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

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