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