Friday, June 29, 2012

Diamoond* (for Diamond*)

My mother has several mixtapes labelled Niel Diamond, because as a kid I could record a mean tape, but couldn’t spell the name Neil worth beans. Oddly, I could handle the correct spelling of today’s typo with no problems. I hope I made it up to my mom this week, when I took her to see Mr. Diamond play in Toronto. At 71, the man can really belt out a tune, and led the revved-up audience through three false endings of Sweet Caroline, gaining energy each time. It’s one of his most iconic songs, sung at karaoke and around campfires, and used by the Boston Red Sox at a different type of diamond, Fenway Park. In 2007, Neil finally revealed the secret behind the song: Sweet Caroline is Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg, daughter of John F. Kennedy (apparently I’m on a JFK roll this week, since he appeared in Tuesday’s entry, too). In an interview, Diamond spoke about his inspiration for the song, which came to him after seeing a photograph of Caroline:
"It was a picture of a little girl dressed to the nines in her riding gear, next to her pony. It was such an innocent, wonderful picture, I immediately felt there was a song in there."
Like the songwriter’s talent and the gemstone's sparkle, diamoond is a rare find: it’s one of our lower probability typos, with only three hits in Worldcat.

(Photo of Neil Diamond courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Leanne Olson

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Psychopharmoc* (for Psychopharmac*)

I sat down to write today’s post about the anniversary of the patent of the saxophone, when I was hit by a sudden sense of déjà vu. Had the blog addressed this already? Most likely – I began my library career cataloguing music materials, and I know I came across the typo saxaphone rather frequently. So I did a quick search: not only had we blogged about the sax before, but I was even the one to do it. Well, that explains my déjà vu! Normally, though, that disquieting feeling goes unsolved, and it’s eerie enough to have inspired an inverted boomerang roller coaster at Six Flags. Déjà vu might be explained by parapsychology, where the “already seen” feeling is the result of precognition, or in which we remember our past lives. I’m still hoping my past self was a wealthy pirate, and the moments I have of déjà visite (“already visited”) are leading me to buried treasure. Sadly, I’ve never experienced any déjà vu surrounding lottery numbers, so that precognition theory is out. Certain medical aspects can be the culprit as well. The sensation tends to come on before a temporal-lobe seizure, and certain drug interactions can cause déjà vu from a psychopharmacological perspective. Now there’s a word that is giving me no blogging flashbacks: the typo psychopharmocology (for psychopharmacology) is a low probability error, occurring only three times in the OhioLink catalogue.

(Image of the Déjà Vu coaster courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Leanne Olson

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Rejuvi* (for Rejuve*)

The summer heat is upon us, and I’ve been thinking about different ways to rejuvenate myself at work. We’ve recently had some power outages at my university, so the air conditioning has been kept at minimal levels. The hotter it gets, the stranger my ideas become: a bag of ice cubes to snack on throughout the day? Kiss librarianship goodbye and go back to working in the campus cafeteria, solely to hide in the walk-in freezer? Perhaps fill a kiddie pool hidden under my desk to keep my feet nice and cool? Now that could be a winner on the rejuvenation front, especially if it were filled with water from the legendary Holy Grail or Ponce de Leon’s Fountain of Youth. If immortality is the quest, I could go looking for the Philosopher’s Stone, an elixir of life said to turn base metals into gold. But will it turn hot humid air into refreshing cold ice? Living forever seems much more desirable on a breezy autumn evening than a hot summer afternoon. As journalist Herb Caen said, “The only thing wrong with immortality is that it tends to go on forever.”

(Ice cube photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Leanne Olson

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Kennn* (for Kenn*)

There’s an urban legend that on June 26, 1963, when U.S. President John F. Kennedy said to the people of West Berlin, “Ich bin ein Berliner,” he was actually calling himself a jelly doughnut. Indeed, in Germany, the term Berliner can be used for a delicious jam-filled pastry, but Kennedy’s grammar was no mistake. He’d intended to relate to the 150,000 Berlin people before him and speak out against Communism, declaring that he was proud to be a Berliner, because "all free men, wherever they may live, are citizens of Berlin." Normally, “Ich bin Berliner” (no "ein") is how you’d say “I am a citizen of Berlin,” which is what caused the confusion. But in actuality, near as I can tell (German speakers, care to correct me?) adding the indefinite article “ein” is perfectly appropriate when speaking figuratively, as Kennedy was, since he did not actually hail from Berlin. Subtlety can be important when choosing your words and spellings. Adding an extra N to Kennedy is a low probability typo – most of us are careful with this one. Similarly, my choice of the spelling doughnut over donut, though both are used in Canada, is also intentional – doughnut just looks so much more substantial, making my mouth water in anticipation of the dough and icing (or is it frosting? I’ll take either, thanks!).

(Berliner photo from

Leanne Olson

Monday, June 25, 2012

Principls (for Principals, Principles)

When I was in grade school, one of the mnemonic devices we used to remember the difference between principal and principle was “Principal Smith puts the PAL in PrinciPAL.”  Our principal really was a pal, knowing every student by name and always putting the principles of fairness and kindness first, so it was an easy mnemonic for us students to retain.  If your principal were more like bullying educators such as Principal Vernon from The Breakfast Club, it might be harder to think of him (or her) as a pal.  I suppose using “principl” eliminates the need to decide between an A or E at all, but let’s all try to stick with our principles of clear writing and avoid typos when we can. Make your grade school principal proud!

(Photo of Paul Gleason as Principal Vernon from

Leanne Olson

Friday, June 22, 2012

Devision* (for Division*)

The great thing about a vision is that it can be of practically anything. I happen to like ducks, so this pic called "My Duck Vision" appeals to me as both a straightforward photographic image as well as a total mystery regarding what the "duck" it's supposed to mean. I was reading something recently about the American Black Duck, a somewhat endangered species indigenous to the nearby Adirondack Mountains and closely related to the Mallard. And I suspect if this feathered, ebony-locked athlete, who looks like he's about to take part in some sort of division playoffs, were in fact a duck, that's probably just the sort he would be. The Black Duck is "extremely wary and fast on the wing," rather like I imagine this guy is on the tennis or some other court of public opinion. But despite what anyone says about him, I'll bet it all rolls off his back, or the back of his head anyway, like water off a duck. We scored 19 cases of Devision* in OhioLINK this morning, and 679 in WorldCat.

(My-duck-vision, 2 August 2011, by Ppmarat, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Intruct* (for Instruct*)

According to most schools of modern feminism, girls should be be allowed to play with both dolls and trucks (as the usual dichotomy would have it), but gently steered in the direction of trucks. The reasoning is that little girls are unfortunately steeped in traditional gender expectations from Day One and therefore might need a little guidance when it comes to diversifying. (Same thing with boys, but their particular brand of political incorrectness sometimes seems like a harder nut to crack.) Lately the long-liberated Swedes have really been taking this to heart, as well as to a somewhat alarming extreme, stolidly instructing their kids in "gender-neutral" ways. According to a recent story on Slate, Sweden has officially adopted a new pronoun known as hen (an alternative to han or hon, for use with either sex) and has just witnessed their first genderless children's book. Unisex names for Swedish babies are also flourishing these days, and stereotype-busting ads are now appearing in the service of children's games and toys. "Good morning, buddies" has replaced the outmoded "Good morning, boys and girls" in many classrooms; unconventional living arrangements are being encouraged in the playing of House; and toy cars have been removed from some schools because boys rated them more highly than other playthings. You get the rather stultifying, if instructive, idea. We discovered 40 cases of Intruct* in OhioLINK today, and 880 in WorldCat.

(Girl on front doorstep carrying a toy 'Life Savers' truck from The Powerhouse Museum, circa 1930-1950, courtesy of the Tom Lennon Collection and Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Hypocric* (for Hypocris*)

If hypercritical means very critical, then why doesn't hypocritical mean not very critical, or less than critical? Hmm. Is it possible that the English language itself is hypocritical? Well, that might be putting it a bit too strongly, but it certainly seems illogical and unpredictable at times. Of course, as any spelling bee champion can tell you, it's all about the roots. However, hypo- in this case is not a root word, per se; it's a prefix meaning "under." So why does hypocritical basically mean two-faced, operating under a double standard, insincerely pious, etc.? The dictionary gives the origin of hypocrisy as follows: "Middle English ipocrisie, from Old French, from Late Latin hypocrisis, play-acting, pretense, from Greek hupokrisis, from hupokrinesthai, to play a part, pretend, hupo-, hypo- + krinesthai, to explain, middle voice of krinein, to decide, judge, see krei- in Indo-European roots." All right, but I still don't get the "under" part, so make of that what you will. On a related note, there appears to be another word, which sort of blends the two words under consideration here: hyperhypocrisy. Or a sort-of word, anyway, defined by Urban Dictionary as: "A complaint about hypocrisy that is itself hypocritical, because it accuses one party of hypocrisy when the other party (or the complainer) also engages in hypocrisy. Often found in political discussions, especially on message boards." I believe I am neither over- nor understating matters when I say that Hypocric* appears five times in OhioLINK (though three of those represent an apparently antiquated spelling), and 81 times in WorldCat (delimited by the dates 1900–, 29 times).

(She Is Not Drowning, or Truth Leaving the Well, by Édouard Debat-Ponsan, 1898. Truth emerges from a well escaping the clerical hypocrisy and military force of the Dreyfus affair. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Liklihood (for Likelihood)

As you probably recall from English class, a simile is when you say something is like another thing; a metaphor is when you say it is the other thing. One of my favorite recent examples of both these figures of speech occurs in a Bollywood-style dance number performed by Raj and his secret crush (and buddy Howard's girlfriend) Bernadette on the sitcom The Big Bang Theory. It forms the centerpiece of Raj's current, if unlikely to be realized, erotic fantasy. Waving silk scarves around with a certain provocative modesty and swaying to the music, they each sing their lines in turn. Raj: "Like a wild elephant, I am trumpeting my love for you..." Bernadette: "Like a hidden flower, my sweet fragrance comes into view..." (Speaking of writing, there's a strong likelihood our former teachers would all mark off for that last line, pointing out that fragrance is something you smell, not see, but I rather like it anyway. It reminds me of a sensory disorder known as synesthesia, in which people can "see" sounds, for example, or find that letters and numbers each have a specific color associated with them.) The song continues: "My heart burns for you like a sun at noon ... My desert welcomes you like the rain in monsoon ... You are my heart ... My universe ... You are my heart ... My universe..." And ends with the would-be couple passionately crooning in unison: "My un-i-verse..." As Raj, who earlier had been having some doubts about his sexuality, snaps out of his reverie in the college cafeteria, he wryly observes: "Dance number aside, I am so not gay." (In actual fact, actor Kunal Nayyar, who plays Rajesh Koothrappali, is married to the 2006 "Femina Miss India," Neha Kapur, who studied classical Indian dance from an early age.) Liklihood appears ten times in OhioLINK, and 144 times in WorldCat today. I'd say it's likely that this "moderate probability" typo will be found in your own catalog as well.

(Actor Kunal Nayyar at Comic-Con in San Diego, California, July 24, 2009, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Monday, June 18, 2012

Univrs* (for Univers*)

When I was a young teenager, I had an older cousin whom I greatly admired. He would often introduce me to new ideas about Life, the Universe, and Everything, kind of "New Agey" ones, but this was well before that term had really been coined. I remember one Christmas he took me to his room and showed me a copy of the I Ching, then taught me how to divine my fortune by tossing little sticks or coins. Another time he twisted a strip of paper, just once, taped the ends of it together, and informed me: "This is the shape of the universe." My mystic-minded cousin has since passed away and is now part of the very thing whose shape he had once demonstrated to me so memorably. As the similarly formed wedding band pictured here was engraved to make clear: "And the two shall be one." This of course is a Christian sentiment, but the Buddhists believe we are all one with the universe. Or as one of them one time put it to a hot dog vendor (pizza chef, etc.): "Make me one with everything." There were 40 occurrences of today's typo in OhioLINK, and 513 in WorldCat.

(A Möbius strip employed as a gold wedding band, inscribed with a scripture quote [Gen. 2:24, quoted later in Eph. 5:31], 1983, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Friday, June 15, 2012

Survial* (for Survival*)

I think I watched the hit TV show Survivor exactly once. Not my cup of tea. Nor am I a fan of those shows where the lead character barely makes it out alive, surviving on nothing but his wits and perhaps a little vial of cactus juice or vitamin water. I'm a bigger booster of safety precautions and taking it easy than I am of adrenalin rushes and breathtaking panoramas, such as (for the sake of today's word) Big Sur. But many folks get a vicarious thrill from these dubious displays of risk-taking, I know, and I suppose there is something to be admired in it, especially when the personal "hell" involved wasn't purposely sought out by the "daredevil." Other types of survivors, those who haven't deliberately chosen to put themselves in harm's way, include "Holocaust survivors," "incest survivors," and people who fortunately manage to survive various accidents, illnesses, natural disasters, and other life-threatening calamities. Five examples of today's typo still survive in OhioLINK, as do 175 in WorldCat. Gather your resources and remove any of these you can find from your own catalogs while you've still got the strength. And try and have a safe and relaxing weekend.

(Poster from the Cleveland Office of Civil Defense, 1950, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Conpan*, Compam*, etc. (for Compan*)

Like company around a dinner table, plants in your vegetable garden will benefit by judicious arrangement. In the 37-year-old book Carrots Love Tomatoes, by Louise Riotte, we learn some interesting things about so-called companion planting. In addition to carrot-tomato mates, it seems that the sweet-smelling rose loves the stinky garlic. Like many human "opposites," deep-rooted plants are attracted to shallow ones, tall ones to short ones, early-season arrivals to late-season laggards. It also appears that basil hits it off with tomato, and not just in a "saucy" sort of way. Plants that are too similar (again, like people) won't always make good matches. For example, you probably shouldn't seat peppers, eggplants, and tomatoes right next to each other. These are all "nightshades" and close proximity will inhibit their growth. Another good book on the subject is 1998's Great Garden Companions by Sally Jean Cunningham, and I'm sure there are others. Wikipedia also has an informative article on companion planting, as well as a long list of happy plant pairs. Conpan* + Compan* comes up three times in OhioLINK and 46 times in WorldCat; Compam* + Compan* five and 59 times. Try searching on the following ones as well: Compam* (17 times in OhioLINK, 176 times in WorldCat) and Conpan* (16 and 172). You're in good company today if you can dig up some examples of these typos in your own library's catalog.

Box of homemade veggie pasta, including cherry tomatoes, asparagus, and mushrooms with parmesan sauce, mozarella-spinach heart, and pepper and cucumber sticks with carrot blossoms, along with a sidecar of plum leaf, pear fan, apple tulips, red seedless grapes, and almonds, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Thesarus* (for Thesaurus*)

Smile! I used to hate it when people (generally men) would issue that aggressive directive in my direction, thereby often interrupting an otherwise pleasant, if unsmiling, reverie. But the world would probably be a much nicer place if more of us actually did so. Sadly enough, there are relatively few synonyms in the English language for smile (although the word would seem to lend itself to simile). English, after all, is nothing like the absurd Fox News Channel slogan: "Fair & Balanced." Some words have tons of synonyms, while others have hardly any. There appears to be no rhyme (the same thing holds true for words that rhyme) or reason to this. English is a mongrel-like language that randomly borrows from other languages, and nobody is standing at the gate making sure it all stays neat and tidy. Still, I find myself frowning over the dearth of words that mean "a facial expression characterized by an upward curving of the corners of the mouth and indicating pleasure, amusement, or derision." (Maybe this is why the smiley emoticon is so popular... ;-) The thesaurus, in fact, seems to be reaching so far to come up with some that it even includes the questionable laugh and the wonderfully obscure fleer. I'm surprised it doesn't throw caution to the wind and list rictus as well! Other stand-ins for smile, according to a variety of thesauri, are: grimace, grin, smirk, sneer, and simper. They also mention phrases like "look happy," "look amused," "look delighted," etc., which I think pretty much makes my point. Given the looseness of these connections, I'm kind of sorry they didn't add the term duping delight too, which I recently heard used during a TED talk on how to spot a liar as well as some true-crime reportage on television. (It means a creepy, fleeting sort of smile on the part of someone who thinks they've gotten away with a deception.) The only ones that seem to mean something you might want to see coming at you are grin and beam. I was unable to even come up with a decent typo for this word, so we're going to grin and bear it and go with Thesarus* instead: three in OhioLINK and 23 in WorldCat.

(Smiling Loma girl in Liberia, 1968, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Sneak peak, etc. (for Sneak peek)

Another typo from the recent Romney collection was "sneak peak" (both misspelled and "randomly hyphenated"), which had snuck into one of his ads on Facebook. Amusing, to be sure, but also kind of understandable, seeing as how there may be a tendency to want to repeat the same vowel combination in the second word that occurs in the first. Sneak peak showed up in OhioLINK ten times, and in WorldCat 405. Contrariwise, Sneek peek (despite the fact that "sneek" isn't really a word) was found twice in OhioLINK and 18 times in WorldCat. Even the utterly confused Sneek peak registered once in the former and seven times in the latter. London tea merchant Richard Peek, in an odd take on nomen est omen (the name is omen, or "true to its name"), is seen peeking out from this gathering of abolitionists. The tea firm Peek Bros and Co. was established circa 1820 and was still operating as Peek Bros. and Winch in 1958. Peek was a prominent philanthropist and abolitionist (in each sense of the word: he reviled both slavery and capital punishment), doing much to promote public health, education, and literacy. He also served as the sheriff of London, during which time he funded missionary work with the inmates of Newgate Prison. And on a rather more whimsical note, he would open his home once a year to serve tea to the local Sunday schools. Take a peek at your own catalog today to see if this typo has managed to sneak into any of your library records.

(Richard Peek at the 1840 World's Anti-Slavery Convention in London. He is in the centre of this extract behind John Sturge, the brother of the organiser. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Monday, June 11, 2012

Regan + Reagan (for Reagan or Regan)

It was a wild and crazy time for typos last week, most notably those from the Mitt Romney camp. Like spelling bee bloopers, typos can often be surprisingly ironic. Romney seemed to have had some problems with the words America ("Amercia"), official ("offical"), and Reagan ("Regan"), prompting at least one skeptic to consider the possibility that he was doing it all on purpose. After all, bad press is often better than no press, with the usual caveat: "As long as they spell your name right." Speaking of which, I thought Bill Maher hit just the right note with his Real Time gibe the other night: "I think we're going to find out that Mitt is actually dyslexic and his name is really Tim." But back to the issue at hand, so to speak—we all make typos once in a while. Even Barack Obama, who once spelled Libya "Lybia" and Syracuse "Sycacuse." According to Slate, in his 1995 memoir, Dreams from My Father, Obama "misspelled rebel slave Denmark Vesey’s last name as 'Vescey' and misspelled anti-colonist Frantz Fanon's first name as 'Franz.'" We've already blogged here about Amercia and Offical, so it looks like we're stuck with Regan today (and Romney for six more months, at least). Regan + Reagan occurs 29 times in OhioLINK and 338 times in WorldCat.

(Paper bag Mitt Romney caricature, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Friday, June 8, 2012

Guiness (for Guinness)

The Walkway Over the Hudson, the world's longest elevated pedestrian park, was the site of a record-breaking event last Saturday when 2,569 people from ten states (including a 102-year-old man and several seniors over 90 years of age from The Family Lodge in Saugerties, along with various other groups) did the Hokey Pokey and turned themselves into the "Longest Line of People Dancing" since a bunch of Estonians garnered that distinction in 2008 with the "Toe Dance." A good and good-natured friend and former coworker was among them, as was a Guinness observer, who officially declared them the current world record holders. Amazingly, though the line of dancers was over a mile long, the participants still reportedly all kept in pretty good step with each other. Even better, they managed to raise close to $40,000 in a major fundraiser for the nonprofit Walkway. Let's all try and set a record today for most examples of this typo found and corrected in our library catalogs. Guiness (for Guinness) was discovered 50 times in OhioLINK (23 times when combined with the correct spelling), and 985/312 times in WorldCat.

(A hot air balloon flying over the Walkway Over the Hudson, as part of annual festivities in Poughkeepsie, New York, July 4, 2010, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Farenheit, Farhenheit (for Fahrenheit)

Ray Bradbury passed away on June 5 at the age of 91. The author of 27 novels and over 600 short stories, Bradbuy once claimed that "libraries raised me." Bradbury is most famous for the 1953 dystopian novel Fahrenheit 451, which was made into a wonderful film by François Truffaut in 1966. As a matter of fact, I once thought this was one of the rare cases where the film might have actually been better than the book it was based on, although I later was forced to reconsider that assessment. You see, I had unwittingly read an expurgated copy of Bradbury's classic. In 1992 an eighth-grade class in Irvine, California, was given copies of Fahrenheit 451 with, according to the American Library Association, "scores of words—mostly hells and damns—blacked out." (Blacked out, that is, by previous students, at the teacher's urging!) "The novel," ALA could not resist adding, "is about book-burning and censorship." (Although the author told LA Weekly in 2007 that it's not about censorship so much as how television destroys an interest in reading books, which leads to the perception of knowledge as an assortment of out-of-context factoids.) After hearing about the do-it-yourself bowdlerization in that California classroom, I decided to finally read this book myself, so I picked up a copy in a used bookstore. I then decided to jot down on my bookmark all the instances of hell and damn I could find, but surprisingly by the end I had only noted one or two of them in the entire thing. A little detective work eventually turned up the unsettling news that my version of the book, though one could not judge this by the cover, had been professionally sanitized for our youth. (As opposed, I suppose, to unprofessionally, by them.) Fortunately, unlike the characters in Fahrenheit 451, we don't have to commit this book to memory in order to gain access to it the way Ray Bradbury intended it to be read. Farenheit occurs eight times in OhioLINK (Farhenheit once) and 212/11 times in WorldCat.

(Ray Douglas Bradbury, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Ethusi* (for Enthusi*)

An enthusiastic typo spotter handed me this doozy, from an article (since corrected) about the Wisconsin governor, Scott Walker, on a virtual silver platter this morning: Enthurasatic. (See typo in all its contextual glory prior to correction.) Initially ecstatic, I grew nearly neurasthenic, even euthanastic, by the time I had tried truncating it, sprinkling various wild cards into it, and eventually just searching out other possible typos for enthus* in the usual databases. Nothing. Until I finally hit on Ethusi*: one in OhioLINK and 29 in WorldCat. Like the voters of Wisconsin who were trying to get rid of their union-busting governor, I had done my level best, but to little or no avail. So it's not the greatest typo in the world, just like Walker isn't the greatest governor, but this does afford me the opportunity to tell you about another Scott Walker, one of the most amazing composers you've probably never heard of. An American singer-songwriter who became a citizen of the U.K. in 1970, Scott Walker began his career as a member of the Walker Brothers, but went on to do a wide range of original solo work. He's the fascinating subject of a 2006 documentary entitled Scott Walker: 30 Century Man. In his song "The Cockfighter," he writes: "... I have a greenlight for fifty thousand / It was the month of July / We had more in or going out / You were responsible for rolling stock / I can only repeat / I never saw him in bed..." It's almost as if he were presaging the other Scott Walker, whose backers threw a boatload of money (with some dirty tricks) into a campaign to tilt the election and defeat his constituent malcontents. At any rate, let's try and muster some enthusiasm to defeat our typo for the day, which is a "low probability" one on the Ballard list, but one that still richly deserves to be recalled.

(Cover of the 1995 Scott Walker album Tilt.)

Carol Reid

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Posess* (for Possess*)

Okay, which do you think would make a better book title? Aristophanes' Knees? Or Aristophanes's Sneezes? According to most grammar mavens, "ancient" names like Aristophanes (along with Sophocles, Pericles, Euripedes, Antigones, or even Jesus, Moses, etc.) should not get an apostrophe s in the possessive form, but rather just a plain apostrophe. This "rule" is based on the way it sounds when you say the word out loud. But I don't think it really has anything to do with the antiquity of the name; I believe you should apply it in all cases where, were you to add an apostrophe s, it would sound sort of like a stutter or a sneeze. (Awkward, as the kids would say.) In other words, take any name that ends in an s and try saying it as a possessive. Then add either an apostrophe or an apostrophe s, whichever you think sounds better. In some cases, you'll probably find that it rolls off the tongue easier without that last messy syllable. (The more syllables a word has, and the more the stress occurs toward the beginning of the word, the more this seems to be the case. Some guides also make a distinction between names that sound like they end with a z and ones that sound like they end with an s.) Writing, of course, is different from speaking, and here you can often opt to do it either way, bearing in mind that however you write it is most likely how your reader will hear it. You are now in possession of a rather complicated grammar rule, which can be made a lot simpler by simply adding an apostrophe s to any proper name in the possessive form, no matter what it is. There were 52 instances of this typo in OhioLINK today, and 1259 in WorldCat.

(Bust of Aristophanes, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Monday, June 4, 2012

Mantain* (for Maintain*)

Are you the kind of person who grows tired of (or guilty about) watering your lawn? Who gets crabby at the sight of crabgrass, and weary of pulling weeds? In short, do you long for a lawn that's easy to maintain? You might want to try a novel solution called Eco-Lawn, a proprietary blend of seven fescue grasses, advertised as "the ultimate low maintenance drought tolerant lawn." Please note that I'm not getting paid to shill for this Canadian company; in fact, I'm paying rather dearly for the product itself. But it looks as though it really might be worth a shot. Especially if the idea of finely bladed, thickly matted, floppy sort of grass that basically never needs to be mowed, like a well-behaved meadow in your backyard, appeals to you. Apparently, you can either start with a bare (perhaps rototilled) patch of ground (the best way if possible) or else you can "overseed" your existing lawn for several years in a row, until the new tenant takes over and drives out your current residents. There were 12 cases of Mantain* sprouting up in OhioLINK, and a more alarming array of 330 in WorldCat. Start the weeding process now and you won't have to pull so many of these out later on.

(Meadow fescue, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Friday, June 1, 2012

Conpet* (for Compet*)

A picture spells a thousand words. Or something like that, anyway. In any event, these pictures of the current crop of Scripps Howard contestants say more than any words (correctly spelled or not) could ever do. This year's stellar young spellers register virtually every emotion known to man, but the tiny competitor shown here (the youngest one ever at just six years old) looks happier with her feet in the cool waters of a Virginia spring than she did in the hot water of the spelling bee maelstrom, where she had to reach way up to lower the mic. As is often the way, the gods of spelling bee irony came into play for little Lori Anne, who missed the word ingluvies, which means the "crop" (i.e., esophagus) of a bird or insect: her latest obsession is slugs, snails, watery bugs, and worms. (Although she still says her favorite word is Sprachgefühl, or "love of words.") The 2012 champion, Snigdha Nandipati, deftly avoided a guetapens (ambush or trap) to emerge victorious, and reports that as a child her favorite word to spell was design, because of the "silent g." Snigdha is yet another Indian-American to carry home the honor (this marks the fifth year in a row for that particular demographic), but the assemblage of fidgety philologists comprised a wide array of race, ethnicity, and country of origin. Word to the wise: a little child shall lead them. We were led to four instances of Conpet* (for compet*) in OhioLINK, and 94 in WorldCat.

(Lori Anne Madison at the "boring!" spelling bee.)

Carol Reid