Monday, April 28, 2014

Probali* (for Probabili*)

"The fact that I probably didn't back down led to me being shot," explained the victim in a television news story the other night. He was clearly in the wrong place at the wrong time, just like the word probably is in that sentence. At any rate, I'm glad to know he's all right, despite the terrible odds. I knew that I would probably have some trouble finding a good image to go with this typo, since "probability" brings up a lot of boring curves and charts and doesn't really lend itself to arty illustrations. But I searched Wikimedia Commons on various forms of the word anyway and discovered a most improbable figure named Tennessee Claflin. Or as the poster of this pic entitled it: "Probably Tennie Claflin." She was also known as Tennessee Claflin Cook, Tennie Celeste Claflin, Lady Cook, and Lady Tennessee Celeste Claflin. The reputed mistress of Cornelius Vanderbilt and the sister of Victoria Woodhull (who ran for president in 1872), Claflin was one of the first women to open a brokerage firm on Wall Street. She supported the legalization of prostitution and believed that women should be allowed to serve in the military. Claflin also ran for Congress in New York State and apparently liked to cross-dress from time to time as well. Today's typo was found 27 times in OhioLINK and an astounding 1348 times in WorldCat. There may be a few false positives among them, such as personal names and foreign or obsolete spellings, but the vast majority are probably for words like probability, probabilistic, and so on.

(Portrait of Tennie Claflin by Matthew Brady, circa 1860-1865, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Monday, April 21, 2014

Eveything* (for Everything*)

Our typo of the day comes from a group of Evey-related errors, including Eveyone*, Eveybody*, Eveywhere*, and Eveyday*. All garner results in both OhioLINK and WorldCat, but Eveything* gets the greatest number of hits, i.e., eight in the former and 111 in the latter. Once you have said everything, there's not much left to say, except that I like this photo more than anything right now, and am glad to see that love, along with sunshine and shadows, is clearly what makes the world go round.

Oh wait, I just thought of something else to say, or rather to ask: What is the relationship, if any, between umbra (part of a shadow, along with penumbra and antumbra) and umbrage (displeasure, resentment, or offense, as in "to give or take umbrage")? Heavy, huh? Answer: While not everything in English makes sense (no offense), there is a connection here of sorts. The Free Dictionary tells us that the word umbrage "originally meant 'shade, shadow,' then shadowy suspicion, and then displeasure or resentment at a slight or insult." So I guess when it comes to umbra, things can go both ways. However, as my old childhood church put it on a sign announcing its upcoming Easter services: "Love Wins."

(L*O*V*E* Shadows Everything, Sydney, Australia, 30 December 2009, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Monday, April 14, 2014

Voluteer* (for Volunteer*)

When trying to get people to do stuff for free, there are several approaches you can take. One, you can appeal to their better natures (this tends to work best with issues both politically correct and precipitous); two, you can supply snacks and other treats to stave off hunger and boredom; and three, you can try and make the job seem a lot more interesting than it really is. A recent message from my community garden group stated that volunteers were needed to stuff envelopes at the office, and ended on an absurdly upbeat note: "If you are available during any of these times and would like to be a part of this exciting opportunity, feel free to email..." I feel like volunteering to teach the person who wrote that desperate plea how to take it down a notch and tell it like it is. Stuffing envelopes may be a necessary task, it could even be considered retro, and it might actually be sort of fun with the right fellow stuffers—but one thing it definitely is not is "exciting." In any case, I didn't exactly jump for joy, and it's hardly pushing the envelope either, but I did find 13 examples of today's typo in OhioLINK, and 155 in WorldCat.

(Mailing junk back to junk mailers, 21 April 2007, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Monday, April 7, 2014

Apolg* (for Apolog*)

There are good apologies and bad apologies, and many offenders tend to fall a bit short of the ideal; they simply don't cop to nearly enough. Then there are those who would appear to admit too much. Prison informant to inmate convicted of spousal murder: "I said, hey man, I apologize about your wife. And he goes, oh no, I'm glad the bitch is dead." Whereas "I'm sorry" and "I apologize" are pretty much the same thing when prompted by personal guilt, similar phrases can often express widely divergent meanings. "I'm so sorry [I did that]" is altogether different from "I'm so sorry [to hear that]." And "I feel sorry for you" is clearly not the way to put it when conveying your condolences, but works wonderfully well when you want to be withering. I'm sorry to say there were a dozen of these typos in OhioLINK today, and 131 in WorldCat, but I won't be issuing any apologies for it.

(An apology to the aboriginal people of Australia, as citizens celebrate Australia Day, photo by Spud Murphy, 26 January 2008, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid