Friday, July 31, 2009

Screenpaly* (for Screenplay*)


The LIBRARIAN sits at a reference desk. A STUDENT approaches the desk, looking frantic.

I have to write a screenplay for class tomorrow! Why does the library have no books about screenplays?? I searched the catalogue several times.

The LIBRARIAN, perplexed, searches the catalogue for “screenplay*”. She finds nothing.

See? I’m DOOMED!!!!

How very strange…I could have sworn we had several…wait, let me try this!

The LIBRARIAN has remembered the author of a particular book about screenplays. She types in his name and searches. A record is retrieved.

Oh, I see the issue! When we were cataloguing this, we misspelled "screenplay" as "screenpaly". In fact, browsing by class number, I can see we have MANY books about screenplays with this misspelling! Go to PN1996 and you will find them.

Thank you so much! You’ve saved my life. I just got a new dog and I’m so grateful that I’ll name him LIBRARIAN, after you!

Leanne Olson

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Bookeep* (for Bookkeep*)

Q: What do you call someone who has $50 in overdue library fines?
A: A bookkeeper.

Sorry, I couldn’t help it—that terrible joke still makes me chuckle a little. Less funny is bookeeper, a typo for bookkeeper. Bookkeeper is the only word I can think of with 3 pairs of letters in a row, so why rob the word of this little bit of cachet by leaving out a letter?

Subbookkeeper, which some dictionaries define as a bookkeeper’s assistant who has his own responsibilities, is even better…4 pairs of letters in a row!

These words with double letters are easier to misspell (look, there’s another one—mispell is a rather amusing typo), but surely if a bookkeeper can remember to carry her ones, we cataloguers can watch our typing.

Leanne Olson

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Adventure stores (for Adventure stories)

Fifteen men on a dead man's chest
Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum
Drink and the devil had done for the rest
Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum.

- Sea shanty from Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson

Treasure Island is a famous adventure story that displays in WorldCat with the subject heading “adventure stores”. Leaving out the “i" in “stories” could leave adventure lovers scrambling to find new tales like pirates without a map to buried treasure.

Watch out for “stores” replacing “stories” in other genres as well, as with the previously discussed typo love stores.

(Drawing of Long John Silver from

Leanne Olson

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Seventeeth (for Seventeenth)

The seventeenth number (17) is considered unlucky in Italy. If you write 17 as a Roman numeral, it comes out as XVII, which can be rearranged to form VIXI, meaning “I have lived”. This has the implication that one is no longer living…i.e., dead.

Some European airlines, such as Lufthansa, do not have a row 17 in their airplanes. Many worldwide do not have row 13, and some in Asia omit 4 and 9, because the word for 4 sounds like "death" in Japanese, and the word for 9 sounds like "torture".

On the flip side, some airlines offer flights containing“lucky” numbers as well—7, 11 (lucky in the West), or 8 (lucky in China).

The word seventeenth was clearly not lucky for some cataloguers, as seventeeth places as a high probability typo on the Ballard list, and occurs 21 times in OhioLINK.

(Plane image from; airline information from USA Today)

Leanne Olson

Monday, July 27, 2009

Turbulan* (for Turbulen*)

The French Revolution was a turbulent time, full of riots, assassinations, and executions.

In an interesting coincidence, July 27th was of particular significance to two of the Revolution’s most infamous personages.

French revolutionary leader Maximilien Robespierre was overthrown and placed under arrest on July 27, 1794; he was executed the next day.

July 27, 1768 was also the birthday of Charlotte Corday, famous for assassinating the Jacobin leader Jean-Paul Marat. This event (a stabbing in the bathtub) was immortalized in David’s painting The Death of Marat, pictured here.

Turbulan* (a typo for turbulen*) occurs 16 times in OhioLINK, making it an error of high probability on the Ballard list.

(Image from Encyclopedia Britannica online)

Leanne Olson

Friday, July 24, 2009

Niagr* (for Niagara)

Niagara Falls is a popular tourist destination on the border between New York State and Ontario. There, the Niagara river plunges nearly 200 feet to form three distinct cascades–the American and Bridal Veil Falls on the U.S. side, and Horseshoe Falls in Canada. Daredevils not content to simply view the falls have walked across them on a tightrope or even traveled over them in a barrel.

Niagr* is a high-probability typo with 53 entries in OhioLINK. A number occur in transcribed fields for materials published in the 19th and early 20th centuries, so perhaps in those days “Niagra” was a common (if unofficial) variant. But for materials created in the last few years, one suspects the influence of too many Viagra commercials.

(Niagara Falls, from Wikimedia Commons)

Deb Kulczak

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Trail by Jury (for Trial by Jury)

Americans might not give much thought to their right to a trial by jury unless they are accused of a crime. But the experience of serving as a juror on several insurance cases made me aware of the process in all its tedious glory. Fancifully, I imagine that a trail by jury is the path worn by stampeding citizens after the judge thanks them for their service and tells them they’re free to go.

Trail by jury is a typo of low probability and appears 2 times in OhioLINK when searched as a phrase.

(The Jury, by John Morgan, from Wikimedia Commons)

Deb Kulczak

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Continetal (for Continental)

French philosopher and mathematician René Descartes (1596-1650) represents, along with Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz and Benedictus de Spinoza, the Continental Rationalist school of thought. Simply put, Rationalists believed that reason and intuition were the keys to all knowledge, rather than the sensory experience favored by the Empiricists.

Even those not acquainted with Descartes will recognize his famous dictum “Cogito ergo sum,” or “I think, therefore I am,” which has produced many humorous spin-offs. The Café Descartes coffee shops in Chicago, playing on this theme, have adopted the motto “I drink, therefore I am.”

Continetal is a low-probability typo on the Ballard list. There are currently 6 entries in OhioLINK, and you might reasonably expect one or two to appear in your own catalog.

(Café Descartes, Chicago)

Deb Kulczak

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Higer (for Higher)

If a liger is a cross between a lion and a tiger, then a higer must be ... well, in the English language, it’s most often a typo for the word higher. There are 54 entries for this high-probability error in the OhioLINK database. Many are actually correct, because Higer is also a surname. Others occur in transcribed fields and would have to be checked.

(Female and male ligers, from Wikimedia Commons)

Deb Kulczak

Monday, July 20, 2009

Eath (for Earth)

It suddenly struck me that that tiny pea, pretty and blue, was the Earth. I put up my thumb and shut one eye, and my thumb blotted out the planet Earth. I didn't feel like a giant. I felt very, very small.

These words were spoken by astronaut Neil Armstrong as he gazed upon Earth during Apollo 11’s lunar mission. It’s hard to imagine what a sight that was, but even the photos of Earth taken from space are awe-inspiring.

Eath is a typo of moderate probability on the Ballard list with 11 entries in OhioLink. Fixing such entries in your own catalog might require some care, though, as “Eath” (or D'Eath) can be a legitimate surname and also an old Scottish word meaning “easy.”

(Blue Marble, a famous Apollo 17 photograph, from Wikimedia Commons)

Deb Kulczak

Friday, July 17, 2009

Electorn* (for Electron*)

A "black hole in space" has been defined as a "rip" or a "tear" in the "space-time continuum." I haven't the foggiest notion what that means, but I do know that typos can tear the fabric of accessibility in electronic databases. Electorn* appears ten times in OhioLINK and 67 times in WorldCat and might turn up in your OPAC as well. This picture was taken with the Hubble telescope and shows the nucleus of the Whirlpool Galaxy (M51). According to Stephen Conatser, who posted this shot to Wikimedia Commons: "The cross marks the location of the black hole at the center of the galaxy [and] was first interpreted as two dust rings circling the nucleus [but] was later determined to simply be foreground dust lanes silhouetted by the active nucleus." Okay, dust I understand. So let's do a little housecleaning in our own universe of titles and sweep this typo from our catalogs.

Carol Reid

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Gertude* (for Gertrude)

Native Californian and ex-pat Parisian Gertrude Stein once remarked about the city of Oakland: "There's no there there." It wasn't so much her snobbery and trademark repetitive style (though there is that there) as much as it was simple disappointment at being unable to find her childhood home during a return visit to the States. After visiting OhioLINK, I'd like to be able to report that there were no typos for Gertrude there; however, I found twenty instances of Gertude*, making this a typo of "moderate probability." Ms. Stein might be cheered by the fact that three of them were references to her.

(Portrait of Gertrude Stein, with American flag as backdrop, Jan. 4, 1935, by Carl Van Vechten, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Abestos (for Asbestos)

Asbestos has a bit of a bad name these days, but it's long been considered a remarkable substance for the purposes of insulation. Asbestos became popular in the late 19th century, but even the ancient Greeks recognized its virtues as well as its vices. According to Wikipedia: "The Greek geographer Strabo and the Roman naturalist Pliny the Elder noted that the material damaged the lungs of slaves who wove it into cloth ... The word asbestos (σβεστος) is a borrowed Greek adjective meaning inextinguishable. The Greeks termed asbestos the miracle mineral because of its soft and pliant properties, as well as its ability to withstand heat." Perhaps the best asbestos comes from the Jeffrey Mine in the town that bears its name, Asbestos, Quebec. There are three cases of Abesto* in OhioLINK today, so you might take a chance on unearthing a few of these typos—but I'd stay away from the real thing.

(Vesuvianite from the Jeffrey Mine in Asbestos, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Scolars* (for Scholars*)

Scholars often have highly toned brains and razor-sharp wits, but also flabby muscles, failing eyesight, and poor posture—perhaps even a touch of scoliosis—from too much hunching over bunches of books. Scolars* turns up nine times in OhioLINK (one being a correctly spelled foreign word), making it a "low probability" typo on the Ballard list, but one you will definitely wish to avoid if you consider yourself any sort of intellectual.

(The Castle of Knowledge, from the Cardiff University SCOLAR website. SCOLAR stands for Special Collections and Archives.)

Carol Reid

Monday, July 13, 2009

Stateg* (for Strategy, etc.)

Eggs are rarely static, what with falling out of nests, rolling down the White House lawn, descending Fallopian tubes, and frying, scrambling, or poaching in hot oil or boiling water. It's an eggsistential question, of course—nothing ever stays the same for long. But when ovum leave home, it can be a precipitous decline. Humpty Dumpty had a Great Fall. Kitchen eggs are smacked against pans and bowls. Being cracked, in fact, is what eggs are all about: someone's either trying to get into them or out. On the other hand, certain Ukrainian practitioners paint, polish, and preserve their Easter eggs for posterity. And I recently read that for your body to make use of the good cholesterol in an egg, the yolk should remain intact while cooking. However you take your eggs, enjoy. Or as Burgess Meredith says to Merle Oberon in the Ernst Lubitsch movie That Uncertain Feeling: "Egeshegera!" (Actually spelled egészségére, it means "Cheers!" in Hungarian.) There are 123 eggsamples of Stateg* in OhioLINK, most of which are typos for strategy, strategies, and strategic. Do you have room for one more pun? Eggsit stage right...

Carol Reid

(Wild bird's egg photo by Kim Pardi, June 21, 2005, from flickr.)

Friday, July 10, 2009

Dimention* (for Dimension*)

As children learning to spell we’re so often reminded to look for a “tion” even when a word sounds like it should end in shun. So it’s not surprising that we might make a typing error in the opposite direction, assuming a tion when there is none.

This is the case with Dimention*, a typo of high probability on the Ballard list, that should be spelled Dimension*.

Looking at a video of a “simple rotation” of a four-dimensional object hurts my mind a little:

All the better to make typing errors, I suppose…perhaps I should take the afternoon off to rest up?

While we can’t go back through time (often referred to as the fourth dimension) to fix our typing errors, we can fix them after the fact, with a quick catalogue search.

Leanne Olson

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Guiness + Alec (for Alec Guinness)

An actor is at his best a kind of unfrocked priest who, for an hour or two, can call on heaven and hell to mesmerize a group of innocents.
– Sir Alec Guinness

Alec Guinness won the Best Actor Oscar for his performance in the 1957 film The Bridge on the River Kwai, and in 1980 won a special Academy Award for his lifelong career of "advancing the art of screen acting through a host of memorable and distinguished performances".

In 1959, he was knighted for his film and theatre achievements, becoming Sir Alec Guinness.

Rumour has it that in some prints of The Bridge on the River Kwai his last name is misspelled as Guiness. This error appears in library catalogues as well: Alec + Guiness is a typo of high probability, with 28 hits in OhioLINK.

Leanne Olson

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Comdy (for Comedy)

No royal curse, no Trojan horse,
And a happy ending, of course!
Goodness and badness,
Panic is madness--
This time it all turns out all right!
Tragedy tomorrow,
Comedy tonight!

-- from Stephen Sondheim’s A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum

Aristotle in his Poetics, a critique of Greek drama, distinguished between tragedy and comedy in this way: tragedy looks at men who are better than average (the gods and heroes of Greek myth) and comedy at those who are lower. Comedy looks at our failures and faults and, through amusement, attempts to correct them.

Comedy also emphasizes the social aspect of humankind, which can still be seen today—for example, in the way sitcoms are often positioned around a family, workplace, or group of friends.

Don’t want your coworkers laughing at you? Then be sure to include that E in the word comedy and avoid comdy, a typo of moderate probability on the Ballard List.

(Photo: Bruce Dow as Pseudolus in the Stratford Festival’s production of A Funny Thing…)

Leanne Olson

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Antartic* (for Antarctic*)

In Canada the summer is taking a while to heat up, so looking at this picture isn't the refreshing treat it normally might be in July.

According to the World Meteorological Organization, the lowest recoded temperature on Earth was in Antarctica at Vostok station: -89.2°C / -128.6°F on July 21, 1983.

Antarctic penguins stay warm by being large (the Emperor Penguin weighs around 30 kg / 66 lb, keeping a low surface area : volume ratio), and through a layer of fat under the skin that keeps them insulated. They also stand on their heels and tail feathers when on the ice or snow, reducing the surface area for the cold to enter their body, and they keep warm by huddling together.

When penguins get too hot from being active, they can lose this heat through their flippers and feet.

Antartic* is a high probability typing error on the Ballard list. Don't let your own flippers make this typo!

(Penguin photograph from

Leanne Olson

Monday, July 6, 2009

Dislay* (for Display*)

I paint self-portraits because I am so often alone, because I am the person I know best.
-- Frida Kahlo

Today is the anniversary of the birth of Mexican painter Frida Kahlo (July 6, 1907 - July 13, 1954).

Kahlo put herself on display (not dislay) quite frequently—the drama of her own life was depicted through her paintings, many of them self-portraits. The bisexual painter had a tumultuous relationship with fellow artist Diego Rivera, marrying him twice. She also lived most of her life in pain, with polio as a child and as an adult, after a bus accident from which she was never able to fully recover. This pain is depicted in many of her self-portraits, such as Henry Ford Hospital, painted after a miscarriage.

Kahlo is sometimes considered a Surrealist, though she denied this herself. Her intense, bright style based on Mexican folk art, as well as the "small scale, fantasy and a primitivistic style help to distance the viewer from the horrific subject-matter", according to Grove Art Online.

The painting above is Self-Portrait with Monkey, taken from

Leanne Olson

Friday, July 3, 2009

Throuth (for Through)

People have been known to seek Truth in many different ways. Some do it through study, some through observation, some through service, and some through meditation. They pledge their troth to these practices like others pledge love and loyalty to a spouse. Such efforts do not always pay off, though, causing them to throw over the truth in order to line up like pigs at the trough of sensual delights.

Today's typo looks as if it might be standing in for some of the words that appear in the first several sentences above (truth, through, troth, though, throw, and trough). However, the nine we found in OhioLINK were all for the word through. This flub seems to occur when we think we're all through after getting to the U and start over at the beginning before finishing up at the end.

(La Vérité by Jules Joseph Lefebvre, 1870, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Sliver* (for Silver*)

In today's tarnished economy, a small sliver of silver may soon be worth more than a tall pile of paper. Eleven results were returned for a search in OhioLINK on Sliver* + Silver*. One, for a recording by Fats Waller, renders the title: "By the light of the slivery [i.e. silvery] moon." One appears to contain both words correctly spelled. And in another case, we're faced with either a Henry Silver or a Henry Sliver, although I'm gonna put my money on the first. There may, of course, be other cases of Sliver* for silver* in the catalog, but since both are words in their own right, a combined search is probably the best way to data mine them efficiently. At any rate, I only found pieces of eight, so it could certainly be a lot worse. Remember, while your piece of the pie may be just a tiny sliver, every cloud has a silver lining.

(I like the doting way the uploader describes this picture on Wikimedia: "A small, shiny, freshly refined lump of pure, fine silver metal.")

Carol Reid

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Diesease* (for Disease, etc.)

Cartoon animators like Tex Avery and Chuck Jones, along with "novelty song" composers like Roy Atwell, often found ways of poking fun at death by the use of absurdist hyperbole. In 1915's "Some Little Bug Is Going To Find You," Atwell writes:

In these days of indigestion
It's oftentimes a question
Of what to eat and what to leave alone.
For each microbe and bacillus
Has a different way to kill us
And in time they always claim us for their own.

There are germs of every kind
In any food that you can find
In the market or upon a bill of fare.
Drinking water's just as risky
As the so-called deadly whiskey
And it's often a mistake to breathe the air.

For some little bug is going to find you someday,
Some little bug will creep behind you someday,
Then he'll send for his bug friends and all your trouble ends,
Some little bug is going to find you some day...

Today we find eight bugs in OhioLINK for the word disease*. The diagnosis could be as benign as a slip of the finger, but take care not to trip over the Freudian as you're going out. While curing your catalog of Diesease*, also be on the lookout for resident bookworms and the rest of their bug friends (silverfish, cockroaches, and beetles).

(Image from "Falling Hare," a 1943 Merrie Melodies short, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid