Monday, December 31, 2012

Devember (for December)

"Thirty days hath September, April, June, and November..." Most of us know the drill by now, but I have a colleague who, in spite of his numerous and manifold intellectual endowments, claims never to have mastered this useful numerical mnemonic. (I don't know how he minds his days!) In any event (and forgetting about February for a moment), the month of December—being one of "all the rest"—has 31 of 'em, but the last one is really known more for its nights. I don't know what any of this has to do with Devo, the great devolving rock band from the 1980s, exactly, but I do hope you all have a very happy New Year... And a happy New Year's Eve. Devember was uncovered three times in OhioLINK and 44 times in WorldCat. If you should find this deviation in your own library's database, you know what to do. Whip it. Whip it good!

(Devo, American New Wave band, May 31, 2008, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Friday, December 28, 2012

Beleiv* (for Believ*)

Although Wikipedia, as well as most Americans, refer to him as "Leif Ericson," the name of the explorer who discovered the Americas (almost five hundred years before Columbus did) is spelled a number of different ways by our neighbors to the north. In Old Norse, it was Leifr EirĂ­ksson; in Icelandic, Leifur; in Norwegian, it would be Leiv. Let's leave that be for now, however, and talk a bit about the man. Leif Ericson was born circa 970, most probably in Iceland. He was the son of Erik the Red and his wife, Thjodhild. Leif's father, who had been born in (and banned from) Norway, established the first permanent Norse settlement in Greenland. Leif first sighted Vinland (what later Europeans called the "New World"), after being blown off course en route to Greenland, where he intended to bring Christianity to its inhabitants. (He was able to convert his mother, but not his father.) It's believed that Leif and his crew built a small settlement in what is now Newfoundland. The painting shown to the right was commissioned for the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition, and later given to the National Gallery of Norway in 1900. Beleiv* was discovered 25 times in OhioLINK and 433 times in WorldCat this morning. So remember: it's "I before E except after C"—except for when you happen to be a 10th-century Nordic explorer. Or all of the other times it isn't. Believe it or not.

(Christian Krohg's painting of Leiv Eiriksson discovering North America, 1893, held at the National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Pengiun* (for Penguin*)

In 1998, staff at the Central Park Zoo presented a black and white case for the existence of gay penguins. Roy and Silo were two male Chinstraps who had been observed "performing mating rituals." They also tried to "hatch a rock" in 1999. Later on the pair proved capable of hatching an actual egg from a penguin who didn't seem to have the knack for it, and the resultant little one was named Tango. (I guess in this case, it took three, or technically make that four.) Tango soon followed in the waddling footsteps of her two dads and paired up with another female, known as Tanuzi. Then you've got Robert Benchley, a humorist who wrote for The New Yorker and Vanity Fair during the early decades of the 20th century. Benchley was a member of the Algonquin Round Table and an occasional movie actor. (He appeared in Hitchcock's Foreign Correspondent, among other films, and his own MGM "miniature" called How to Sleep won an Academy Award for Best Short Subject in 1935.) In 1936, he published a book of humorous essays entitled My Ten Years in a Quandary, and How They Grew (an apparent pun on the title of the popular children's book The Five Little Peppers and How They Grew). One piece was called "Penguin Feud" and concerned boon companions Admiral and Jake. These two penguins did everything together, until one day they simply stopped speaking, as it were. Before this, they had been inseparable and thoroughly compatible. Benchley even uses the word "intimate," without quite calling them gay. Though like Roy and Silo, Admiral and Jake eventually parted ways, it nevertheless makes for a heartwarming tale on a cold winter's day. We've blogged about this and related typos on one or two other occasions, but I couldn't resist a shout-out to the prescient Robert Benchley, and to all gay penguins everywhere. There were eleven examples of Pengiun* (for penguin*) in OhioLINK today, and 245 in WorldCat.

(Robert Benchley in Vanity Fair, exact date unknown, pre-1920, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Monday, December 24, 2012

Sufac* (for Surfac*)

On the hurried run-up to the number one Christian holiday, and in the absence of high anxiety over too many mundane tasks, a certain surface tension will often suffice. Such a desire to break free of secular concerns and find some inner peace, however, knows no religious boundaries. Like most spiritual folk, Sufis pursue a reality that goes far below the surface. They do this by means of various spiritual techniques, such as study, prayer, meditation, ecstasy, asceticism, etc. The frequently banned and censored Order of the Whirling Dervishes also engages in the athletic dancing associated with this Muslim sect. Sufism is defined as the "inner, mystical dimension of Islam." The inner is made outer in this beautiful dance, as it should also be in the many gifts that are given from the heart this season. Surf your databases for today's typo and save face by fixing any of these that surface there. Sufac* (for surfac*) comes up 30 times in OhioLINK and 619 times in WorldCat.

(Sufi dancer in Cairo, Egypt, December 2008, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Friday, December 21, 2012

Rebbeca (for Rebecca)

Dame Rebecca West was born Cicely Isabel Fairfield on December 21, 1892. West once wrote that "the main difference between men and women is that men are lunatics and women are idiots." She also asserted, in her novel The Judge: "Since men don’t love us nearly as much as we love them that leaves them much more spare vitality to be wonderful with." I won't presume to define her entire point of view on the matter, but it seems that men spend their lives frantically fending off one another, while women are just attractive distractions (or maybe that's distracted attractions) on the side. Okay, this was 1922, not 2012, and we've come a long way, blah blah blah, but I think we all know what she was talking about. West, who was the longtime lover of H. G. Wells and whom Time magazine called "indisputably the world's number one woman writer" in 1947, was a very funny suffragette, and she certainly wasn't the only one. Clementine Churchill, for instance, otherwise known as "One of the Doomed," wrote a letter to The Times of London in response to the opinion of an "eminent bacteriologist" who felt that women were simply too inferior to vote or participate in politics in any way, in which she helpfully wondered, tongue planted firmly in cheek: "Ought women not to be abolished altogether?" The future wife of the British prime minister (who himself opposed women's suffrage) added: "I have been so much impressed by Sir Almroth Wright's disquisition, backed as it is by so much scientific and personal experience, that I have come to the conclusion that women should be put a stop to." Canadian feminist Nellie McClung declared, in a mock debate in 1914 called "Should Men Vote?": "Oh, no, man is made for something higher and better than voting... The trouble is that if men start to vote, they will vote too much. Politics unsettle men and unsettled men means unsettled bills, broken furniture, broken vows, and divorce. Men's place is on the farm... if men were to get the vote, who knows what would happen? It's hard enough to keep them home now!" Actually, there was a fair amount of this going on at the time: sprightly confident women having sport with stuffy terrified men. When it comes to lunacy and idiocy, however, it's debatable which sex predominates. In the movie Mary Poppins, Mrs. Banks basically calls the opposite sex "stupid." In the TV show Everybody Loves Raymond, Debra mutters "Idiot!" so often, it starts to sound like a verbal caress. Nowadays, it's a cliche to portray men as simple, uncomplicated creatures—clueless, forgetful, incompetent, or out of touch. Women, by contrast, are driven crazy by such behavior, and some would say crazy to put up with it. In any case, and as always, love is blind, deaf, and dumb, and only lunatics and idiots need apply. Rebbeca (for Rebecca) was found five times in OhioLINK, and 73 times in WorldCat.

(Rebecca West, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Hendrik* + Henrik* (for Henrik* or Hendrik*)

Today marks the birthday of Minnie Maddern Fiske, who was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, in 1865. Her mother, Lizzie Maddern, had been an actress in the theater and Minnie, who began acting professionally at the age of five, seemed to have been born to the boards as well. Baptized Marie Augusta Davey, even her thoroughly-modern-Minnie sort of stage name seemed to have proved a bit much for her fans, as she eventually became known simply as "Mrs. Fiske." According to Wikipedia, Minnie Maddern Fiske was "widely considered the most important actress on the American stage in the first quarter of the 20th century." She led the fight against the Theatrical Syndicate (just as heavy-handed and anti-artistic as it sounds) and is also credited with introducing American audiences to the Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen. Ibsen was apparently sympathetic to women and their struggle for equality, having authored the iconic A Doll's House in 1879. Fiske was married twice but had no children, and was "one of the most prominent animal welfare advocates of her era." (Mark Twain wrote the story "A Horse's Tale" for her.) About her idol Ibsen, Maddern herself once wrote: "... even Shakespeare seems easy when compared with the thought that must be bestowed upon Ibsen. The beautiful verse, the wonderful character drawing of Shakespeare furnish solutions of perplexing problems, but Ibsen is so elusive. He fascinates by his aloofness. He is the Wagner of the drama. Wagner struggled for understanding just as Ibsen has struggled." You shouldn't have to struggle too hard to find evidence of today's typo, discovered 59 times in OhioLINK, and "too many..." times in WorldCat.

(Portrait of Minnie Maddern Fiske, by Zaida Ben-Yusuf, entitled "Mrs. Fiske, Love finds the way," from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Monday, December 17, 2012

Sterotyp* (for Stereotyp*)

I don't follow most sports, so I probably tend to stereotype athletes and the games they play even more than most people do. At their (or perhaps my) worst, I tend to think of football players as muscle-bound, brain-damaged, steroid-addled bruisers, and their fans as beer-swilling, wife-beating, out-of-shape couch potatoes. A collection of angry tweets yesterday unfortunately painted them as outrageous racists to boot, after NBC had the temerity to interrupt the first quarter of last night's 49ers-Patriots game in order to air President Obama's address to the nation about gun violence and the mass murders at Sandy Hook Elementary School. So yes, sports fans can certainly act dreadfully in lots of different ways, but even though disaffected hipsters pretend to prefer European-style soccer over all-American football, we don't even come close to the "hooliganism" that is how some soccer fans choose to express their enthusiasm. That said, and I hope you'll forgive my blatant stereotyping, I'm kind of pumped to say this one is a "high probability" typo on the Ballard list, turning up 76 times in OhioLINK, and 976 times in WorldCat.

(Cover of Work and Win: An Interesting Weekly for Young America, September 27,1907, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Friday, December 14, 2012

Facilt* (for Facilit*)

Silt is like very soft sand. It's almost like powder. Unlike powder, however, certain kinds of, let's just call it dirt, can actually be good for your skin, especially your face. The Aztecs thought that clay had healing properties; Cleopatra collected it from the River Nile; and Pliny the Elder extolled it in his ground-breaking work Natural History. The early Romans and Germans employed it therapeutically, and pioneering 19th-century naturopaths like Sebastian Kneipp vigorously promoted its use. The Japanese bathe in hot outdoor mud springs, which sounds like one of the best ways to combine childhood and adulthood that I've heard of in a very long time. Of course, a little research and caution are always called for before indulging in any type of facial, but clay is considered a good way to go if you want to draw out the toxins. Facilities are set up for this sort of thing (day spa, anyone?), but it can be done with equal facility right at home. And if not exactly dirt cheap, with far less impact on your pocketbook. Check out your local health food store for the best types of therapeutic clay. (Some kinds can even be taken internally.) Facilt* was dug up 39 times in OhioLINK, and 902 times in WorldCat.

(AMEX card in flood silt after Hurricane Ike, Galveston, Texas, Sept. 19, 2008, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Pasttime* (for Pastime*)

Perhaps one of the most popular pastimes during the cold dark days of winter is dreaming about the nice warm weather to come. According to Alfred Lord Tennyson: "In the Spring a young man's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love." T. S. Eliot tells us that spring is a time for "mixing memory and desire." But for certain young men it's more a matter of mixing business with pleasure. The picture shown here "depicts nanshoku-type relationships between samurai and their boyfriends. Young kabuki actors who played female roles were known as onnagata or kagema and doubled as sex workers. They were much debated and sought after by the sophisticates of the day." Of course, this sort of thing is long in the past, but it still looks like a wild time. Kabuki was originally a female occupation in the early part of the 17th century, but quickly became a strictly masculine endeavor. Currently, both the art of kabuki and the love that dared not speak its name are finding favor in modern-day Japan. We found 14 cases of today's typo in OhioLINK (two of which were for the properly rendered PastTimes Press), and 176 in WorldCat.

(Spring Pastimes, Miyagawa IsshĂ´, Shunga hand scroll, ca. 1750, sumi, color and gofun on silk, from a private collection, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Monday, December 10, 2012

Rachal + Rachel (for Rachel or Rachal)

In 1968, Joanne Woodward appeared in a rather astonishing movie called Rachel, Rachel. It was produced and directed by Paul Newman, to whom she had been married for ten years. Based on the book A Jest of God by Canadian author Margaret Laurence, it tells the story of a 35-year-old school teacher living in Connecticut with her controlling and widowed mother. It features notable scenes of Rachel fantasizing in public and pleasuring in private ("just so I can sleep"); sharing a lesbian kiss with her best friend and fellow teacher (Estelle Parsons), who also happens to be a giddy Pentacostal; and losing her long-held virginity to a former high school classmate home visiting his family. Woodward is at her slightly weird, mockingly wry, somewhat spunky, buttoned-up best in this part. Oh, and did I mention that Rachel, like the graphic artist Alison Bechdel, was an undertaker's kid who grew up in a funeral home? (That role, in flashback, was played by Woodward and Newman's then nine-year-old daughter, Nell.) Check out Rachel, Rachel, showcasing the wonderful Joanne Woodward, and then check your local catalog for Rachal + Rachel, which rates as a "low probability" typo on the Ballard list. There were six of these in OhioLINK (though only four were legit), and 26 in WorldCat.

(Screenshot of Joanne Woodward from the trailer for the film Rachel, Rachel, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Friday, December 7, 2012

Creatue* (for Creature*)

I blogged about beasts the other day; today I'll speak of creatures. Which are pretty much the same thing, actually, though beast would seem to have more of a more negative connotation and be not so all-encompassing. "Beasts" are generally thought to be four-footed vertebrates, but apparently in some cases can be any "animal." All God's creatures—the very word itself evokes creation, as well as a certain gracious inclusivity. All creatures great and small—to quote the homely hymn by Cecil Alexander (who was, in spite of her name, a woman) and the popular TV program and books by James Herriot—makes the point even more clearly. And yet it seems that "creatures" are often contradictory. The first Google-supplied definition that pops up for them is oddly paradoxical: "1) an animal, as distinct from a human being; 2) an animal or person." In fact, creatures of the mythological sort are very often half-human, half-animal. Another set of definitions has it both ways as well, with this all-purpose label for "a human being; person: used as a term of scorn, pity, or endearment." I scornfully pity the poor, dear creature who would try and pin this sort of thing down. The word seems to mean pretty much whatever you want it to mean. Today's typo is a "low probability" one on the Ballard list, having been created in OhioLINK seven times (like the number of days it took God to make the world, according to creationists) and 70 times in WorldCat.

(Screen shot from Flaming Creatures by Jack Smith, 1963, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Prefect* + Perfect* (for Perfect* or Prefect*)

A friend and avid friend of libraries says he's got the perfect name for a barbershop quartet composed entirely of librarians: the Sibilant Postalveolars. According to Wikipedia: "The sibilant postalveolars (i.e. fricatives and affricates) are sometimes called 'hush consonants' because they include the sound of English Shhh!" I suppose publicity for such a group's appearances might go something like this: "Come and hear the SPs do it up right, there's a kind of hush all over the world tonight!" Speaking of fricatives, my friend is also a big fan of the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, which counted George Harrison, Eric Clapton, and the members of Monty Python among their more famous pals, and once recorded a song called "Labio-Dental Fricative." The band, whose original name was actually the Bonzo Dog Dada Band (rock bands are often inclined to change their names and I could well imagine my friend's imaginary band deciding to call themselves the Hush Consonants instead), was formed on September 25, 1962, when "Vivian Stanshall ... and fellow art student Rodney Slater ... bonded over a transatlantic broadcast of a boxing match between Floyd Patterson and Sonny Liston." It wasn't until 1967, though, when Paul McCartney asked them to do a cameo in the film Magical Mystery Tour (performing their song "Death Cab for Cutie") and around the time they also appeared on a British comedy show called Don't Adjust Your Set, that they really emerged from relative obscurity. In a nod to Monday's blog entry, Vivian Stanshall's second marriage was celebrated in the song "Bewildebeeste," while my own love affair with the Bonzos is consummated in the tune "Hunting Tigers out in Indiah" (although the original song was actually written in the 1920s by another band of British songwriters). As great as all of this is, however, nothing is perfect, as seen in the case of today's combination typo, found 14 times in OhioLINK (with six false positives among them, perhaps the best being "The coming of the prefect and of the perfect: Pilate of Rome and Jesus of Nazareth") and 203 times in WorldCat.

(Vivian Stanshall, by his wife Ki Longfellow-Stanshall, in England during the summer of 1979 or 1980. Photo in the public domain.)

Carol Reid

Monday, December 3, 2012

Breats (for Beast or Breast)

Beast is kind of a funny term. From tongue-in-cheek variants like "beasties" and "roast beast" to foreign ones like wildebeest, it can serve equally well as a reference to Bigfoot and his crypto-companions; a gentleman who's been behaving badly; and by linguistic extension, the unfortunate victim of a zoophile (in the paraphilic sense). It famously falls victim itself to an oft-misquoted aphorism: "Music hath charms to soothe the savage beast [i.e., breast]." And coincidentally, I just watched a fascinating profile of Theo Jansen and his Strandbeest (Dutch for "beach animals"), creatures made of PVC pipe who "walk" with strangely articulated limbs and joints. The word Beast has been posited as almost the polar opposite of Beauty. I guess the beauty of beasts is that they often raise more questions than they answer. Still it's hard to explain the four bubbly young women who grew increasingly ditzy as they rode around New York City in the Cash Cab the other night. When asked: "In Arabic there are a thousand words for what desert-dwelling beast of burden?" there was immediate whispering of camels. But then defeat was snatched from the jaws of victory and their final answer was set down: "Scorpion." When taxi driver/emcee Ben Bailey informed them of the right answer, the one in the backseat demurred: "But a camel isn't a beast." Yeah, and they don't tend to walk "a breast" either. Although, unless they're dromedaries, they usually do have two. Bah-dum-dum. Today's beastly typo turns up four times in OhioLINK, and 33 times in WorldCat.

(Patty, the beast with two breasts, in the 1967 Patterson-Gimlin film, which can be seen here on YouTube.)

Carol Reid