Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Ot the (for Of the, To the, etc.)

The initials O.T. can stand for a great many things (overtime, occupational therapy, observation tower, the Operating Thetan in Scientology, the Nazi Organisation Todt, the Old Testament, and so on). But if you're standing in a Spanish train station, it might also help to know what they're supposed to mean on the sign pictured to the right. Ot the is a typo of extremely "high probability" on the Ballard list since it occurs a whopping 1,116 times in OhioLINK. Most of the time, it appears to be a typo for of the or to the, but in some cases it could be standing in for the prepositional phrases or the or on the as well. No matter which way you go with this one, you'll be doing your catalog a big favor by fixing this tiny typo.

(Directional poster in a Spanish railway station, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Monday, May 30, 2011

Examim*, etc. (for Examin*)

To those who have to take them, I hope you pass your exams with flying colors. End-of-year examinations have long been a rite of passage for bleary-eyed, sweaty-palmed, No. 2 pencil-wielding students (and they're no bed of roses for the teachers, tutors, proctors, and graders, either). Some reports suggest that there's been too much "teaching to the test" lately, but SAT scores and the like do tend to fluctuate and nobody's exactly sure why. The first SAT, which now apparently (if a tad unreasonably?) stands for the "SAT Reasoning Test," was administered in 1926, when it was called the "Scholastic Aptitude Test" (which, to be honest with you, I thought it was still called, although I'm really not as old as all that). Examim* was found six times in OhioLINK (once with a [sic] and once with the antiquated bracketed bang [!]) and 70 times in WorldCat. We also got one hit on Exanima* and two on Exanin* (55 and 31, respectively, in WorldCat). Find as many of today's typo as you can in the allotted time, and don't forget, spelling counts!

(The Examination Schools, or exam halls, at Oxford, 2005, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Friday, May 27, 2011

Litle + Little (for Little)

Anyone who has ever had the simultaneously sweet and tart enjoyment of reading Little Women knows that there were four of them: Meg, the kind and amiable older sister; Jo, the headstrong tomboy and budding writer (alter ego of author Louisa May Alcott); Beth, the saintly invalid; and Amy, the ringleted, frivolous youngest. In Chapter 7, Amy comes home from school one day, chattering about limes. They're the "latest fashion" among her peers. "If one girls likes another," she explains, "she gives her a lime. If she's mad with her, she eats one in front of her face, and doesn't offer even a suck." I came across a bag of organic limes in the grocery store the other day and have been offering them to my girlfriends ever since (one of whom I hadn't seen in over ten years). I may give one to you as well. But if you see me looking a little green around the gills and making a sour face, you'll be sure to know that I'm "mad with you." (Not at you or about you, mind you, but with you. Are you with me?) There were 78 instances of Litle + Little in OhioLINK today, which is an awful lot for such a little typo. A certain percentage of these are bound to involve proper names and antiquated or vernacular spellings, but most appear to be typos of just the sort you might expect.

(Lime sliced in half, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Standrad* (for Standard*)

Standardized tests are things that students often dread. But now, thanks to New York governor Andrew Cuomo, teachers have good reason to fear them as well. Teacher evaluations in the past were based on the following algorithm: 20% student test scores, 20% local district tests, and 60% subjective classroom evaluations; last week Cuomo pushed through a measure that purportedly corrects the first component of that ratio to 40%. If teachers can not "teach to the test" well enough to markedly raise their students' test scores, it now looks as if they'll be out of a job. Many teachers feel that teaching students how to think is more important than teaching them testable facts, so think about this: tests can be manipulated, cheating in schools is rampant, underprivileged students tend to score lower on tests, and competition among teachers will surely erode esprit de corps and helpful cooperation. As one astute writer put it in a letter to the Albany Times Union the other day: "Using standardized test scores for evaluation and as a measure of teacher performance will only be fair and accurate if each teacher is provided with a group of standardized students." There were five examples of Standrad* in OhioLINK today and 107 in WorldCat. Standardize the spelling of this word in your library's catalog, thereby helping your students and other patrons locate materials concerning this critical education policy debate.

(Mimeographed chemistry tests, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Golberg* + Goldberg*, Goldbert* (for Goldberg*)

Rube Goldberg (born on the Fourth of July in 1883) was a popular cartoonist, in addition to being a sculptor, author, engineer, and inventor. He was very goal-oriented, but efficiency was not really his game. His name, however, was rather neatly transformed into a "household word" when it was first introduced into the lexicon in 1931. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defined the adjective Rube Goldberg as: "accomplishing by complex means what seemingly could be done simply." (In Bengali, this sort of thing is known as an "Uncle's contraption.") As Goldberg himself put it, his machines were a "symbol of man's capacity for exerting maximum effort to achieve minimal results." He felt that most people truly preferred doing things the hard way! Purdue University holds an annual Rube Goldberg Machine Contest for students nationwide; the "2012 National Task Is to Inflate a Balloon and Pop It!" The children's board game Mousetrap is based on the Rube Goldberg model, but perhaps my favorite example is the "Breakfast Machine" in the movie Pee-wee's Big Adventure. With two simple steps, we found today's complex typo 15 times in OhioLINK and 188 times in WorldCat. (And, since I repeatedly kept making this misstep myself, I also searched on Goldbert*, which got me five hits in OhioLINK, only one of which seemed to be the correct spelling of somebody's surname.) Your library catalog should not be forcing patrons to find what they're looking for in an overly complicated and roundabout way. Correct this typo today and make things easy for them.

(Rube Goldberg & family, April 4, 1929, by the National Photo Company, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Subcrib* (for Subscrib*)

While John James Audubon was out gazing at the birds, his other babies, each in their turn, may have been lying beneath the gauze in this little crib down below the Mason-Dixon Line. Sadly, his two daughters, Lucy and Rose, both died in childhood, but his two sons survived. One of them, John Woodhouse Audubon, became a naturalist and writer like his father. After moving to Louisiana in the 1820s, Audubon's wife, Lucy, became the main breadwinner, teaching young children out of their home. The covering that drapes this crib was apparently meant to keep out the bugs in muggy Missouri, Kentucky, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, and Louisiana, where Audubon and his various partners traveled in search of ever more ornithogical specimens. We searched OhioLINK and WorldCat for today's typo and found eight specimens in the former and 104 in the latter.

(The Oakley Plantation children's room at Audubon State Historic Site near St. Francisville, Louisiana, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Monday, May 23, 2011

Flourid*, etc. (for Fluorid*, etc.)

This was the very first entry I posted to our fledgling blog, Typo of the Day for Librarians, back in 2006. It is no longer retrievable from the archives, though, so I thought I would reprise this ever-flourishing typo today. (There seem to be even more now than there were five years ago; I have included the current stats in brackets, along with the original ones.)

In Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, General Jack D. Ripper fears that the Commie influence of fluoridation will "sap and impurify all of our precious bodily fluids." We might well worry about something similar in the persistent misspelling of words beginning with the letters FLUOR, such as fluoride, fluoridation, fluorine, and fluorescent. Their transposing imposters—Flouride, Flouridation, etc.—continue to seep insidiously into the OPAC supply despite our best efforts to flush them away. A recent English-language search on OCLC turned up 161 [269] titles containing Flouride, 29 [48] titles containing Flourides, and 28 [48] titles containing Flouridation. (Among them, only three [one] indicated that the error was transcribed from the work itself.) Twenty-five [~40] records revealed one of them as the first word in the title. Another search found 32 [28] records with these typos in the subject fields. There were also 22 [~30] titles beginning with the words Flourinated or Flourine and 43 [~80] beginning with Flourescence or Flourescent. The example of Flouride et al. is important to review periodically for several reasons: 1) It is likely to appear in the first, or first few, words of a title; 2) The error itself exists within the first three letters of the word, which means that the misspelling could even affect a "derived" search in which only the first three letters of the first word are involved; 3) It's a very common typo, appearing in the "high probability" section of the Ballard list; and 4) Fluoridation has always been and continues to be a controversial political, environmental, and public health issue; therefore materials on the subject should be made as accessible as possible.

(General Jack D. Ripper (Sterling Hayden) shares an intimate moment with Group Captain Lionel Mandrake (Peter Sellers) in Stanley Kubrick's 1964 film, Dr. Strangelove, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Friday, May 20, 2011

Progran* (for Program*)

Yesterday, I told you a bit about Charles Babbage, the inventor, in a sense, of the world's first computer. Someone who took a great deal of interest in this endeavor was Ada Lovelace, who was Lord Byron's "only legitimate child." Ada had been schooled in mathematics from a very early age, partly in an attempt by her somewhat embittered mother to ward off the "insanity" she feared may have been passed on to her by her profligate poet pappa. This was most likely a misguided effort, however, given that there seems to be more madness found among mathematicians than in people who are not obsessed with numbers. In any case, Ada proved to be a talented, if level-headed, one and worked closely with her friend and colleague Babbage. She has been dubbed "the world's first computer programmer" and the programming language ADA was named after her. Notwithstanding progranulin, which is some sort of "growth factor" genetic-type thing, and the Russian word Progranichnyi, which appears to be a Russian proper noun, today's typo was discovered ten times in OhioLINK and 430 times in WorldCat.

(Scanned from a picture found "in the trash" in Lousianna [sic], USA, and submitted it to the Ada Picture Gallery in October 2000 ... an orginal print from its time, not a reproduction. You can read more about this picture at Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Analyi* (for Analysis, Analytic*, etc.)

The Analytical Engine was a design for a mechanical general-purpose computer, which was formulated by English mathematician Charles Babbage in 1837. It was a follow-up to his design for what he termed the "difference engine," a mechanical calculator. Babbage was never able to actually build either of these machines due to clashes with his chief engineer and a lack of government funding. Numerous attempts have been made over the past century and a half to bring this design to fruition, but perhaps most interesting of all have been the many works of fiction about it, most of them written in the 1990s. It's thought that had the Analytical Engine been built during Babbage's lifetime, it would have proved superior to computers that were developed in the 1940s—although it would have been quite a bit slower. Mathematician Ada Lovelace wrote: "Mr. Babbage believes he can, by his engine, form the product of two numbers, each containing twenty figures, in three minutes." While you're on hold with an unresponsive PC and an even more unresponsive overseas call center, check out this hilarious cartoon correspondance between "an unhappy Analytical Engine owner and the South Asian Technical Support Corporation" on Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal. We calculated 47 hits in OhioLINK and over 800 in WorldCat on today's typo.

(Trial model of part of Charles Babbage's Analytical Engine, on display at the Science Museum in London, May 2009, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Invitiat* (for Invitat*)

According to Miss Manners and the rest of her socially graceful advice-giving ilk, there are several ways to vitiate an invitation: by neglecting to RSVP, by bringing extra guests, by failing to show up on time, by not reciprocating or properly thanking one's hosts, and even by refusing to cease texting while at the dinner table. Of course, there are all kinds of invitations, each with a separate set of rules and obligations. For instance, some require expensive gifts, a bottle of wine, a bit of role playing, a knowledge of trivia, or an ugly puffy dress; others merely that you arrive with your love of black and white drawings and paintings intact. There were, thankfully, only five instances of Invitiat* (for invitat*) in OhioLINK this morning, and 110 in WorldCat.

(Invitation to the Expo Galerie Noir et Blanc, 1965, by Yvana Stella, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Refrom* (for Reform*)

We all want to reform (other people), starting with our loved ones and ending with the world. The last thing we want to change in any significant way, however, is ourself. That is, we may say we want to (witness our dogged New Year's resolutions and incessant self-help book buying bouts), but in truth, why would we care to alter something that's already so close to perfection? Our catalog records are far from it, though, and the typo Refrom* is a good example. There were ten of these found in OhioLINK today and 197 in WorldCat. In any case, if you're trying to reform something, whether in yourself or other people, I wish you a lot of luck. It's no piece of cake.

(Реформ торта, or Reform torta, from Wikimedia Commons. Not to be confused with Tort reform.)

Carol Reid

Monday, May 16, 2011

Precipt* (for Precipit*)

It rained on Saturday, it rained on Sunday, and it's raining today. They say it's going to rain all week. But precipitation, condensation, flash floods, rainfall, drizzles, downpours, sprinkles, storms, and April showers bring May flowers, so I'm really not complaining that much (although, nota bene, this is May already). Anyway, it's kind of nice to stay inside and read a book or otherwise cocoon, while slowly sipping a nice cup of tea. Make sure your beverage is not pre-sipped, however; timing is everything when it comes it to making tea. The tea plant contains both caffeine and tannins; the former excite you, while the latter relaxes. If you want to lessen tea's stimulating effects, you should let it steep a while longer in order to activate the slower-releasing compounds. Rudyard Kipling once wrote:

We had a kettle; we let it leak:
Our not repairing made it worse.
We haven't had any tea for a week...
The bottom is out of the Universe.

We found five cases of today's typo in OhioLINK and 171 in WorldCat. (Watch out for the properly spelt preciptin, though). This is not a typo of precipitous proportions, but little drops can become a deluge, so take a moment on this rainy day (and Monday) to repair any leaks before they're made worse. Then after that, if you've got a mind to, go and make yourself a hot cup of tea.

I just realized that this typo has been blogged before, as has its cousin Precipation. Thus, permit me to add a few more "low probability" variants to today's rainy rerun: Precipitaton (two), Percipita* (one), and Pricipit* (one).

(Une tasse de thé en verre, or a glass of tea, 2006, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Friday, May 13, 2011

Supersiti* (for Superstitious, etc.)

Today is Friday the 13th and in the memorable words of Michael Scott on the TV show The Office: "I'm not superstitious, I'm just a little bit stitious." I had an entry all ready to go this morning, but our host, Blogger, seems to have caught a bug and consequently my posting disappeared from the queue. (The blog ate my homework. Get it?) I chose this illustration for my substitute post in order to remind myself to always print out a copy of my work and not simply assume that whatever I type into the ether will necessarily be there the next time I go look for it. Print rules! Take that, Paperless Society! And I'm not just being superstitious either. (Well, maybe just a little bit.) Today's typo turned up 34 times in OhioLINK, making it a "high probability" typo on the Ballard list.

(Pennsylvania Paper & Supply Company building in Scranton, PA, with distinctive tower seen in opening credit sequence of US version of The Office, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Graden* + Garden* (for Garden*)

In the days before mechanical lawn mowers, animals such as sheep and deer were often relied upon to prevent the field grasses from getting too tall. ("Crop thy lawn, lady?" says a shepherd with his flock to a suburban housewife in a Charles Addams cartoon featured in the New Yorker on Aug. 16, 1941.) However, in order to keep such ruminants off of the lawn itself, something called a ha-ha would have to be built. It's a steeply graded retaining wall (meant to keep out animals while "retaining" the view), serving to separate the house and garden from the rest of the property. By this means, both grazers and gazers could be made content. The originator of the ha-ha is generally thought to be Charles Bridgeman, an early 18th-century garden designer, although others have been credited with the idea as well. The ha-ha was a common component of the "swept" views created by the marvelously named "Capability" Brown, who was also known as "England's greatest gardener." Horace Walpole suggested that the name for these walls derived from the reaction they would provoke: "The common people," he wrote, "called them Ha! Has! to express their surprise at finding a sudden and unperceived check to their walk." We found six cases of today's compound typo in OhioLINK and 85 in WorldCat, all of them inhibiting access to the records in which they appear.

(A particularly high ha-ha in front of the Newliston House in England, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Ehtic* (for Ethic*)

Eh, feh, meh, mu ... however you say it, what you're basically saying is: "I don't care, not really, whatever, none of the above." The word meh was popularized (eventually meriting an entry in the Collins English Dictionary) by the TV show The Simpsons. In one episode, Homer tries to talk Bart and Lisa, who are watching television, into taking a trip to Blockoland. "We said meh!" Lisa tells him. "M-E-H, meh!" Wikipedia defines the word thusly: "'Meh' is an interjection, often used as an expression of apathy, indifference, or boredom. However, it can also be used to indicate agreement or disagreement." (It appears it can function as an adjective as well, in which case it means "mediocre or boring.") It's a neologism that can barely get off of the couch. We found Ehtic* (for ethic*) 15 times in OhioLINK and 224 times in WorldCat. I hope you don't say "meh" to today's typo, though; it's your ethical duty to correct the spelling of this all-important word. Eh, thanks!

(Lisa Simpson, thanks to Wikipedia.)

Carol Reid

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Marrage* (for Marriage*)

Most marriages are marred by a little bit—if not a lot—of rage. The one depicted in the 1941 Hitchcock film Mr. and Mrs. Smith, starring Carole Lombard and Robert Montgomery, is certainly no exception. One day, "bickering New Yorkers" Ann and David Smith come to separately find out that, due to some technicality over state/county lines, they are not in fact legally married. Earlier that morning, Ann (who greatly enjoys "how much do you love me?" games and self-made marriage "rules") had been priding herself on the foolproof state of her three-year-old union ("Respect for each other as individuals, that's what counts ... always tell the truth no matter what the consequences") and then, perhaps tempting fate somewhat, had put it to her partner directly, as certain wives are wont to do: "If you had it all to do over again, would you have married me?" After a brief pause, David answers her: "Honestly, no. Not that I'd want to be married to anyone else. But I think that when a man marries, he gives up a certain amount of freedom and independence. If I had to do it all over again, I think I'd stay single ... Your feelings aren't hurt, are they? ... You don't understand! I was only answering a hypothetical question ... Darling, I do want to be married to you. I love you. I worship you. I am used to you." Equal parts screwball and excruciating, Carole Lombard is as cracklingly luminescent here as ever. (Lombard is not one of the first blondes one tends to think of in relation to Alfred Hitchcock, but she clearly rates a place in the platinum pantheon.) The eponymous Smiths, who seem fated for each other mostly out of sheer sexual chemistry, provide the mature moviegoer, both then and now, with a racy, censor-bending, and hysterical look at American marriage. Five hits in OhioLINK and 64 in WorldCat.

(Screenshot of Carole Lombard in My Man Godfrey, 1936, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Monday, May 9, 2011

Littt* (for Little, etc.)

According to Google's graphic arts team, May 9th marks what would have been the 76th birthday of British children's author Roger Hargreaves, who was born in 1939 and died in 1988. (Check out the doodles, which change with each click, on the Google home page today.) Hargreaves was the prolific and highly successful creator of the "Little Miss" and "Mr. Men" series, the latter of which was also made into an animated television program on the BBC. His first book, Mr. Tickle, was conceived in 1971 in reply to the question by his young son Adam (who later took over the writing of the series after his father's death): "What does a tickle look like?" In less than twenty years' time, Hargreaves produced over a hundred titles, including the Timbuctoo series of 25 books, half a dozen or so "John Mouse" books, a couple of "Roundy and Squary" books, and, of course, his 46 "Mr. Men" and 33 "Little Miss" books. Twentieth Century Fox has apparently got a movie in the works as well, although it's not yet been decided whether any female characters will be featured in it. Tell them not to leave Little Miss Shy and her distaff sisters behind! We found seven cases of Littt* in OhioLINK and a little over 200 in WorldCat.

(Roger Hargreaves holding a copy of Mr. Tickle on his lap, courtesy of Wikipedia.)

Carol Reid

Friday, May 6, 2011

Psychotherp* (Psychotherap*)

Sigismund Schlomo (otherwise known as Sigmund) Freud was born on this day in 1856. There is always a great deal to say about the "Father of Psychoanalysis," but somehow this quote from Wikipedia strikes me as the funniest and most Freudian thing of all: "Freud spent four weeks at the Austrian zoological research station in Trieste, dissecting hundreds of eels in an unsuccessful search for their male reproductive organs...." I mean, I know sometimes a cigar is just a cigar—and an eel is just an eel—but still, you gotta admit, that's funny. Maybe that's where he first came up with the idea of penis envy, no? We came up with six examples of Psychotherp* in OhioLINK and 65 in WorldCat today. Incidentally, I once had the pleasure of hearing Freud's granddaughter Sophie give a talk at the University of New York at Albany. She was a professor of social work at Simmons College, specializing in the use of bibliotherapy or "empathetic reading" and could actually recall sitting (and most likely being read to) upon the knee of her famous grandpappa. Happy Birtherapy, Sigmund Freud!

("Sigmund Freud Hanging," by the Czech artist David Černý, now also famous/infamous for his installation at the Council of the European Union, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Wht* + Whit* (for White, etc.)

A search on Wht* + Whit* brings up 179 hits in WorldCat and 16 in OhioLINK, but only about half of the latter are typos for the word/name White*. Some contain the gloss "sic," while others are acronyms (like radio station call letters) or parts of a URL; still others are typos for words like what and why. Elwyn Brooks White (more commonly known as E. B. White) was born in 1899 in Mount Vernon, New York, and graduated from Cornell in 1921. He settled in New York City in 1924 to take a job with the New Yorker, where he wrote magazine pieces for 11 years. In 1929, he married Katherine Angell, the New Yorker's literary editor, and in 1939 they removed to a farm in Brooklin, Maine. White was the author of the children's classic Charlotte's Web and its several sequels, along with numerous books of poems and essays, such as the wonderfully titled Quo Vadimus? Or the Case for the Bicycle. In 1959, he resurrected and revised The Elements of Style, a writing manual that had been privately published by his old English professor William Strunk in 1919. In his essay Here Is New York, White rather eerily seems to presage the attack of September 11, 2001, when he writes: "A single flight of planes no bigger than a wedge of geese can quickly end this island fantasy, burn the towers, crumble the bridges, turn the underground passages into lethal chambers, cremate millions.... Of all targets New York has a certain clear priority. In the mind of whatever perverted dreamer might loose the lightning, New York must hold a steady, irresistible charm."

(E. B. White's Cornell University senior photograph, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Girl* + Gril (for Girl, etc.)

Personal computers had not yet been invented in the 1920s, but telephones had been, and Brooklyn-born Clara Bow was the recipient of a great many calls and letters: she was the notorious IT Girl of her day. Based on a Cosmopolitan story by Elinor Glyn in 1927, "It" was a bit more nuanced than you might think, being "that strange magnetism which attracts both sexes ... a purely virile quality ... belonging to a strong character ... full of self-confidence ... indifferent to the effect ... uninfluenced by others." "Beauty is unnecessary," continues Glyn. "Conceit or self-consciousness," however, "destroys 'It' immediately." Despite an impoverished and difficult childhood and a youthful career filled with exploitation and ridiculous innuendo, Clara proved to be both tough and rebellious; she had what "It" took to survive. There were five cases of today's compound typo in OhioLINK and 36 in WorldCat.

(Picture of Clara Bow at age 16, taken after she won a movie magazine contest in 1921, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Porpert* (for Property, etc.)

There seem to be only a few English words that begin with the letters P-O-R-P. Next to porpoise, it's basically just porphyry, "a hard Egyptian rock having red and white feldspar crystals embedded in a fine-grained, dark-red or purplish goundmass." (Porphyry can also refer to a philosopher, a bishop, a vineyard, an island, and a system for dividing the horoscope!) Porphyry is Greek for "purple," the traditional color of royalty. "Imperial Porphyry" was a deep purple igneous rock with large crystals of plagioclase and was used in the building of monuments and other structures in Imperial Rome and beyond, for example in Hagia Sophia in Istanbul and in the "Porphyra," the official delivery room for pregnant empresses in the Great Palace of Constantinople. Napoleon's remains are buried in a porphyry sarcophagus as well. The word now refers more generally to any igneous rock with similar properties. There were eight cases of Porpert* in OhioLINK and in 337 in WorldCat.

(Ancient Roman bathtub in Egyptian red porphyry, transformed into the baptismal font of the cathedral in Milan, Italy, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Exerpt* (for Excerpt*)

Exerpt* is sort of an excerpt of the word excerpt, if you get my meaning. An excerpt is a part extracted from the whole. And, speaking of parts and wholes, this might be as good a time as any for me to get on my high horse and inveigh against the ubiquitous misuse of the word comprise, which means "consist of." Given that definition, you see, there can really be no sensible meaning to the all-too-common usage "comprised of" since that would have to mean "consisted of of." Here's how to remember this: the whole comprises the parts; the parts compose the whole. Okay, so back to Exerpt*, which is really more of a misspelling than a typo. The word excerpt comes from the Latin excerptus, past participle of excerpere, from ex- + carpere, meaning to gather or pluck. Its first known use is from the 15th century. It's such a common misspelling these days that a Google search on "exerpt*" returns 1,640,000 hits, or more than one misspelled search term for every hundred spelled correctly. There were 75 examples of this typo in OhioLINK and too many to count in WorldCat.

(An excerpt from The Tempest on the Berkeley Poetry Walk in Berkeley, California, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Monday, May 2, 2011

Fredrick* + Frederick* (for Frederick* or Fredrick*)

Frederick Law Olmsted shares the title "Father of American Landscape Architecture" with Andrew Jackson Downing and is responsible for a great many municipal parks, arboretums, and other such natural enclaves across the country, including Central Park in New York City. Olmsted was the designer of city parks in Boston, Brooklyn, and Buffalo, N.Y., and is often mistakenly credited with the creation of Washington Park in Albany as well. He was hired in 1869 to design such a park here, but did not in fact do so; his creative vision, however, was closely hewed to in its eventual execution, including the idea of damning the Beaver Kill in order to make a grand lake. (As a point of interest, Olmsted, who was an opponent of slavery, helped cofound The Nation magazine in 1865.) There were 238 hits on today's compound typo in the OhioLINK database, and too many to count in WorldCat. Some of them are sure to be false hits (i.e., references to two or more people who do not spell their names the same way), but most are most likely typos. Sorting through them all may not be a walk in the park, but it should certainly be worth your while.

(Portrait of Frederick Law Olmsted by John Singer Sargent, 1895, courtesy of Wikipedia.)

Carol Reid