Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Old tiem (for Old time, etc.)

They may be octogenarians, but don’t call these actors old timers.  Dame Maggie Smith and Dame Judi Dench are as prolific as ever, and former Man from U.N.C.L.E David McCallum still stars in a weekly television program.  And they’re in good company with these other active thespians who have reached the age of eighty: Ed Asner, Michael Caine, Dick van Dyke, Clint Eastwood, James Earl Jones, William Shatner, and Betty White (who’s actually 93).  This list is by no means comprehensive, so feel free to add your favorites in the comments below. 

Old tiem is a lowest-probability typo.  Right now there are no entries in OhioLINK or WorldCat for the phrase, but you will find some misspellings for "time."

(Dame Judi Dench, by Caroline Bonarde Ucci, from Wikimedia Commons)

Deb Kulczak 

Friday, June 26, 2015

Positv* (for Positiv*)

Are you a Brony? Are you positive? Do you like music, memes, animation, fanfic, and things outside your "target demographic"? Do you like ponies who are punny? Can you say the words "cutie marks" without gagging? The cartoon My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic (animator and writer Lauren Faust also worked on the critically acclaimed Powerpuff Girls and Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends) has been gathering admirers for almost five years now and is currently humming along at quite a clip. (Or should I say clop? One might even say—and it seems that one is almost required to, in fact—prancing, trotting, cantering, or galloping at one.) Originally posited for little girls, this program about equine princesses and their many pals has a serious fan base of males between the ages of 18 and 35. Surprisingly enough, however, most insist they watch it "un-ironically" and non-pervertedly (albeit, one might note, with an occasional dash of hipster dust and vague oppression). This wide-eyed love for these wide-eyed ponies (female Bronies are sometimes known as "Pegasisters") is representative of the soi-disant "New Sincerity." Generating waves of online positivity and digital creativity, MLP-based iconography has been compared to Japanese anime and other forms of pop-cultural derivation. Summon the spirit of Twilight Sparkle, Ponyville's own librarian, and rein in today's runaway typo, spotted six times in OhioLINK and 572 times in WorldCat.

(Twilight Sparkle READ poster.)

Carol Reid

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Stehp* (for Steph*)

Stephentown, New York, in nearby Rensselaer County, was once called "Jericho Hallow" (back when it was part of the Massachusetts Bay Colony); however, it was renamed in 1788 for New York's Lieutenant Governor Stephen Van Rensselaer. Wikipedia describes him as a "statesman, soldier, and land-owner, heir to one of the largest estates in the region ... which made him the tenth richest American of all time, based on the ratio of his fortune to contemporary GDP." The man might have been unusual with regard to his personal wealth and influence, but as Stephens go, he was not unique. Unlike, that is, the town that currently bears his name—along with a road sign proclaiming it "the only Stephentown on Earth." Which brings up an intriguing question for a cataloger: Just how many geographic names are there that only occur a single time? Albany, New York, may be the oldest incorporated city in the country, but there are over a dozen similarly named entities to be found worldwide. Most famous places are flattered (or perhaps not) by imitators: Paris, Texas; London, Ontario; Madrid, Nebraska; Naples, Florida. New York State has a ton of these toponymical also-rans as well: Alexandria, Amsterdam, Athens; Babylon, Belfast, Bethlehem; Cairo, Canton, Copenhagen; and on through the alphabet to Rome, Syracuse, and Troy. By the way, for a wonderfully enlightening and entertaining look at how various place names (among other words) came to be in the United States, check out Bill Bryson's 2001 book Made in America. Stehp* up and go to town on today's typo, which occurred five times in OhioLINK, and 283 times in WorldCat.

(Entering Stephentown, New York, 20 October 2009, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Monday, June 22, 2015

Scoharie (for Schoharie)

Shawn Purcell describes his debut novel West Kill Creek* as a "contemplative work of post-apocalyptic fiction set in upstate New York." The blurb continues: "A particularly lethal virus has rapidly wiped out most of civilization. A hardy band of survivors does what it takes to stay alive, but the novel also reverberates with the echoes of local history and deep time, the beauty and terror of nature, the power and glory of books, current environmental and political issues, and actual events and places—such as Hurricane Irene, and the Gilboa Fossil Forest—and you couldn't have all that without some conflict and romance." West Kill Creek is a heady hybrid of sci-fi dystopia and Thoreauvian transcendentalism, chockabloack with literate takes on New York State—especially the storied and harried Schoharie County. "The driftwood along this stretch reminded Dar that Schoharie County was named after a corruption of the local Native American word for that, which went something like To-wos-scho-hor. It was said that this 'flood-wood' was tangled and piled up so high at one confluence in the Schoharie Creek, like a 'mausoleum of the forest sugar-tree, gnarled oak, and lofty pine,' that the natives who used the span as a bridge couldn't even see the water down through it..." Scoharie (see Schoharie) was seen twice in OhioLINK, and 27 times in WorldCat.

*Ordering details and sample first chapter at: www.westkillcreek.com

Full disclosure: Shawn is a long-time friend, colleague, and word nerd. I reviewed the manuscript for him, and found it to be rife with non-errors.

(Cover of West Kill Creek, courtesy of the author.)

Carol Reid

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Legisat* (for Legislator, Legislature, etc.)

Food for thought ….  There’s no shortage of legislators aiming to make us average citizens safer in our classrooms and churches, what with their tireless work to pass open and concealed carry laws.  But surely their jobs are more dangerous than ours.  Should we really allow them to be so selfless on our behalf?  Or should we mount an all-out campaign to guarantee every senator and representative the right to carry a gun onto the floor of the legislature, whether at the state or national level?

The typo Legisat* is far less common than gun bills these days.  There are 13 English-language entries in OhioLINK and 183 in WorldCat.

(Walther PPK handgun, James Bond's weapon of choice, from Wikimedia Commons)

Deb Kulczak

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Penions (for Pensions)

It’s retirement season at my library. We will be losing two excellent colleagues at the end of June (the close of our fiscal year and therefore a popular time), and several more in the next few months. Oddly enough, none of them seem to be expressing regret over leaving us. In fact, some have been observed conspicuously counting down the days.

However, did you know that retirement is actually a fairly new concept? It wasn’t until the late nineteenth century that pensions became common, and the United States didn’t create Social Security until 1935. Here’s hoping that pensions are not as scarce as hen’s teeth in the coming years, but we can at least take comfort in the fact that penions is a low-probability typo. There are 2 instances in the OhioLINK database, and only 26 in WorldCat.

(Official seal of the Social Security Administration, from Wikimedia Commons)

Deb Kulczak

Friday, June 12, 2015

Dolll* (for Doll, Dolly, Dollar*, etc.)

I dropped off a few bags of clothes and things at my former church a couple of weeks ago. The donation room was in the basement at the end of the hall and as I started to leave, I told myself: "Don't go in the shop, don't go in the shop..." (I didn't want to cancel out the effect of all that decluttering.) But something seemed to be drawing me in. The first thing to catch my eye was a small collection of dolls with a sign saying "$2.00 each." The moment I picked one up, I could see how finely made and potentially valuable it was. Her tartan skirt and slate woolen jacket with leathery little buttons, the fringed boots and Tyrolean-style hat, it was all too perfect. She even had a pair of lacy knickers on underneath, and her stockings had seams up the back with two tiny holes in them, which may or may not have been part of the original design. The body itself felt "real"—solid and weighty in my palm. I was totally smitten with my new Peggy Nisbet doll (as I found out she was called from the tag still attached to her wrist). When I got home I immediately started looking up both doll and dollmaker. One thing I learned is if your doll's tag (which looks like a little black book) is blank on the back (mine is!), it means it's of an "early vintage." (Which I think means that she, like me, was born in the 1950s.) A very dear friend of mine was in a dreadful bicycling accident that same day and I brought "Peggy" along with me to visit her at the hospital. So far, I'm pleased to report, our English "Lady in Tweeds" has proved to be a cheering influence on everyone she meets. We met three cases of our typo Dolll* in OhioLINK today, and 44 in WorldCat.

(My Peggy Nisbet doll.)

Carol Reid

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Annver* (for Anniver*)

A friend attended a family reunion recently where a couple had just celebrated their 20th anniversary. A large sheet cake had been ordered, but when it was served, a few of the guests were confused by its message. "Happy 20th Ann, Dan, and Deb," it read. "Who's Ann?" one of them asked worriedly. (It turns out that the man's former wife had been named Margaret Ann; the only thing that might have made it funnier is if her name had been Ann-Margret.) Clearly, however, this "Ann" was intended to be an abbreviation for Anniversary, which is really rather odd on a cake, I would think ("Happy Birt, Bert"??), but perhaps a little more kosher when followed by a period and not a comma. And what is up with that second comma there, separating the long-married husband and wife? It's almost like the baker were doing it all on purpose, somehow, insidiously trying to promulgate polygamy through pastry! There was one case of Annver* (for anniver*) in OhioLINK today, and 92 in WorldCat.

(Cake for celebration of opening anniversary, Maple Street Book Shop, New Orleans, "Fighting the Stupids Since 1964," from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Monday, June 8, 2015

Cosiderat* (for Considerat*)

Do you sometimes feel like a slippery letter S as you sleepily slump down onto a city bus stop bench? If so, I've got just the sign for you. It reads: "BE CONSIDERATE OF OTHER S THAT MAY NEED TO USE THE BENCH." That fourth word was obviously supposed to be others, but something about it looked a little off to me; there seemed to be a tad too much space between the R and the S. On closer inspection, I saw that the word had originally been rendered as OTHER'S; apparently someone had simply filled in the recessed apostrophe area with some blue ink from a pen. Replacing poorly designed signage is not a thing the State of New York can really afford to do right now and the budget crisis at the State Library is probably among the worst of all its agencies. But as we were told at a staff meeting earlier that day (after also being informed that we need to somehow cut $2 million from our budget), this is nothing new. Melvil Dewey, who was NYSL's first library director, once wrote a letter to a local physician, begging him for donations and citing our fiscal woes. This was a little over a century ago. "Dear Dr. Ward," he wrote, "You have kindly given the state library five journals at the end of each year. You know how badly the legislature has crippled this library and how anxious I have been to get it on its feet. I hammer at them in each report for their failure to do what was agreed. Please tell me what you think about these five journals. If we could save the copies we are now paying for we could put the total amount into other books or journals for which we now have no money, but this plan would keep these off our shelves till you send them in at the end of the year. Possibly you might feel like sending them in quarterly and so release just so much money for other books or serials. I am anxious to do what will please the physicians best and no one can judge better than yourself. Yours truly, Melvil Dewey." I hope the good doctor was considerate enough to cooperate with Mr. Dewey. It takes a village of OTHERS to raise a library. Cosiderat* turns up 15 times in OhioLINK today, and 119 times in WorldCat.

(Photo of ill-considered sign outside the New York State Library. Click to enlarge.)

Carol Reid

Friday, June 5, 2015

Esli* + Elsi* (for Elsi* or Esli*)

I said to someone the other day that my late great-aunt and -uncle had been called Elsie and George, and he replied that his next-door neighbors growing up had had the same names. It seems that Elsie, in particular, apparently once popular for girls, has pretty much fallen out of favor, despite its clearly being short for Elizabeth—much like Beth, Betsy, Liza, Lizzie, etc. (A Jewish pal tells me that their version of it is Elisheva.) Or perhaps, more directly, Elspeth, a Scottish name meaning "my god is bountiful" or "god of plenty." This makes sense, given that the famous Borden Dairy Company icon "Elsie the Cow" was created by a Scotsman named David Reid. She was quite the beloved bovine, for those of you who don't recall those Elsie-yon days. She played "Buttercup" in the RKO movie Little Men in 1940 and even appeared on the TV program What's My Line? And she was a huge hit at both New York State World's Fairs. The real live Elsie (she had gotten her start as a promotional cartoon cow) was an appealing seven-year-old Jersey with big brown eyes and the inspired if rather perplexing moniker "You'll Do, Lobelia." She was renamed "Elsie" and was introduced to the public (along with the amazing "Rotolactor") at the 1939 World's Fair. Elsie, who was once described as "a mixture of cow and housewife" (though she also had a "Boudoir" at the Fair), was blessed with a husband ("Elmer" of Elmer's Glue fame; he could be rather bullheaded) and baby named Beulah. Sadly, the original Elsie had been killed in a traffic accident in 1941, so another "Elsie" was found to take her place. Three more calves followed: Beauregard (who was born at Macy's department store!) in 1948, and the twins Larabee and Lobelia in 1957. There was only one case of Esli* + Elsi* (for Elsi* or Esli*) in OhioLINK today, and 19 in WorldCat, but let's milk this one for all it's worth. In other words: "E is for the Energy she gives us ... L is for the Lovely things she does ... S is for the Satisfying moments ... I is for the pure Ingredients ... E is for ..." (Does anybody out there know what E was for?) "Put it all together it spells ELSIE. She's the one that's all the world to me!"

(Commemorative tile on the ground near the Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows Park, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Empoy* (for Employ*)

There are many types of employees (full-time, part-time, salaried, per diem), along with many kinds of jobs (blue-collar, white-collar, pink-collar, etc.). When no other descriptor will do, we call some of these "odd" jobs. On TV recently, I heard someone say he "had been working kind of off and end jobs." I felt like I had suddenly hit the jackpot with a triple-threat "conflated idiom": odds and ends + odd jobs + off and on. In the 1933 film Employees' Entrance, Kurt Anderson (Warren William) pulls every dirty boss trick in the book, taking advantage of an eager new department store clerk played by Loretta Young. As this is a relatively unfettered "pre-Code" movie, it includes a lot of sex and violence, specifically suicide, gunplay, blackmail, backstabbing, and a certain Bill Cosby-like approach to women. There were ten examples of Empoy* (for employ*) in OhioLINK this morning (including a couple of foreign words and "sic" notations), and 326 in WorldCat.

(Film poster/lobby card for the 1933 film Employees' Entrance, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Monday, June 1, 2015

Whitely + Whiteley (for Whiteley or Whitely)

In the 1986 book Fabulous Folks of the Old Northwest, the chapter called "Fabulous OpalFact or Fiction?" opens like this: "Opal Whiteley, whose childhood diary, allegedly written in a Northwest lumber camp when she was six years old, plummeted her to fame in the 1920's, is one of the most controversial enigmas in Northwest history." You know, I'll tell you what else is an enigma—that sentence! How is it possible to be so technically grammatical, and yet to read so intractably as though it weren't? I don't know if there are two too many commas in there, or one too many non-restrictive clauses, but there is something not quite right, and yet not exactly wrong about it either. And then there's that word plummeted. Can a person really "plummet" to fame? Which way is fame, anyway? A friend allows that one could possibly plummet to infamy, but probably not to fame. Google searches on "her to fame" and "him to fame" supply a variety of workable verbs in this case (rocketed, launched, thrust, shot, vaulted, catapulted, drove, propelled, etc.), but nothing that would suggest falling rather than rising. "Plummeted" was a poor choice of words there, not only due to the direction it implies, but also because, while one can either plummet or be plummeted, one can't really plummet something else. Another sort-of solecism appears on the next page too, where we're told: "Her unique ability to make all the pieces of her destiny fall into place was uncanny, especially, if it was all contrived." It's hard to know whether that second comma is needed there or not, but it does seem to change the meaning or emphasis of the sentence just a little. At any rate, suffice it to say that this book could have used a good proofreader, perhaps someone a bit more like the precocious and paradoxical Opal Whiteley herself, who first rose to fame, and then plummeted, if you will, to infamy, all in the course of a few short years. There isn't room here to do this fabulous creature justice, but you can read her amazing story in her own words in Opal: The Journal of an Understanding Heart or The Singing Creek Where the Willows Grow, as well as in the often contentious words of others. There were 25 cases of today's typo in OhioLINK, and 146 in WorldCat.

(Opal Whiteley, December 11, 1897—February 16, 1992, American nature writer and diarist, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid