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