form of communication. It was introduced in 2001 by Toronto resident Sonja Elen Kisa. This Esperanto-like language contains a mere 123 words and 14 sounds. Feminists may be drawn to it for its lack of gender-specific pronouns. Toki Pona is sometimes referred to as "the simple language of good." However, there are people who find it a little too good to be true and have compared it to George Orwell's "Newspeak." I'd like to be able to report that there are no typos in Toki Pona, but I fear that might be painting a bit too sunny of a picture as well.

(Pronunciation chart for Toki Pona, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Friday, November 13, 2009

Security mesures (For Security measures)

Social engineering is the practice of gaining someone’s trust to illicitly obtain information. Hackers pretend to be someone else--maintenance men, co-workers, and people of authority. They use tactics such as intimidation or acting helpless to persuade others to give them passwords and other sensitive information. An example of social engineering would be a hacker finding a company phone book in a Dumpster, then calling the computer department posing as a higher-up and asking for a password. Of course, this is a really simplified plan, but if a hacker has collected sensitive information about a company over time, then it would be easier to make the illusion complete. In short, it is in a company or library’s best interest to think outside the box about security measures.

The phrase Security mesures produces 4 hits in OhioLink, placing it in the Low Probability section of the Ballard List.

(still image from the film The Sting from Google Images)

Janelle Fore

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Japanse* (For Japanese, etc.)

The Ainu are an indigenous people of Japan. However, they were not recognized by the Japanese government until 2008. Their origins are unknown, but due to differences between their physical features and the Japanese ethnic majority—fair skin, long hair/beards, large bone structure—it has been speculated that they descended from the people of the Jomon period. The Ainu religion is shamanistic; the bear is especially revered. In the 1800s, the Japanese government tried to erase the Ainu culture by forcing them to change their names and send their children to Japanese schools. They could not speak their own language. Today there is a revival of Ainu culture in Japan. Many of the lost generation are learning their heritage and language. Public dances and festivals are held, such as the theatrical staging of the iyomante ritual (bear sacrifice) and the Marimo (Spherical Algae) Festival.

Japanse* appears in the Moderate Probability section of the Ballard List. A keyword search in OhioLink returns 68 entries. Most of these items look like they are in Dutch. Several online Dutch translators convert Japanese to Japans/Japanse. Consult your favorite Dutch speaker for accuracy.

(Ainu woman: / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Janelle Fore

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Mrs. Polifax (For Mrs. Pollifax)

Looking for a light, entertaining read to take your mind off of the upcoming holiday rush? Dorothy Gilman’s comic spy series Mrs. Pollifax might be for you. Kindly widow and garden club member Emily Pollifax finds herself accidentally thrust into a life of exotic, jet-setting espionage. A letter mix-up lands her a job at the CIA, and because Mrs. Pollifax’s demeanor gives her perfect cover, she finds her normally placid schedule full of globe-trotting adventure. Gilman penned fourteen of these cozy mysteries. A cozy mystery is recommended for someone who enjoys a clean read—little or no sex or violence in the plot. This website further defines "cozy mystery" and lists many series and authors–a good site to have on hand if you have a patron that enjoys this subgenre.

Mrs. Polifax appears two times in OhioLink and was in Moderate Probability section at the time it was added to the Ballard List.

(Rosalind Russell as Mrs. Pollifax from Google Images)

Janelle Fore

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Close-captioned (For Closed-captioned)

Closed-captioning is a service sanctioned by the FCC that requires television programs to provide text for the Deaf and hard of hearing. Close-captioned, however, brings to my mind the Close Talker character from the TV series Seinfeld. The Close Talker, Aaron, would position his face mere inches from the person to whom he was speaking. Even though he appeared in only one episode, he is one of the most memorable characters among Seinfeld fans. Perhaps the reason why he is so memorable is that most people would find his behavior very uncomfortable. Ethnologist Desmond Morris reasoned that “All through our childhood we will have been held to be loved and held to be hurt, and anyone who invades our Personal Space when we are adults is, in effect, threatening to extend his behavior into one of these two highly charged areas of human interaction. Even if his motives are clearly neither hostile nor sexual, we still find it hard to suppress our reactions to his close approach.” Concepts of personal space vary from culture to culture.

Close-captioned produces over 300 hits OhioLink, placing it in the Highest Probability section of the Ballard List.

(Picture of U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson from SLENZ blog)

Janelle Fore

Monday, November 9, 2009

Away in a manager (For Away in a manger)

Perhaps the catalogers who made this typo had work-related issues on their mind. Cataloging departments regularly face hurdles such as adjusting to a new or updated version of an integrated library system, and managers have the task of readying their department for change. Theories such as sociologist Kurt Lewin’s Change Theory and psychologist’s Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs help managers understand the processes of change and the motivations of employees. If Eastern philosophy is more your thing, there’s The Art of War by Sun Tzu, a Chinese military handbook that has gained popularity in the West as a model for management. It advises that “to fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy's resistance without fighting.”

The phrase “Away in a manager” appears 15 times in OhioLink, placing it in the Moderate Probability section of the Ballard List.

(bamboo binding of The Art of War / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Janelle Fore

Friday, November 6, 2009

Fluro* (for Fluorescent, Fluorine, etc.)

On December 19, 2007, President George W. Bush signed into law a bill banning the incandescent light bulb in the United States by 2014. This century-old workhorse is being replaced by its newer, greener counterpart, the compact fluorescent (CFL) bulb. Australia, Cuba, and other nations have already enacted similar legislation, and the European Union followed suit with a phase-out beginning this past September. Not surprisingly, the change is being met with resistance, and objections range from the quality of the light the bulbs produce to the initial cost of purchasing them to the threat of mercury exposure should they break.

Fluro* is a typo of high probability in the OhioLink database. There are currently 21 English-language entries representing fluorescent, fluoropolymers, fluoroscopy, fluorine, and other words. The typos occur in a mix of transcribed fields, notes, and subject headings, but there should be little controversy over banning them from your own catalog.

(CFL and incandescent light bulbs, from Wikimedia Commons)

Deb Kulczak

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Carbohydretes, Carbohyr* (for Carbohydrate, etc.)

Last week, humorist and playwright Paul Rudnick became the envy of carbohydrate junkies everywhere—or at least of those who caught the New York Times article about his new book. In I Shudder, the author “reveals a horrible truth no parent wants published: It is possible, it seems, to live on candy.” In words guaranteed to provoke jealousy, NYT writer David Colman continues:

Mr. Rudnick is the living proof. At 51, 5-foot-10 and an enviably lean 150 pounds, Mr. Rudnick does not square with the inevitable mental image of a man who has barely touched a vegetable other than candy corn in nearly a half-century. Apparently, one can not only live on a dessert island, but can also do it happily and long.

Colman then goes on to describe “a recent, typical day” for Rudnick: “a plain bagel, a three-pack of Yodels, a small can of dry-roasted peanuts, some Hershey’s Kisses, and some breakfast cereal, which he eats by the handful, dry, out of the box.”

Fortunately, library catalogs don’t appear to indulge in carbohydrate errors. Carbohyr* is a lowest-probability typo on the Ballard list with only one entry in the OhioLink database, and the related low-probability form Carbohydretes occurs twice.

(Candy corn, from Wikimedia Commons)

Deb Kulczak

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Populaton* (for Population, etc.)

Now that fall is in full swing, so is the population of walking sticks in our neighborhood. Also called stick insects, these interesting creatures belong to the order Phasmatodea, and there are approximately 2,000 species worldwide, most resembling twigs. The North American species Diapheromera femorata can be destructive to oak trees, but we’re far too intrigued to ever dream of harming one. Disney and Pixar must agree, because the cast of characters for the 1998 movie A Bug’s Life includes Slim, a walking stick insect given voice by actor David Hyde Pierce.

If you don’t want to be bugged by typos, find and correct instances of the high-probability Populaton* in your catalog. There are 20 English-language entries in OhioLINK—many in transcribed fields—and an additional subject heading error for a Chinese publication.

(Diapheromera femorata, by Bruce W. Kauffman, Tennessee Department of Agriculture,

Deb Kulczak

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Disordr* (for Disorder, Disorderly, etc.)

Celiac Disease is a lifelong, inherited autoimmune disorder activated by eating gluten—the proteins found in all forms of wheat (durum, semolina, spelt, kamut, einkorn, faro) and the related grains rye, barley, and triticale. When someone with CD eats foods containing gluten (even tiny amounts), it triggers a toxic reaction causing damage to the small intestine and preventing nutrients from being properly absorbed. Symptoms can include gastrointestinal irregularities, unexplained weight change, anemia, bone or joint pain, depression, irritability, and fatigue.

According to the Celiac Disease Foundation, the disorder affects one out of 133 people in the United States and 1 percent of the population worldwide. Yet 97 percent of them—men, women, and children—remain undiagnosed. Sobering information for those of us who engage in the morning ritual of coffee and a favorite breakfast pastry!

Disordr* is a low-probability typo on the Ballard list with 7 English-language entries in the OhioLink database. However, be careful when making corrections in your own catalog, because most of these appear in records for early English books, when “disordrely practise” and “disordred persons” were apparently common. (According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the modern word derives from the old French verb “desordener”and noun “desordre.”)

(Doughnut by nazreth, from the Stock.XCHNG photo site)

Deb Kulczak

Monday, November 2, 2009

Mxic* (for Mexico, Mexican, etc.)

Today marks the conclusion of the Mexican festival Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), which is celebrated nationwide on November 1-2. According to the Consejo de Promoción Turística de México (Mexico Tourism Board), this holiday is “the most colorful annual festival on the Mexican calendar, commemorating departed loved ones. During this festival, the dead have divine permission to visit friends and relatives on earth. The living welcome the souls of the departed with offerings incorporating their favorite foods and beverages, as well as marigolds and candles. The Day of the Dead celebration is particularly memorable in the states of Oaxaca and Michoacan, as well as in Mexico City.”

With roots in Mexico’s pre-Hispanic days, the festival was originally celebrated during the ninth month of the Aztec calendar (around August) and was dedicated to the goddess Mictecacihuatl, known as “Lady of the Dead.” Later, after the arrival of the Spanish, the festival was moved to coincide with the Roman Catholic feasts of All Saints and All Souls. Common offerings (ofrendas) to the dead include sugar skulls and pan de muerto, a sugary sweet bread decorated with bones.

Mxic* is listed as a typo of low probability, but there are currently 18 English-language instances of it in OhioLink. One is correct (MXIC as an acronym). Another two were baffling until the MARC format was viewed—each record contained a subject heading coded for unspecified thesaurus (650 with second indicator “4” in “MARC speak”), which appears to be indexed, but not displayed, in that catalog. I surmise that most of the other errors can be traced back to the importing of diacritics, because they seem to occur in Spanish language strings where “México” came through as “Mxico.” (The same keyword search limited to Spanish will retrieve other words lacking accented letters.)

(Día de los Muertos in Ocotepec, from Wikimedia Commons)

Deb Kulczak

Friday, October 30, 2009

Similiar* (for Similar*)

This close to Hallowe'en, I wonder how many doppelgängers are lurking about. The doppelgänger is a spectral counterpart to a living person; similar in appearance, but not alive.

Legend has it that on Hallowe'en, a girl can discover her future husband by completing a small ritual: she must stand in front of a mirror with two candles and a piece of apple in her mouth. The mirror will show her the ghostly version of her future husband, looking back at her from behind her shoulders.

To take it one step further, if the girl walks around a graveyard 12 times, she will actually meet up with her future husband's doppelgänger. While predicting the future is tempting, that's a little too creepy for me.

Leanne Olson

(Mirror photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Persistan* (for Persisten*)

If you've ever sat awake at night, unable to sleep due to the persistent clapping of thunder, flashing of lightning, and rain beating down on your roof, you might curse the Norse god Thor.

Thor is the god of thunder, the weather, and crops. During a thunderstorm, Thor rides his chariot, pulled by two goats, through the heavens. Lightning flashes when he throws his hammer, and he maintains his strength for the day of Ragnarok (the end of the world), when he will kill (and be killed by) his great enemy, the Midgard Serpent.

Today is Thor's Day; Thursday gets its name from the god Thor, and shows us another kind of persistence (not persistance): Thor's influence on language has lasted long after most of the god's followers have left the Earth.

Leanne Olson

(1872 painting of Thor by Mårten Eskil Winge, taken from

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Acquistion (for Acquisition)

The Alexandrian Library in ancient Egypt had a rather rapacious acquisitions policy. Ptolemy II Philadelphus, so named for his love of books, wanted to collect all of the books in the world. He wrote to all of the known kings and princes requesting copies of every document they had in their own libraries.

In addition, every ship coming into the port at Alexandria was searched, with original books confiscated and copies returned to the ships. Underhanded acquisitions techniques abounded: once, the library borrowed the official copies of Greek tragedies from Athens, giving a deposit in return. The Ptolemies wanted these copies so badly that they decided to forfeit their money and keep the plays instead. (In all fairness, they did return high-quality copies to Athens.)

Acquiring typing errors is not nearly so prestigious as acquiring books, so watch out for this one: acquistion is a high probability typo on the Ballard List, with over 900 hits in Worldcat.

(Image of a papyrus page from the Egyptian Book of the Dead from Encyclopedia Britannica)

Leanne Olson

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Emergency planing (for Emergency planning)

“There's no reason to become alarmed, and we hope you'll enjoy the rest of your flight. By the way, is there anyone on board who knows how to fly a plane?”

--Elaine, flight attendant on board the ill-fated jetliner in Airplane!

Emergency planing, a typo for Emergency planning, sounds like something James Bond or Indiana Jones might have to do during the course of an escape.

Planes are frequently scenes of disaster in films, ranging from the terrifying “mundane” possibilities of crashes to the more outrageous: passengers having to deal with time travel, serial killers, hundreds of snakes, or even gremlins tearing apart the wing.

Between the gremlins and the lack of leg room, I think I’ll avoid the air and take a train next time I’m on vacation.

(Image of William Shatner and the gremlin in the Twilight Zone episode "Nightmare at 20,000 feet" from Wikipedia)

Leanne Olson

Monday, October 26, 2009

Sherriff (for Sheriff)

Today, October 26, is the anniversary of the 1881 gunfight at the O.K. Corral in Tombstone, Arizona, one of the most famous showdowns in the history of the American West.

The gunfight was between members of the Tombstone Marshall’s Office (the three Wyatt brothers and Doc Holliday) and the Clanton gang of cowboys, including Sheriff Johnny Behan, from whom we get today’s typo: Sherriff for Sheriff.

Better watch your typing fingers around these guys: they're quick on the trigger. Apparently Johnny Ringo once shot a man for refusing to drink whiskey with him—the victim preferred beer.

And be careful as well when checking “Sherriff”, as it can double as an author’s last name.

Image from the 1957 film Gunfight at the O.K. Corrall

Leanne Olson

Friday, October 23, 2009

Ducth (for Dutch)

Yesterday's post talked about Loudon Wainwright III, folk singer and son of Loudon Wainwright Jr., who was a writer and editor for Life magazine. Another interesting note about Loudon's lineage is the fact that he is a direct descendant of Peter Stuyvesant, the last director-general of New Netherland (which included present-day New York State). Albany, New York—formerly known as Fort Orange—recently hosted Willem-Alexander (Prince of Orange and son of Queen Beatrix) and his Argentinian wife Princess Máxima, in celebration of the quadricentennial of Henry Hudson's voyage up the Hudson River in 1609. Museums all over the state have mounted exhibits in commemoration of this historic event. Two such local exhibitions are the one at the New York State Museum and the one at the Albany Institute of History and Art. Ducth (for Dutch) turns up five times in OhioLINK, two of them with "[sic]" in tow. (The prince and princess also have three little towheads, who were left at home in the Netherlands this trip.)

(1948 Associated Press photo from a friend who deals in old books and ephemera, picturing three generations of Dutch royalty: Princess Margriet, Princess Beatrix, Princess Juliana, and Queen Wilhelmina... Postscript: a loyal TotDfL subject is happy to see that we've got all our "Ducth" in a row here!)

Carol Reid