Monday, February 28, 2011

Experen* (for Experien*)

Who doesn't love a good pear? Birds do it, bees do it, even educated fleas ... well, perhaps not bees or fleas, in this case, as much as flies. The Bradford Pear is one type of tree whose blossoms attract flies in order to reproduce; regrettably, they do this by emitting an odor redolent of (take your pick from a recent Google search): "wet dog," "rotting fish," "dead meat," "dirty socks," "whorehouse floor," "garbage," or "poop." Whew! And, as if all that weren't sufficient to discourage the planting of this very pretty ornamental tree, it also has a relatively short life span, does not yield much edible fruit, and has a "weak crotch" (which makes it especially susceptible to storm damage). Many owners, landscapers, and hapless passersby regard the olfactory experience attendant upon the Bradford pear to be tolerable only as a vicarious one. Experen* appears a dozen times in OhioLINK and more than 400 times in WorldCat. Expel this stinker from your library's catalog—then reward yourself with a nice, sweet, juicy (non-Bradford) pear!

(Drawing of pears, or peren, from the Hoofdmenu website.)

Carol Reid

Friday, February 25, 2011

Eliot* + Elliot* (for Elliot* or Eliot*)

Eliot is a great name, as is George, but the English author George Eliot was actually given the name Mary Anne Evans at birth. She had originally planned to write under her own name (possibly shortening it a bit to Marion), but ultimately adopted an unequivocally masculine pseudonym so as not to be dismissed as a mere romance writer or worse. In 1856, she published an essay in the Westminster Review, caustically expressing her views on the matter, entitled "Silly Novels by Lady Novelists." She was generally considered unmarriageable, due to her infamous failure of pulchritude, so her father agreed to have her educated instead. Eliot learned to think for herself, eventually declaring herself an atheist, and engaged in a series of unconventional romantic relationships (including a 20-year domestic arrangement with a married man in an "open marriage," along with another marriage to a man 20 years her junior). She also produced seven novels (Virginia Woolf called Middlemarch "one of the few English novels written for grown-up people") and a great many poems and essays. Today's compound typo comes up 161 times in OhioLINK; a best estimate is that approximately two-thirds of these involve at least one misspelling of the name Eliot* or Elliot*. (The rest contain the names of two different people, both spelled correctly, or in some cases involve either a [sic] or an [i.e.].) Take care today to see that this name has been correctly transcribed in your own catalogs. As George Eliot writes in the book Silas Marner: "Nothing is so good as it seems beforehand."

(Painting of George Eliot at age 30, by the Swiss artist Alexandre Louis François d'Albert Durade, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Rehtoric* (for Rhetoric*)

I don't want to cause a riot here or bruise anyone's ego, but this is clearly not a rhetorical question: "How many times does our typo of the day show up in your library catalog?" We found it five times in OhioLINK and 39 times in WorldCat, which is only enough to make it a "low probability" typo on the Ballard list, but it's worth looking out for in any case. My own database contains just one example of Rehtoric* and it's on a record from 1793, so maybe that was the way they spelled it back then. Rhetoric itself is often highly specialized, generally subjective, and frequently very political. So it's incumbent, perhaps, upon catalogers to make it as accessible to our patrons as possible.

(Sign art spotted in Pittsfield, Mass., from the Empty Set Projects website.)

Carol Reid

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Repitit* (for Repetit*)

A few weeks ago, I traveled to the Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, with a good friend and his son to check out the M. C. Escher exhibit on opening day. The winding staircases in this quaint little museum did not lead to nowhere, but to several large rooms filled with various Escher prints, drawings, and memorabilia. There were opportunities for visitors to learn simple printmaking techniques, along with a champagne reception that whimsically included animal crackers and cheddar-flavored "goldfish." Escher's style is highly repetitive, often involving interlocking tessellations. It's considered closely aligned with mathematics, but Escher himself did not appear to enjoy or excel at math. "Although I am absolutely without training or knowledge in the exact sciences," he said, "I often seem to have more in common with mathematicians than with my fellow artists." Sounding a bit like a rap artist, M. C. Escher rarely signed his work—instead, he would carve the letters MCE backwards into his print blocks. We found 17 examples of Repitit* in OhioLINK today and 362 in WorldCat. Locate this typo, delete, and repeat.

(M. C. Escher self-portrait, 1929, from Wikipedia.)

Carol Reid

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Seee* (for See, Seen*, Seem*, Sweet*, etc.)

In the 1956 cinematic psycho-thriller The Bad Seed, the eponymous pigtailed and sweet-looking "Rhoda" (a name that may never again sound the same to you after hearing it repeatedly moaned by the youngster's anguished mother) is probably better seen but not heard; in any event, she's most definitely not what she seems. Neither, perhaps, was William March, who wrote the 1954 novel upon which the Maxwell Anderson play and Mervyn LeRoy movie were based. All three were critical and popular successes, but March dismissed the book he had penned as mere pulp and passed away a month after it was published. Alistair Cook asserted that March was "the most underrated of all contemporary American writers of fiction" and claimed he was "the unrecognized genius of our time." We found 19 cases of Seee* in the OhioLINK database today. Let's see if we can find any "bad seeds" in our own catalogs and nip them in the bud as soon as possible.

(William March, official Marine photograph, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Monday, February 21, 2011

Femal, Femals (for Female, Females)

If women were truly as feeble and frail as was commonly believed in the 19th century, perhaps they should have been called Femal instead of female. (It really was that bad.) One doctor of the day, however, who did not simply regard them as fainting and hysterical men manque was Clelia Duel Mosher, born in 1863 in Albany, New York. Her father was a local psychiatrist (or "alienist" as they were then known), and although Mosher herself was a contemporary of Freud's, she was more concerned with women's oppressed physiques than with their repressed psyches. Cornelius Duel Mosher encouraged Clelia's growing interest in science, but could not quite countenance her going away to college. This did not deter his daughter, however, who had saved up the tuition money on her own and was determined to enroll at Wellesley. She spent a year there, then went on to attend the University of Wisconsin, Stanford University, and Johns Hopkins, where she obtained her medical degree in 1900. She argued that women did not breath "costally" (from the ribcage) by nature, but would do so fully from their diaphragms, like men, once freed from the binding distortions of the corset. She also devised a series of exercises dubbed "moshers" to help women alleviate menstrual pain. But her most groundbreaking work was a fin de siècle sex survey, which lay gathering dust in the Stanford archives until 1973, where it was discovered by a delighted Carl Degler. (Entitled The Mosher Survey: Sexual Attitudes of 45 Victorian Women, it was finally published by Arno Press in 1980.) The survey dispelled a number of Victorian myths about female sexuality, with many of the participants freely admitting to enjoying sex, experiencing orgasm, and using birth control. One was bold enough to merit the following laconic notation: "Thinks men have not been properly trained." Like a cross between Alfred Kinsey and Emily Dickinson, Clelia Duel Mosher was a self-admitted loner, unable to find acceptance in her own time among either women or men. "Dear friend who does not exist," she once wrote. "I have given up ever finding you. I have tried out all my friends and they have not measured up to my dreams." We found seven instances of Femal in OhioLINK and 241 in WorldCat (along with 18 examples of Femals).

(Clelia Duel Mosher in 1892, from A szexologia Archivuma.)

Carol Reid

Friday, February 18, 2011

Mountan* (for Mountain*)

Many of our Northern Hemisphere readers are likely pretty sick of snow right now. But at least you’re not dealing with digging your car out of snow in the desert.

On February 18 in 1979, snow fell on the Sahara Desert for the only time in memory. According to the New York Times, in Southern Algeria the snow completely stopped traffic. In a few hours, the snow had melted. In the Saharan mountain ranges, snow is a little more common – falling once every three to seven years. Still, it’s not a bad place to move to if you’re completely sick of the white stuff.

Mountan is a moderate probability typo for mountain, occurring over 100 times in WorldCat. Watch out for mountian as well, which occurs even more frequently.

(Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Leanne Olson

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Expañol* (for Español*)

Expañol* is a high probability typo on the Ballard List, occurring over 340 times in Worldcat.

When I first saw the error, I thought it was an invented language, like Esperanto. Perhaps an expansion of Español to include slang terms from other languages? Or a code word for a plot by Spaniards to expand and take over the world?

Though I'm happy as long as the plans of our Expañol friends don't involve making a horror film as bad as Incubus, which was written entirely in Esperanto. Incubus starred William Shatner, who bizarrely pronounces his Esperanto with a French accent.

(Image from Incubus taken from Wikipedia)

Leanne Olson

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Egpyt (for Egypt)

On this day in 1923, Howard Carter opened the sealed doorway to the tomb of Egyptian King Tutankhamun. The excavation of the tomb was plagued by several mysterious events that the media happily reported amidst speculation of a curse.

The first occurred directly after Carter first broke the seal, a few months earlier. Carter's pet canary, in his home, was eaten by a cobra. This was interpreted as a sign -- the Royal Cobra Uraeus (worn by Egyptian kings) broke into Carter's house on the same day he began to break into Tutenkhamun's "house" (the tomb).

The deaths of a few of Carter's team members fueled the curse speculations as well, though Carter himself did not die until long after he opened the tomb, in 1939.

Egpyt is a high probability typo for Egypt. But don't get too giddy in your corrections -- the various spellings of Tutankhamon that I used are all legitimate.

(Photo of the mask of Tutankhamen from Wikimedia Commons)

Leanne Olson

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Agression* (for Aggression*)

Correcting typos in the catalogue can make me feel a bit of aggression, or frustration at least. The actual error can be so small -- a repeated letter, a missing one, a swapped letter -- that the human eye passes right by it. In longer bibliographic records, they can be almost impossible to spot, even if you're sure that record contains your typo.

One trick we've used at my library is to view the record from the public side in a web browser, then type CTRL-f to bring up the "Find" command, and type the potential error in.

Of course, this only helps if you're working with a prescribed list of typos and know the errors you're looking for. If you're not, then I wish you luck, and try not to hit, punch, or kick your computer, or you'll never locate agression*, a high probability typo.

(Aggressive cat photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Leanne Olson

Monday, February 14, 2011

Celebat* (for Celebrat*)

Valentine’s Day is often dismissed by some (including myself) as a Hallmark Holiday – a holiday recently pushed on us by greeting card companies and other businesses to generate sales. However, it has actually been a celebration of romance since the 14th century, and it has its roots in even older rites, like the Roman fertility festival Lupercalia.

Formal written valentines have been given out since the 1500s, and mass-produced Valentine’s cards, decorated with hearts and images of Cupid, became popular in the late 1700s.

Celebat* is a moderate probability typo on the Ballard List, with 11 hits in OhioLink and over 90 in Worldcat. Watch out as well for celbrat* and other potential misspellings.

(Victorian Valentine's Day card image from Wikipedia.)

Leanne Olson

Friday, February 11, 2011

Widsom (for Wisdom)

The French have an expression, l'esprit de l'escalier, which literally means "the wit of the staircase." It's the sort of clever comeback or spot-on observation that only occurs to you when it's too late, like as you're leaving a party, or on your way out of a room—i.e., on the staircase. It refers to both the process or the experience of this as well as to the remark itself; it's also known as "hindsight wit" or "afterwit." Oddly enough, "the wisdom of the staircase" comes up almost five times as often in a Google search, but really, it's "wit." If I could think of a wry or whimsical way of putting that, I would. (Maybe later!) According to Simon Barnes: "This affliction ... is one of the principal reasons why people become writers." There were 20 examples of Widsom (for wisdom) in OhioLINK today, and 164 in WorldCat. Our illustration is a witty take-off on Marcel Duchamp's 1912 "Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2", which itself was intended as a satirical comment on the conventional aesthetics of the time.

("The Rude Descending a Staircase (Rush-Hour at the Subway)" by J. F. Griswold, published in the New York Evening Sun, March 20, 1913, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Polution (for Pollution)

Yesterday's blog entry mentioned The Lorax, a children's book written by Dr. Seuss in 1971, and reportedly his personal favorite. In 1991, I began the first "Banned Books Week" readings at the New York State Library and chose to read this one, which had been removed from the Laytonville, California, school district because, according to its critics, it "criminalizes the forestry industry." As it happened, Dr. Seuss died just days before the reading, which made it all kind of sad—though I was glad of the opportunity to remember him on that day. But, speaking of censorship, I was surprised to later learn that the first edition of The Lorax included the stanza: "You're glumping the pond where the Humming-Fish hum / No more can they hum, for their gills are all gummed. / So I'm sending them off. Oh, their future is dreary. / They'll walk on their fins and get woefully weary / in search of some water that isn't so smeary. / I hear things are just as bad up in Lake Erie." Fourteen years later, two research assistants from the Ohio Sea Grant Program wrote the author to let him know about the cleanup of Lake Erie and to ask that he remove that last line from any future editions. And Seuss complied. I suppose you could call this an example of "self-censorship" and I really did prefer the original wording, but I do give the good doctor credit for crediting a job well done. There were 20 cases of Polution (for pollution) in OhioLINK and over 500 in WorldCat.

(Trumpeter Swans at Lake Erie, Michigan, Dec. 10, 2010, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Everthing* (for Everything*)

A few months ago, my library sponsored a lunchtime talk by Julie Wosk, author of the book Alluring Androids, Robot Women, and Electronic Eves. Such cybernetic creatures are ubiquitous and, despite having missed the talk, a couple of examples immediately spring to mind: "Rosie" on the cartoon The Jetsons (Rosie the Riveted?) and the malevolant "Maria" in the 1927 Fritz Lang movie Metropolis. And then, of course, there are sex dolls, which aren't really robots, since they pretty much just lay there, but that's plenty, apparently, for most of their panting partners. (These girls aren't easy to pick up; they weigh as much or less than a comparable human, but feel a lot heavier.) I actually know somebody who built himself a (platonic) "robot" one time and gave it his first name spelled backwards. If I had an e-me, I think I'd name her "Lorac," which was my own cool reverse-engineered name as a kid. (It sounds pretty robotty, plus it reminds me of "The Lorax" in my favorite Dr. Seuss book!) There were 47 examples of Everthing* in OhioLINK, and nearly 500 in WorldCat.

(Photograph of EveR-2, a female android developed by the Korea Institute of Industrial Technology and demonstrated to the public in October 2006. It is 165cm tall and weighs 60kg.)

Carol Reid

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Perpect* (for Perspect*)

Hey there, feeling a little peckish? How about some nice fruit pectin? What's your produce pleasure? I myself have a soft spot for Satsuma oranges, Granny Smith apples, apricots (which, when dried, for some reason, as a child I called "Yowies"), raspberries, and kiwis, to name just a few, but there are so many good ones. (Speaking of soft spots, if you decide to try a persimmon, make sure you wait until it's ripe to the point of seeming rotten—a process wonderfully known as "bletting"—otherwise, you will feel less like you just bit into a delicious fruit and more like you just came from the dentist!) To put your own favorites into perspective, I recommend this delectable New Yorker article about "Fruit Detective" David Karp, who clearly eats more pectin per capita than most and, like any good gumshoe, can home in on his perp. According to Wikipedia: "Apples, guavas, quince, plums, gooseberries, oranges and other citrus fruits, contain large amounts of pectin, while soft fruits like cherries, grapes and strawberries contain small amounts of pectin." According to the picture on the right, you can have your pick of pectin (you might even pick a peck of pectin) should you ever find yourself at this glorious fruit stall in Barcelona. We picked up on 69 cases of today's typo in the OhioLINK database, and well over a thousand in WorldCat.

(Photo by Daderot, 5 Apr 2005, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Monday, February 7, 2011

Intersting, Intresting (for Interesting)

Interesting is an interesting word! It seems to lend itself typically to two different "typos," depending on whether it's written or spoken. When typing the word, I have a tendency to skip the second E, but when speaking, I'm more likely to omit or elide the first one. Intersting was found seven times in OhioLINK (all but one on records for material from the 1700s, so this could be one of those "interesting" spellings) and 209 times in WorldCat. Intresting comes up only once in OhioLINK and 22 times in WorldCat. Laura Muntz Lyall (1860-1930) has an interesting story. Born in England and raised in Ontario, she was an Impressionist painter who studied in Paris and was the first female artist from Canada to be recognized outside of that country. Nevertheless, like most other women of her day, she was conscripted into more conventional duties as well: after her sister died, Lyall devoted nearly a decade to rearing her eleven nieces and nephews. Not surprisingly, "she is known in particular for her images of maternité," according to the Canadian Women Artists History Initiative.

("Interesting Story" by Laura Muntz Lyall, 1898, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Friday, February 4, 2011

Neckless* (for Necklace*)

I recently rubbernecked this typo in a notice about a lost necklace at work. And you know it does make a certain kind of sense: the necklace is currently "neckless." In any case, I hope that that person finds her jewelry; in the meantime, we found just one of these in OhioLINK and 26 in WorldCat. Among the latter, around a dozen or so were not typos, but rather correctly spelled modifiers for mutant zebrafish and the like—along with jars, teapots, and various other vessels lacking necks. It was also rather fun to learn that the word necklace can sometimes refer to such things as birds, shells, and seaweed. Today's typo is nothing to lose your head over, but do take a look around your catalog for it. Our illustration may require a bit more explanation. According to the photographer: "This picture, of a necklace webcam, was taken in a stairwell in a building on St. George Street in Toronto, where there was a nice large and well-defined window. This seemed to be the best place to photograph the dome and show its shape nicely. The sousveillance dome is a kind of Situationist critique of surveillance, in the manner of an inverse surveillance. By re-situating the everyday familiar objects of ubiquitous surveillance ('eye in the sky') down at human level, we reverse the Sur (French for 'above') to Sous (French for 'below')."

("Sousveillance as a Surveillance-Situationist Inquiry," from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Yout (for Your, Youth, etc.)

George Crabbe was born in Suffolk, England, Christmas Eve, 1754, and died on February 3, 1832. Crabbe was a poet and naturalist. Among his best-known works are The Village and The Borough—which was the basis for Benjamin Britton's opera Peter Grimes. (He is also the author of an exceedingly long poem entitled The Library.) Crabbe was friends with William Wordsworth, Sir Walter Scott, and other prominent poets of the day; Byron once called him "Nature's sternest painter, yet the best." (Clearly quirky, he was reportedly a tin-eared opium eater for whom Jane Austen bore a secret crush!) In addition, Crabbe was a noted coleopterist (beetle fancier) and beloved clergyman. A monument to his memory in St. James Church reads: "Born in humble life, he made himself what he was; breaking through the obscurity of his birth by the force of his genius; yet he never ceased to feel for the less fortunate..." Crabbe also reveals an open mind and gentle wit in the quote: "Habit with him was all the test of truth. It must be right: I've done it from my youth." There were 16 cases of Yout in OhioLINK: one was a personal name; three seemed to be examples of reggae/rock patois; two were typos for youth; one was one for you; three were otherwise correct in context; and the rest were typos for your. Remember: Yout is wasted on the young. So don't you lead your youth astray with this our typo of the day!

(Portrait of George Crabbe by Henry William Pickersgill, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Poulty (for Poultry)

There's been quite a squawk happening in my hometown, and possibly yours as well, over whether to allow "backyard chickens" to be kept by the Green Acres types among us—those who can't quite manage to leave the city, but still crave warm fuzzies with webbed feet, a cute pecking order, plenty of farm-fresh eggs, and some free-range poultry when the eggs run out. Also known as "urban chickens," these homely descendants of the dinosaur were given a fine feathered facelift a few years ago by the following fans: DIY maven Martha Stewart, a documentary called The Natural History of the Chicken, and Susan Orleans's New Yorker article "The It Bird." I don't know if there's been any egg throwing down at City Hall lately, but I hope this issue can be laid to rest soon. There were half a dozen "egg samples" in OhioLINK and 71 in WorldCat. I know I can count on my peeps out there to be cooperative and check for this typo in their own catalogs.

(Küken vor dem ersten Ausflug, Eigenproduktion, 2006, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Poltic* (Politic*)

Sometimes it seems like all politicians have a congenital tic: something that compels them to act against their own best interests—often in the most spectacularly ironic or hypocritical ways—not to mention the interests of their constituents. They're funny that way, really. Though scarcely the most egregious case in point, former POTUS Bill Clinton famously uttered what should perhaps be the official motto of politicos caught in the act: "It depends upon what the meaning of the word is is...." Like a cross between a hiccup, a stutter, and lying under oath—it's the Pol Tic! We caught 83 cases of Poltic* in OhioLINK and I hope it's not impolitic to say there's gotta be a whole lot more in WorldCat.

(Eliot Spitzer, New York State Attorney General at the New York Foreign Press Center Briefing on "Issues Facing New York," June 29, 2004, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid