Friday, May 29, 2009

Existance* (for Existence, etc.)

A few days ago, I received an e-mail message–complete with photos–about the wondrous “Rare Parrot Flower” from Thailand. Having gotten many hoax messages over the years, I was immediately skeptical of this beauty’s existence. However, Hoax-Slayer at least seems to agree that it’s real, and Impatiens psittacina, first described by the botanist Joseph Dalton Hooker, is listed in the International Plant Names Index.

Existance* is a typo of high probability and retrieves 32 hits in the OhioLINK database. Some are already identified as typos by the presence of [sic] immediately following, but others occur in transcribed fields and would have to be checked.

(Parrot Flower, from Hoax-Slayer and my own Inbox)

Deb Kulczak

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Logitud* (for Longitude, etc.)

The Granada Film/A&E mini-series Longitude portrays the life of John Harrison (1693-1776), a Lincolnshire craftsman who devoted his life to the creation of a marine chronometer for accurately calculating longitude (east-west position) at sea. Without such knowledge, navigation on long-distance voyages was a risky business indeed, and at the time, sailors had to rely on tables of the moon’s position relative to the stars.

In 1714, the British government established a top prize of £20,000 for the person who could solve the longitude problem. Harrison, a man with little formal education, encountered stiff opposition from the well-heeled scientific establishment, but after much travail, he finally succeeded. Four of his timekeepers, later named H1-H4, are today housed at the Royal Observatory, Greenwich. During the last century, they were painstakingly restored by Rupert Gould, whose life provides parallel drama in the mini-series.

Logitud* appears 11 times in OhioLINK, making it a typo of moderate probability. A couple entries are for non-English titles, so be careful correcting such errors in your own catalog.

(Harrison's timekeeper H4, from Collections Online, National Maritime Museum)

Deb Kulczak

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Accute (for Acute)

An acute angle is one measuring less than ninety degrees. A famous architectural example can be found in I. M. Pei’s design for the East Building of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. The nineteen-degree angle on the southwest side is said to be the sharpest corner on any building, and the stone is stained at ground level by the countless visitors who feel compelled to touch it. On May 8, 2009, the Washington Post reported that the lavender-pink marble facade would require a $40 million facelift. Lest you blame the tourists, it’s actually because many of the 16,200 exterior panels are tilting outward, and new supports are needed.

Accute is a typo of low probability on the Ballard list and is found 7 times in OhioLINK.

(Detail of the East Building, National Gallery of Art, from Wikimedia Commons)

Deb Kulczak

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Threshhold (for Threshold)

According to the Oxford English Dictionary Online, one meaning of the noun threshold is “the piece of timber or stone which lies below the bottom of a door, and has to be crossed in entering a house; the sill of a doorway; hence, the entrance to a house or building.” The variant spelling “thresshhold” (with two pairs of double consonants) apparently exists, but one suspects the origin of today’s typo is actually the common pronunciation “thresh-hold,” which Merriam Webster Online lists in first position.

The moderate-probability typo Threshhold can be found 9 times in the OhioLINK catalog.

(A door with threshold, from Wikimedia Commons)

Deb Kulczak

Monday, May 25, 2009

Memeor* (for Memorial, Memory, etc.)

Memorial Day is the U.S. holiday honoring those who have died in the nation’s wars. Formerly known as Decoration Day, the observance dates back to the Civil War, and in 1971 federal law fixed the date as the last Monday in May. Memorial Day is observed locally with parades and the decorating of graves, and nationally with the placing of a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington National Cemetery, Virginia.

Memeor* is a high-probability typo on the Ballard list, and there are 18 occurrences in OhioLINK. Many occur in transcribed fields, which means they may or may not be typos, while another appears to be a variant for the Spanish “memoria.”

(Sailor and Woman at the Tomb of the Unknowns, May 1943, from Wikimedia Commons)

Deb Kulczak

Friday, May 22, 2009

Greman* , Geman* (for German)

A former coworker of mine used to refer to computer glitches, or input errors generally, as "gremlins." Today we find four instances of Greman* in OhioLINK (one with a [sic] to indicate that the mistake is on the original) and seven for Geman* + German*. (Note: I often find the Boolean "and" to be an effective way to home in on and isolate the results I'm looking for.) According to Richard Hooker's website European Middle Ages: "In both Celtic and Germanic, the word German means something like 'the fierce men' or, contrarily, 'the friendly men.' Who knows?" Other sources claim it means "spear man," "man of war," and (my favorite) "neighbors who shout."

(German devil, from the website of Alan Olswing, author of the book Vintage Grass Growing Clay Heads.)

Carol Reid

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Salmon Rushdie (for Salman Rushdie)

Cats usually like salmon, but it was pretty clear twenty years ago that Cat Stevens (who by that time had renamed himself Yusuf Islam) did not like Salman Rushdie. He basically endorsed the Ayatollah Khomeini's death threat fatwa against the writer, saying that while he didn't feel personally obliged to carry it out, he'd be all in favor of someone else doing so. Islam later tried to backpedal and claimed that his "dry [British] humour" was the problem and that he was being misunderstood and persecuted for his innocent remarks. This broke the hearts of many former Cat Stevens fans, of which I was very much one, especially given the role his music played in one of my all-time favorite movies, Harold and Maude. There are six instances of Salmon + Rushdie in OhioLINK, but one record correctly includes the names Salman Rushdie and Christian Salmon. (WorldCat contains 20 records with this typo.) Although it's only a vowel, there is a big difference between salmon and Salman—just as there is between "Peace Train" and pietism, Stevens and Islam, Islam and insanity.

("Cat Stevens hoping for Rushdie's death," from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Personell, Personnell, Personel (for Personnel, Personal)

There are three occurrences of Personell in OhioLINK and two of Personnell. You may also find a quite a few hits for Personel (we found 43, but a number of them turned out to be foreign words or surnames; some were also typos for personal). Little Nell is a person in the Charles Dickens novel The Old Curiosity Shop, but today's typos are no curiosities. Words with two sets of consonants are quite often misspelled (misspell itself being a good example). The website writes: "Probably the most widely-repeated criticism of Dickens is Oscar Wilde's remark that 'One would have to have a heart of stone to read the death of little Nell without dissolving into tears ... of laughter.' (In fact there is no such scene, since Nell's death takes place off stage.)" Do your own behind-the-scenes work and fix any typos you find for the word personnel in your catalogs.

(Little Nell and Her Grandfather by Fred Barnard, circa 1870, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Diferent, Diference (for Different, Difference)

Think different, Apple's computer ads used to say, and that's generally good advice, especially for you creative or would-be creative types. Although it's just a different way of saying, "Think outside the box." Diferent shows up nine times in OhioLINK and Diference twice. Wikipedia points out that "some believe a grammatically correct version of the slogan would be: 'Think Differently.' However, the word different was not intended to be an adverb in this case but rather a 'fanciful category' like 'Think Playful' or 'Think Change.'" The phrase gave rise to numerous parodies, such as one by culture jammer Ron English in which the usual icons were replaced by pictures of Charles Manson, Adolf Hitler, and Bill Gates. While there are some cases of "difference" that should be applauded, abbreviating this word by leaving out an F probably isn't one of them. (Although simplified-spelling zealot Melvil Dui might just disagree.)

(Different-looking Apple icon, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Monday, May 18, 2009

Pomagr*, etc. (for Pomegranate)

Pomegranate, according to my friend at the local food co-op in charge of overseeing the making of produce signs, is a difficult word for most people to spell. There were three cases of Pomagr* in OhioLINK, all references to California publishing houses, and one Pommegranate, with two M's. (That one almost looks right to me, maybe since the fruit is so symmetrical and full of yummy seeds. Or perhaps because pomme means apple in French.) Although most alternative spellings for the word pomegranate are clearly typos, historically its spelling has not been carved in stone. (In fact, we only found one that actually contained any "granite": Pomegranite Communications in Petaluma.) A search on Pomg* yielded one instance of pomgranate (A Golden Bell, and a Pomgranate, 1625) and one of pomgranet (The Spanish-English Rose, or, The English-Spanish Pomgranet, 1622). These are documented variants, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, but you should always check the work itself before changing such spellings or adding the gloss [sic] or [i.e.].

(Madonna of the Pomegranate by Sandro Botticelli, 1487, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Friday, May 15, 2009

Passs* (for Pass*)

There are 24 instances of Passs* in OhioLINK, but they don't all pass muster as typos. One is an acronym for Ohio's "post-adoption special services subsidy" and six are followed by the word sic. (Note: whenever you put [sic] or [i.e.] in your title field, you should also include two 246 fields: one for the title the way it appears on the item and one for the title correctly spelled.) As founder of the U.S. Geological Survey, Clarence King was a very distinguished gentleman and, according to then Secretary of State John Hay, "the best and the brightest man of his generation." King was also a well-known bachelor, globe-trotter, and bon vivant from New York City. But perhaps his most remarkable accomplishment was passing for a black man (purported Pullman porter "James Todd") during his 13-year secret marriage to Ada Copeland, a former slave from Georgia, with whom he fathered five children and to whom he only revealed the truth about himself and his racial identity on his deathbed in 1901. Ms. Copeland passed away at 103 and was the sole survivor of slavery to witness Martin Luther King's 1963 "I Have a Dream" speech. This fascinating story is told in a recently issued book by Martha Sandweiss called Passing Strange: A Gilded Age Tale of Love and Deception Across the Color Line.

(Portrait of Clarence King from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Occure* (for Occur, etc.)

Occure* is found a fantastic 412 times in OhioLINK, making it a typo of "highest probability" several times over. (The following variations were also discovered there: Ocurrence* eight times, Ocurring seven times, and Ocurred twice.) It's important to realize, though that this is a very common spelling error and thus more likely to have occurred on the original than might otherwise be the case. So be sure to check the title page in question if the "typo" occurs in a transcribed field. (In fact, not one of these occurrences were in subject fields.) When this search is coupled with the word sic, only eight examples are found, but that doesn't mean that all publisher misprints were caught by the cataloger. As Hippocrates once advised: before effecting a cure, "first do no harm."

(Shot of the Cure doing no harm during a 2008 performance in Prague, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Beatnick* (for Beatnik*)

Anne Waldman (whom I had the pleasure of meeting during a recent seminar held here at the University at Albany) is a child of the sixties and now in her sixties: she's been called the "spiritual wife of Allen Ginsberg" and the "Youngest Beatnik." There are 11 instances of Beatnick* in OhioLINK, some of which are probably spelled like that on the original, but really shouldn't be. According to "The word 'beatnik' was coined by Herb Caen in an article in the San Francisco Chronicle on April 2, 1958. Caen coined the term by adding the Russian suffix -nik, after Sputnik I, to the Beat Generation." Waldman is a poet, teacher, and disciple of Buddhism and very likely did not give events like the Venice, California, Miss Beatnik Contest of 1959 too much notice—although if she had, she could have definitely given these cool kitties a run for their money.

(Anne Waldman experiencing "Make-up on Empty Space" for the premiere of Oh! Oh! Plutonium. Photograph by Allen Ginsberg, 1984, from the Corbis website.)

Carol Reid

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Geniune (for Genuine)

In the late 1960s, many a TV watcher dreamed of Jeannie with the bright blonde hair, blinking blue eyes, and clinging harem pants: "Yes, master?" "I Dream of Jeannie with the Light Brown Hair" was written by Stephen Foster in 1854, but gained enormous popularity during the ASCAP strike of 1941 when a lot of songs couldn't be played on the radio due to licensing disputes. "Jeannie," however, was in the public domain. According to Time Magazine: "So often had BMI's Jeannie With the Light Brown Hair been played that she was widely reported to have turned grey." There are nine cases of Geniune for genuine in OhioLINK (and one case of Geniue for genuis: a review by Eudora Welty of Arthur Mizener's The Saddest Story: A Biography of Ford Madox Ford). It doesn't take a genius to see that these are typos of "moderate probability," but it may take a bit more effort than rubbing a magic lamp or opening a bottle of peroxide to eradicate them.

(Barbara Eden as Jeannie the genie, courtesy of Flickr.)

Carol Reid

Monday, May 11, 2009

Davey Crockett (for Davy Crockett)

Despite the fact that David Stern Crockett avoided using the name" Davy" during his relatively short lifetime as a "pilgrim, mountaineer, soldier, bear-hunter, congressman, and defender of the Alamo" (as he's described in the subtitle to the book David Crockett, Scout by Charles Fletcher Allen), catalogers and the public at large have largely embraced it: a search in NACO on Crockett, David, 1786-1836 tells us to see Davy. We get nine returns in OhioLINK on Davy + Davey (eight are clear inconsistencies) and ten direct hits on Davey Crockett (though some of these errors may well appear on the originals). Watch out for Davey Crockett the baseball player, who throws us a curveball with the somewhat wavier spelling of his own name. How many ears does Davy Crockett have? (Answer: Three. A right ear, a left ear, and a wild front ear.) This riddle has proved popular among coworkers and rowdy young relatives alike. Ears lookin' at you, kid!

(Picture from

Carol Reid

Friday, May 8, 2009

heirarch* (for hierarchy, etc.)

Hierarchy, which could be misspelled as heirarchy, is frequently the subject of the very popular comic strip Dilbert:

Image from (comic originally published July 12, 2007)

11 in OhioLINK

Julene Jones

Thursday, May 7, 2009

i11 (for "ill." or alternate abbreviation of IL)

As today's typo hints, the "typos" that were used for catalog cards in libraries may still linger in our catalogs.

I11 could have been used as an abbreviation for illustrated or Illinois, Interlibrary Loan or even I'll, however, please note that it may be appropriate when as a Cutter, so searching for "i11 NOT .i11" may help, if it is possible to search this way.

An illustrated postcard for Illinois:

3 occurrences in OhioLINK

Julene Jones

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

llustrat* (for illustrations, illustrated, etc.)

This typo is easy to make if you omit the subfield letter, as in typing "i llustrated by..." instead of "c illustrated by..." Enjoy this illustration from one of my favorite illustrators, John R. Neill:

(30 occurrences in OhioLINK)

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

elment* (for element, elementary)

Generally credited to the Russian chemist Dmitri Mendeleev, the Periodic Table of the Elements has been feted since in Tom Lehrer's song, "The Elements," which starts "There's antimony, arsenic, aluminum, selenium And hydrogen and oxygen and nitrogen and rhenium..."

You can listen to the song (and get dizzy at the same time) at:

Searching for elment* should catch any typos of element as well as elementary.

(35 occurrences in OhioLINK)

Julene Jones

Monday, May 4, 2009

abscence (for absence)

Though absence may make the heart grow fonder, as in the title of the painting below, "abscence" does not.

10 in OhioLINK

Julene Jones

Friday, May 1, 2009

Holcau*, Holocause* (for Holocaust, etc.)

Holocaust derives from the Greek words “olos,” meaning “whole,” and “kaustos” (or “kautos”), meaning "burnt." The term dates back to as early as the fifth century B.C.E. and “can mean a sacrifice wholly consumed by fire or a great destruction of life, especially by fire.” Throughout history it has been used to describe a variety of disastrous events, and not until the second half of the twentieth century did the term become almost exclusively associated with Nazi Germany’s “Final Solution.” (Source: Frequently Asked Questions, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum)

Holcau* and Holocause* are both low-probability typos on the Ballard list. There are 4 instances of the former and 5 of the latter in the OhioLINK catalog. A few are in transcribed fields, so the usual cautions apply.

(Interior shot of the the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Washington, D.C., by Cumulus Clouds, from Wikimedia Commons)

Deb Kulczak