Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Borwn* (for Brown*)

In the 1969 television special A Boy Named Charlie Brown, our hapless but eponymous hero finds himself a contestant in the annual national spelling bee. With the "Peanuts" gang wildly cheering him on, he makes it to the final round, where he promptly chokes on the relatively simple beagle, which he spells B-E-A-G-E-L. (The bee, by the way, began with the word supersede, a notorious toughie.) Cartoonist Charles Schulz was considered a contemporary philosopher by many of his fans and here he shows a rather profound understanding of the almost mystical ironies that seem to imbue spelling bees. I'm not sure what it is, exactly, but it's as if there's a guiding hand behind so many of these spectacular fin-de-bee flameouts. For instance, there was the Indian kid who couldn't spell Darjeeling (even while hundreds of his dad's friends were chanting for him to win, and probably quaffing the stuff to boot). Then there was the Canadian girl with the German-speaking father who for some strange reason spelt weltschmerz with a V—although she managed to get the rest of it perfect. And then there was the the guy who misspelled the word misspell. (I've made my own blushing blunders as well and, believe me, it's not as funny as it sounds.) However, as Linus tells his good friend, who had taken to his bed with an acute case of, well, weltschmerz (i.e., mental depression or apathy caused by comparison of the actual state of the world with an ideal state): "But did you notice something, Charlie Brown? The world didn't come to an end." A recent question put to the listserv concerned the difference between typos and misspellings. I suppose there is somewhat less shame attaching to the former than the latter, but mistakes are mistakes. Who knows why they get made sometimes? And yet the world doesn't come to an end. In honor of Charlie Brown and his born-again faith in getting it right, our typo for today is Borwn* (for Brown*) and was found seven times in the OhioLINK database.

(Charles Schulz, 1956, Library of Congress, New York World-Telegram & Sun Collection, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

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