Monday, October 7, 2013

Barrr* (for Barr*)

"Two men walked into a bar. You woulda thought the second one would've known better." So goes a joke told by one of our administrators at a recent library staff meeting. He said he first heard it in the third grade and it's always stuck with him. Children are often quite fond of this kind of wordplay given the fact that they're still building the core of their vocabularies and trying to make sense of (in the case of English) a notoriously inconsistent and confusing language. A bar can be a "counter across which alcoholic drinks or refreshments are served" (or a venue for same), as well as a "long rod or rigid piece of wood, metal, or similar material, typically used as an obstruction, fastening, or weapon." Barr is a fairly common last name, as in "Roseanne Barr" (domestic goddess) or "Martin Barr" (Jethro Tull). Barre is a town in both Vermont and Massachusetts; lowercased, it's either a musical chord or a stationary handrail used during ballet warm-up exercises. But one variant of this spelling that is virtually never correct is Barrr*—with three R's. You woulda thought that by the second R, the third one would've known better! There were 12 occurrences of this typo in OhioLINK, and 555 in WorldCat.

(Dancers Practicing at the Bar, by Edgar Degas, 1877, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

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