Monday, December 30, 2013

Abonim* (for Abomin*)

When what to our wondering eyes should appear, but my sister and I each giving the other a Yeti tree ornament this year! (This was my skeptical sister, by the way. I also have one, like me, in Suspended Disbelief.) The Christmas ornament I gave her was made of blown glass; the one she gave me was felted wool. (On the next episode of Finding Bigfoot, the team went to Nepal in search of the Yeti, and I learned that the hoary homunculus isn't really white-haired at all, that's just the snow.) You know, I can't remember the last time I made a real snowman, but I think I want my next one to be Abominable. (Taller and more muscle-bound than most, with maybe a woolen scarf or some pine boughs around the shoulders to look like long shaggy hair, and of course some enormous footprints.) I love Bigfoot accounts that include children, along with children's books about Bigfoot. I just finished Annette: A Big Hairy Mom by John S. McFarland, and have also read a few others now in what turns out to be a rather surprisingly large genre. But none so far were as touching as M.P. Robertson's Big Foot, which came out in the U.K. in 2002. Regardless of your own Bigfoot belief system, your Sasquatch eschatology, your crypto-zoological credo... I swear I wouldn't snow ya, man! There were three sightings of Abonim* in OhioLINK today, and 58 in WorldCat.

(Big Foot, by M.P. Robertson, and two little yetis, from my sister and me.)

Carol Reid

Monday, December 23, 2013

Immorat* (for Immoral*, Immortal*)

Many folks believe that human souls are immortal, regardless of whether they've been good or bad—otherwise known as moral or immoral. Heaven, however, is generally thought to be a better destination spot for eternity than Hell might be. And Australia can apparently feel like a little bit of both. Marie Bjelke Petersen was born on this day in Copenhagen in 1874, but spent most of her life in Tasmania, which later became the setting for many of her novels. Her book The Captive Singer is reputedly based on Sylvia Mills, her intimate partner of thirty years. Although Petersen, a devout Catholic and political conservative, is regarded as something of a gay icon today, she was not necessarily seen as a lesbian back then; female friendships like hers were perceived as more or less benign and certainly not immoral. (In the United States, such relationships were often called Boston marriages.) In addition to being a painter and popular "romance" writer (and in accordance, I suppose, with a certain sexual stereotype), Petersen started out as a "physical culture" (i.e., gym) teacher. Her brothers had founded physical culture institutes that operated throughout the 20th century and Petersen worked in one of them for a while; she was also a massage therapist and the person who introduced "netball" (basketball) to Tasmania. In 1925 a movie was made called Jewelled Nights, based on a story Petersen had written about a girl who disguises herself as a boy. Only twenty minutes of restored footage remain, and this fragment plays daily at the Gaiety Theatre in Zeehan, near where the film was shot. There were eight examples of today's typo in OhioLINK, and 73 in WorldCat.

(Cover of New York edition of The Immortal Flame, 1919, from A Mortal Flame, Alison Alexander's biography of Marie Bjelke Petersen, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Monday, December 16, 2013

Courst (for Courts or Course)

I was contemplating whether or not typos ever arise from a confusion or conflation of the words courts and counties and then I couldn't get the absurdly cute word courties out of my head! What would "courties" even be, I thought, if "courties" there were? Would they be like baby court jesters, or fanatical trial watchers, or the kind of people who get dated a lot, or what? When I searched for this potential error in OhioLINK, I got a single record, for a book about an 18th-century Indian lawyer, with the subject heading: Maharashtra (India) -- Courts and courties [i.e., courtiers] -- Biography. I really wanted to court this one today, but with such scant evidence at hand, I felt as though I had no choice but to dismiss the case. Instead, we'll have to take a different course, with the somewhat more commonly seen typo Courst. We counted five of these linguistic miscreants in OhioLINK, and 54 in WorldCat.

(Fourteenth-century mourning courtiers from a tomb, carved by Jaune Cascalls, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Monday, December 9, 2013

Hilll* (for Hill*)

A relative of mine recently retired from a teaching post up in the Adirondacks, but before she proceeded to "head for the hills," if you will, she taught her last fourth-grade class a lesson on how roads and streets get built. When she was done, one of her pupils seemed especially entranced, and only had one question: "But how do they make the hills?" Kids say the darndest things, it's true, but adults also make their own hills sometimes, and even have some rather funny sayings about it. Amounting to slightly more than a hill of beans, I suppose, but not enough to make a mountain out of a molehill or anything, the hills were alive with our typo of the day, which turned up 11 times in OhioLINK, and 257 times in WorldCat.

(Herstedhoeje, a artificially created hill 15 km west of Copenhagen, 18 June 2008, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Monday, December 2, 2013

Ottt* (for Otto, Ottawa, Ottoman, etc.)

Otto Dix was a German painter and printmaker, born in Untermhaus (now a part of the city of Gera) on December 2, 1891. Dix avidly enlisted in the Army during World War I, but the post-traumatic stress he suffered (at that time known as "shell shock") would strongly inform his work from that point on. A notable example is Der Krieg, or "The Battle," a portfolio of fifty etchings. Much of his output depicts the horrors of war and the sorrows of life, particularly the grotesque excesses of the Weimar Republic, as seen through a grim sort of Dadaist prism. Although he began receiving accolades from his countrymen during the last decade of his life, Otto Dix was deemed a "degenerate" by the Nazi regime. His paintings The Trench (which once led to the forced resignation of a museum director) and War Cripples are no longer extant, having been burned after the Entartete Kunst exhibition in Munich in 1937. More of Dix's banned works were discovered in 2011 in a hidden cache of over 1400 paintings stolen by the Nazis, including some by Chagall, Picasso, Matisse, and Renoir. We found 11 cases of Ottt* (for words like Otto, Ottowa, and Ottoman) in the OhioLINK database, and 262 in WorldCat.

(Otto Dix self-portrait, 1926, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Monday, November 25, 2013

Suffag* (for Suffrag*)

Sometimes a decimal really is the point; other times it looks like too much of a good thing. But when you're talking about women—demanding women, women who want the vote—it's probably best to refer to them in whole numbers and not as fractions. (If perhaps occasionally factions, such as "marchers" and "militants.") There's a sign I pass every day on my way to lunch that reads: "1,006.503 women in New York State ask you to vote for woman suffrage, Amendment No. 1, Nov. 6th." The sign is a picture of a banner used by the suffragists themselves (the actual banner resides in the New York State Museum) and the typo was made by the original designer, not the museum staff, though it still Rankins, I mean rankles. Over a million pissed-off, disenfranchised women are not to be sniffed at, regardless of their possibly casual disregard for misplaced commas and decimal points. Although not all New York women supported the suffrage issue, and not all men opposed it, this was a true battle of the sexes. The 19th amendment to the Constitution, granting women the right to vote, was ratified by New York State in 1919, forty-one years after Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton first drafted it. Our typo for today was found four times in OhioLINK, and 35 times in WorldCat.

(Picture of the picture of the 1917 women's suffrage banner, taken by myself, a "sister suffragette" in spirit.)

Carol Reid

Monday, November 18, 2013

Moralti* (for Morality, etc.)

Morality is obviously a major part of most religions, and in many a theological debate, the so-called "problem of evil" raises its ugly head. To wit, why must it exist at all? Or put a bit more poignantly: why do bad things happen to good people? Why isn't life fair? Perhaps we could also term this unfortunate fact the "inequity of iniquity" (or even the "immortality of immorality"). While it's often said that the poor will always be with us, so it seems will evil, which is live spelled backwards: wickedness has probably been around for as long as life itself. There's nothing really new under the sun, including those alliterative turns of phrase that felt almost original when they first occurred to me, but have turned up hundreds of times online. One poem found there contains the following line: "The damned inequity of iniquity dams me so I can't break free..." According to the "two-tree theory," the Garden of Eden encompassed both the Tree of Life and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. While there's considerable debate over what the latter one in particular signifies, I don't believe it's a proscription against knowledge, per se, so much as a caution against immorality. The way I see it, God didn't want us to not be librarians; he just wanted us to be good ones. Moralti* was found three times in OhioLINK, and 25 times in WorldCat.

(God the Father forbids Eve to pick the fruit from the tree of good and evil, marble bas-relief on the left pier of the façade of the cathedral in Orvieto, Italy, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Monday, November 11, 2013

Passtime* (for Pastime*)

"Don't you get enough cards by Schwiefka?" carps Eleanor Parker to a restive Frank Sinatra as he paces the floor flipping through a deck in Otto Preminger's The Man with the Golden Arm. "I just do it to kill the pastime, that's all..." he mutters. "What about my pastime?" she retorts. She wants to swim and dance and drink beer ("a little fun, a little anything!"), but since she's been confined to a wheelchair after a car accident caused by her drunken husband, her only real enjoyment seems to be guilt-tripping and confining him in return. Sinatra plays a recovering heroin addict, a fact that precluded the film from receiving a seal of approval by the Hollywood Production Code, but ultimately led to a loosening of that code's censorious standards. I won't spoil the plot for you, but I'm still wondering whether "kill the pastime" is a true example of "conflated idiom" (kill time + pastime) or if perhaps that was in fact a common phrasal variant during the 1950s. In any event, these kinds of usage vagaries, ephemeral slang, regionalisms, and so on are one reason I enjoy watching old movies so much. I just do it to kill two pastimes with one stone, that's all. I was intending to make today's typo Pasttime* but then I realized I did that one last year, so I decided to go with Passtime* instead. (Which is sort of a logical typo, actually, given that pastime is defined as something that makes "time pass" agreeably.) We were dealt six of these in OhioLINK, and 88 in WorldCat.

(Original theatrical release poster for the 1955 movie, The Man with the Golden Arm, by Saul Bass, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Monday, November 4, 2013

Rigth* (for Right*)

Rigth... Does that look right to you? And did you know that if you don't look right ahead, you might get left behind? I suspect I might be ever so slightly right-left dyslexic, but in any event, I've been known to display the annoying habit of saying to the person who's driving, "Turn right here!" while pointing left. When it comes to politics, many people think it's better to be on the left than the right, but in most other respects, right makes might. A mere ten percent of the population is left-handed, for example, which can make handling things for a southpaw a little bit tricky, or even costly if you have to buy special tools, appliances, etc. And then there's the way the language looks at it: positive-sounding words like adroit and dextrous come from the Latin for "right," whereas negative-sounding words like gauche and sinister derive from the French and Latin for "left." Right also evolved from the Old English word riht, and left from luft. We have unflattering phrases like "left-handed compliment," "two left feet," and "out in left field"—but with a name like right, it's assumed you probably are. There were 11 cases of right spelled wrong in OhioLINK today, and 859 in WorldCat.

(Right and Left, by Winslow Homer, 1909, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Monday, October 28, 2013

Chior (for Choir)

When I was a young Episcopalian, I sang in the junior choir, something I really enjoyed. Hymns, psalms, and other sacred things were pleasant enough to sing, and we all basically worshipped, as it were, our somewhat delicate and dedicated choir director, who was also a very talented composer and musician. We would try and get there early on Sundays, but more likely be late and have to hurry down the broad stone steps to the rehearsal room in the church basement, where we would hurriedly don these long rustling robes and white pinafores, plucked from among a scattered pile of leftovers pulled out of the closet. (The Episcopal Church is rather like the Catholic one, albeit with a little less in the costume department; the billowing black and white outfit made me feel a bit like a nun or a wizard of sorts, or perhaps a Parisian painter in an oversized smock. Or more to the point, I guess, like one of the little angels we were all supposed to be.) We would line up quietly, holding our songbooks out in front of us, and snake our way around the cavernous nave, past the parishioner-filled pews, and finally up into the chancel itself. Closer to the altar and communion rail, closer to the towering pipe organ, the wavering candlelight and wafting incense, and the thrilling voices of the grown-up chorus. Closer, it seemed, to God Himself. After the service was over, we would stream out in another solemn processional, change back into little kids in our Sunday best, and join the throng in the large meeting hall, where we were blessed with what I could swear on a stack of Bibles are still the most delicious deep-fried plain and powdered-sugar jelly donuts I've ever known. Washed down with a perfect steaming cup of creamy hot chocolate. Bon appétit and amen, brother! Chior (for choir) was found seven times in OhioLINK, and 118 times in WorldCat.

(Springfield in Wartime: Everyday Life in An Essex Village, August 1941, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Monday, October 21, 2013

Anthropolgy (for Anthropology)

In what is assuredly one of the campiest films ever made, a 1970 "sci-fi monster movie of sorts" called Trog, Joan Crawford (both motherly and matronly, but not yet "Mommie Dearest" to the moviegoing public) plays house with a troglodyte. Crawford is Dr. Brockton, a British anthropologist who discovers, photographs, and eventually subdues with a dart gun, an ancient, recently thawed-out humanoid with a "Planet of the Apes"-type face and long flowing hair. Apart from the lone-surviving, Ice-Age relic living in a cave angle, Trog bears a remarkable similarity to Bigfoot: he's hairy and simian, eats small prey like fish and lizards, throws rocks when required to, and uses complex language to communicate. In one especially odd scene, Dr. Brockton and her daughter teach the creature how to express love as well as ideas by means of a walking baby doll. Issues like whether the "monster" is actually an undergraduate hoax, or alternately, should be hunted down and killed, are also reminiscent of current cultural debates around this topic. Anthropology has much to say about mankind's past, present, and future, and all of the many stages and "links" along the way. You can help improve bibliographical access to anthropological works by making sure that typos for this word (and all of its variant forms) are spelled correctly in your catalog. We found 16 cases of Anthropolgy in OhioLINK, and 226 in WorldCat.

(TV screenshot from Trog, taken by the author.)

Carol Reid

Monday, October 14, 2013

Sincerly (for Sincerely)

It's a sin to tell a lie (or 'twas, anyway; it seems a bit less so nowadays, especially if followed up by a public apology of some sort), but poor spelling has never been more than a minor peccadillo. Someone advised me the other day that we're living in a "post-spelling age," which may very well be true; sadly, I think the same might be said of good manners. "Dear Sir," we used to sexistly, if politely, start off our business correspondence—which would then conclude with the de rigueur sign-off "Sincerely yours." It wouldn't have been a sin, surely, but certainly cause for chagrin, if we had written instead Sincerly. Even back in the "good old days," I think I must have been nostalgic for even better ones (or better yet, British ones) when I fell for Sidney Poitier and Lulu in the 1967 classic To Sir, with Love. I'm being completely sincere when I say that there were six examples of today's typo in OhioLINK, and 52 in WorldCat. Will you come up empty in your own catalog? It's possible, I guess, but in another "conflated idiom" (or something rather like that), which was sent to me recently by a friend: "I severely doubt it."

(Movie poster for To Sir, with Love, courtesy of Wikipedia.)

Carol Reid

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

Monday, September 30, 2013

Identy, Identiy (for Identity, Identify)

Rah rah "cis" boom bah! The word cis has entered the LGBTQLFTSQIA (as Dan Savage would put it) lexicon. It refers to people whose biologically assigned gender (i.e., male or female) more or less lines up with the way they actually see themselves. It's the opposite of trans (as in transsexual or transgender). Although the letter C will not be joining the current "alphabet soup" of alternative gender identities that evolved from the 1970s "gay rights" movement, one can certainly be both cis and gay. You could say that "my sis is cis, but my bro is no," for example, without revealing anything about their sexual orientations per se. You don't have to identify your own identity right here and now, but anyone who's a cataloger should home in on today's typos and reassign them a proper spelling. There were four cases of Identy in OhioLINK, and 269 in WorldCat. Identiy was found 18 times in the former and 231 times in the latter.

(Polish cheerleaders, 19 February 2009, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Monday, September 23, 2013

Metphor* (for Metaphor*)

I wrote about "conflated idioms" a couple weeks ago; some of these are what's commonly known as "mixed metaphors," while others aren't. One of my favorite metaphorical mix-ups is one that occurred between a friend of mine and his dentist. At some point during a recent visit, the dentist told him that he was "sharp as a cookie." The receptionist then gently corrected him: "It's sharp as a tack." They all laughed at that, but were sort of puzzled: where do cookies come into it? Until they remembered a similar saying: "You're one sharp cookie." Which has nothing to do with actual cookies being sharp (one also sometimes hears "one smart cookie" and "one tough cookie"), but rather comes from the fact that "cookie" is an old-timey, affectionate slang term for pretty much anybody you might feel like calling that. One commenter compared it to "toots." My friend, his dentist, and the receptionist all chalked their confusion up to the fact that it was noontime and none of them had had their lunch yet. Metphor* (for metaphor*) is a "low probability" typo on the Ballard list, with three cases in OhioLINK, and 34 in WorldCat.

(Coconut fortune cookies, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Monday, September 16, 2013

Deptart* (for Depart*)

Under the new cataloging standard known as RDA, it seems we are now supposed to write out many of the words we used to abbreviate: for example, Department instead of Dept. DEP can stand for quite a number of things, one of which is "Department of Environmental Protection." And one way to protect both your internal and external environment might be to plant and eat more blueberries (high in antioxidants) or just more berries in general (they're all really good for you!) The word tart derives from tarte, torte, or torta, all having to do with baked goods of one sort or another. It can also be used to describe something sour, as well as a "prostitute" or "immoral woman." I'm unsure whether I found it reassuring, or not, with regard to the latter meaning, to learn that tart is "sometimes said to be a shortening of sweetheart." Speaking of shortening, sweetie-pie, don't depart for the day without cutting yourself a nice big slice of typo tart. There were 76 pieces of Deptart* in OhioLINK, and "too many records found for your search" in WorldCat.

(A blueberry tart, 31 May 2009, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Monday, September 9, 2013

Photograpy, Photograpi* (for Photography, Photographi*)

Today in 1839, England's Sir John Herschel created the first photographic glass-plate negative. He even coined the word photography from the Greek for "drawing with light" (unaware that Hércules Florence had come up with the French word photographie several years earlier). Besides being an experimental photographer, as well as an inventor, Herschel was also a mathematician, an astronomer, and a chemist. He was into things like color blindness and ultraviolet rays. A sampling of his many accomplishments includes the following: he originated the "Julian Day" system for use by astronomers; he named seven moons of Saturn and four moons of Uranus; he designed a "practical contact lens" in 1823; he wrote "A preliminary discourse on the study of natural philosophy" as part of Dionysius Lardner's Cabinet Cyclopædia (an effort that inspired Charles Darwin with a "burning zeal" to also make a contribution); he won many prestigious medals, awards, and accolades; he published a compilation of his own and his father's works called A General Catalogue of Nebulae and Clusters; and, oh yeah, in his spare time, he fathered twelve children. He was a scientific superstar. In 1834, after he and his wife Margaret had traveled to South Africa for reasons astral, Herschel suddenly found himself looking the other way—and stopping to smell the flowers. Happily out of the spotlight for a few years, Herschel photographed Cape Town's plant life with a camera lucida, while Margaret filled in the details. Together they produced 131 highly regarded botanical drawings, many of which were collected and published in 1996 as Flora Herscheliana. John Herschel once wrote: "Words are to the Anthropologist what rolled pebbles are to the Geologist—battered relics of past ages often containing within them indelible records capable of intelligent interpretation..." With that image in mind, please attend to the proper spelling of these photographic words, typos for which were discovered 43 (plus nine) times in OhioLINK and 295 (+ 364) times in WorldCat.

(Sir John Herschel, by Julia Margaret Cameron, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Monday, September 2, 2013

Touble* (for Trouble*)

In the musical words of Stephen Foster: "'Tis a sigh that is wafted across the troubled wave / 'Tis a wail that is heard upon the shore / 'Tis a dirge that is murmured around the lowly grave / Oh! Hard Times come again no more..." If hardship can mean trouble, then can hard times lead to "troubleship"? I love unintended neologisms like that one, which I heard somebody say on TV the other night: "We have enough troubleship with social media right now..." Such solecisms seem to me more fanciful than troubling, really, and not all that hard to parse. I've dubbed these semantical mash-ups and mix-ups "conflated idioms" and, not to go looking for trouble, but I have started keeping a little list, which currently includes the following: to churn (i.e., turn) one's stomach (actually, some say these two are synonymous, while others say only the contents of one's stomach churn, while things outside the stomach turn it); to pan (palm? hand? pawn?) something off; to pony over (pony up/fork over); to rake up (i.e., rake in/shore up?); "that was the crutch of their case" (crux/using something as a crutch); "I think I hit a fine tooth there" (hit a nerve/teeth have nerves/a fine-tooth comb?); "vanished into thin blue air" (this one could be legit, but to me it seems like it should be either vanished into thin air, or out of the blue); "You're trying to pull one over on me" (put one over on me/pull the wool over my eyes); "the two families were quick friends" (the speaker said they had made friends quickly, then referred to them as "fast friends"); to toy around with (toy with/play around with), etc., etc. Bubble, bubble, toil, and touble*! There were 16 cases of our typo here making trouble in OhioLINK, and 196 in WorldCat.

(Ships in Distress in a Heavy Storm, also known as The man-of-war 'Ridderschap' and 'Hollandia' on the rocks during a storm in the Strait of Gibraltar, by Ludolf Bakhuizen, circa 1690, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Monday, August 26, 2013

Chld* (for Child*)

An early scene in the Depression-era film Child Bride shows a young schoolteacher in the Ozarks quizzing her pupils on their homework. A one-room, ragtag assemblage of Appalachian children, even their spelling mistakes leave a lot to be desired: "binh" and "banbhish" for banish, "cataloqe" for catalogue, "motian" for mountain, "milkging" for milking. These kids have a lot on their minds besides getting an education, as do the makers of this so-called "educational" film, who state their intentions clearly at the outset: "Here is a page from the Book of Life ... The characters are real people who live deep in the heart of Thunderhead Mountain. In dramatizing life among these 'back yonder' folks, we aim neither to ridicule nor to defend their mode of living ... and if our story will help to abolish Child Marriage, it will have served its purpose..." The film was denied a "certificate of approval" by the Hays Production Code due to both its supposedly immoral subject matter and a nude swimming sequence involving twelve-year-old actress Shirley Mills (also known for playing Ruthie Joad in The Grapes of Wrath). It was distributed independently of the Hollywood system, but was still banned in many areas across the country. Some critics have called the swimming footage gratuitous and even exploitative, a cynical choice that works to undercut the movie's very theme, but I think it effectively serves two purposes. It allows the girl's lecherous hillbilly wannabe-husband to peep at her in various stages of undress, and it demonstrates an innocent, age-appropriate summer activity for the prepubescent Jennie and sweetheart Freddie, in clear contrast to the ugly "child bride" scenario waiting in the wings. While most of this film is really pretty bad, I was blown away by the scene in which Jennie's actual "old man" threatens her mother, forbids her to see Freddie, tries to bribe her with a store-bought baby doll, and plants a less than toothsome kiss on her literally pouting lips. The moment in which she tells the guy that she'll "try" and be good, and then dashes the doll to the ground as he retreats, redeemed the entire film for me. There were 37 hits on Chld* (for child*) in OhioLINK, and "too many records found for your search" in WorldCat.

(Jennie Colton, played by Shirley Mills, in a still from Child Bride's infamous skinny dipping scene, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Monday, August 19, 2013

Greatful* (for Grateful*)

The Grateful Dead was a really great band, whose jamming would never grate on any of its fans. Some of whom could often be seen standing outside a concert, hopefully waiting for a "miracle" (i.e., a last-minute ticket to a sold-out show). Truthfully, I've never been on either side of the Dead divide, but I was in a new location for an old pizza place the other night when I spotted this slight syntactical error emblazoned on a tip jar: "Donations of any amount are graciously accepted." While I'm not doubting that these guys would be gracious under almost any working conditions, I'm pretty sure the word they meant to use there was gratefully. Today's typo was found seven times in OhioLINK, and 276 times in WorldCat. (The sort of finding I'm always grateful for, though perhaps not always gracious about.)

P.S. A friend, who admires both the Grateful Dead and former Fairport Convention-eer Richard Thompson, tells me that the latter, during a recent gig in Albany, took a longish minute to tune his guitar, murmuring, "I hope it's worth it..." When he finished playing the song, someone in the audience yelled out, "So was it worth it?" Thompson took a beat and then replied: "That's not for me to say, really." (Gracious, if not entirely grateful.)

(John Perry Barlow, erstwhile lyricist for the Grateful Dead, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Monday, August 12, 2013

Welll* (for Well*)

Well, well, well. Literary lesbian icon Radclyffe Hall was born Marguerite Radclyffe-Hall on August 12, 1880. Hall is best known for her book The Well of Loneliness, which was published in England in 1928. Both book and author were openly gay and The Well was soon seized by the Home Office and charged with indecency. Virginia Woolf didn't much care for the groundbreaking work ("The dullness of the book is such that any indecency may lurk there—one simply can't keep one's eyes on the page"), but was quite willing to join Hall in a campaign to awaken "the conspiracy of silence" around lesbianism, and defeat censorship "on behalf of English literature." Many in the Bloomsbury set were not, however. "Most of our friends are trying to evade the witness box," Woolf wrote her nephew Quentin Bell, "for reasons you may guess. But they generally put it down to the weak heart of a father, or a cousin who is about to have twins." In the end, the judge banned the book and it stayed banned for the next two decades. 1928 also saw the publication of four other "lesbian novels": Elizabeth Bowen's The Hotel, Virginia Woolf's Orlando, Compton Mackenzie's Extraordinary Women, and the comic roman à clef Ladies Almanack by Djuna Barnes. Radclyffe Hall and her longtime lover, the sculptor Una Troubridge, described themselves as "congenital inverts" (the technical term back then for lesbians and gay men) and lived together for twenty-five years, until Hall's death in 1943. The Well of Loneliness might not be great literature, gay or otherwise, but it is great history. There were nine cases of Welll* (for well*) in OhioLINK, and 293 in WorldCat.

(Paperback book cover of The Well of Loneliness, Falcon Press, 1951, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Monday, August 5, 2013

Cordinat* (for Coordinat*)

My father used to sell firewood harvested from trees he had cut down while clearing lots. This was long before people owned answering machines, or had more than one telephone number, much less websites set up for small businesses. Instead of just saying "Hello?" we were all supposed to answer the phone by chirping, "Reid's Firewood Service. Fifty dollars a cord, twenty-five dollars a face cord!" We were like the in-house cord coordinators. A cord is a unit of measure for wood that, when "ranked and well stowed" (arranged so the pieces are aligned, parallel, touching, and compact), occupies a volume of 128 cubic feet, according to Wikipedia. A face cord is about a third the volume of a full cord, and is also known as a "rick of wood" in the Midwest. The word cord probably derives from the cord or string that is used to measure it. We cordoned off 12 cases of Cordinat* in OhioLINK today, and 563 in WorldCat.

(A full cord of wood, 8 August 2009, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Monday, July 29, 2013

Wheather* (for Whether* or Weather*)

I was once lucky enough to get a word in a spelling bee that I had actually just seen on a study list, and therefore was able to get right. The word was bellwether, a rather nice-sounding word, in fact, that means "any entity in a given arena that serves to create or influence trends or to presage future happenings." (In this case, the word bellwether was wonderfully behaving as an example of its own meaning, and if there's a word for that, I'd love to know what it is.) According to Wikipedia, it derives from the practice of placing a bell around the neck of a castrated ram (or wether) leading his flock of sheep: "The movements of the flock could be noted by hearing the bell before the flock was in sight." Whether it's sheep that you're raising or wheat bread that's rising, it always helps to plan ahead. We encountered a little weather around today's typo, which was detected twice in OhioLINK, and 286 times in WorldCat.

(The Wheat Sifters, by Gustave Courbet, 1855, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Monday, July 22, 2013

Appox* (for Approx*)

Today is a good day for cutting things off. Whereas March 14 is the official "Pi Day" (314 being the first three digits in the never-ending number known as pi), it appears that July 22 is "Pi Approximation Day," since the fraction 22/7 is commonly considered close enough. You might dream of owning two homes, but one with pi as the street address would be a real nightmare ... a pox, so to say, on both your houses! And speaking of houses, here's a little circumference joke for you, which brought down the house recently when my nephew told it to us. It's from a book containing egregiously absurd examples of metaphor and analogy in high school essays and it goes like this: "Sir Francis Drake circumcised the world with a 100-foot clipper." You could clip approximately 100 feet off of pi and still have a long way to go. There were four cases of today's typo discovered in OhioLINK, and 291 in WorldCat.

("Thousand digits of pi," red numerals on a graduated grey background, 19 March 2012, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Monday, July 15, 2013

Illnois* (for Illinois*)

A scandal at the Urbana Free Library in Illinois has resulted in the ouster of its director after it was revealed that over 9,000 nonfiction books had been weeded from the collection in less than a week's time. Two hundred and fifty-nine boxes of books were later retrieved from the retailer where they had been sent after a protest was lodged by the library's board and patrons, although it wasn't clear exactly how many items that included. Out of sight, out of mind, I guess, but lemme do the math for ya. That's one book identified, rejected, pulled from the shelf, and boxed up approximately once every ten seconds. It's hard to imagine how that many titles could even be blindly crossed off a list, or randomly selected for deletion, in such a short amount of time, much less by using "normal professional judgment," something the discarded library director later suggested her pressured staff should have been employing. Maybe someone should suspend normal profession judgment and create a GIF of a wild-eyed librarian frantically defenestrating books, over a banner reading: "9,600 books thrown out of the UFL in just 4 days!" Shades of SNL's Linda Richman, one Urbana resident observed that the library's strategic plan was "neither strategic nor planned." This particular weeding crisis ended relatively happily, but not all of them do. For a true cautionary tale, I recommend checking out "The Author vs. the Library" by Nicholson Baker, which is about the building of the San Francisco New Main Library, and was published in the New Yorker on October 14, 1996. To illustrate the thorny issue of "weeding," I chose the one pictured here out of a great many featured, free for the picking, on Wikimedia Commons, for several reasons: firstly, because it's one of the most commonly known weeds in the world; secondly, because its Latin name (Taraxacum officinale) sounds like a mash-up of Taxpayers and Officials, both of which effectively came together to respond to this back-door book-booting brouhaha; and thirdly, because the word dandelion always puts me in mind of Patience and Fortitude, the two big dapper cats guarding the New York Public Library, which houses a very large collection of books and certainly isn't above a few scandals of its own. We found 20 examples of Illnois* in OhioLINK today, and 307 in WorldCat.

(Smetánka lékařská - zralá semena, by Jakub Kolář, 11.5.2008, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Monday, July 8, 2013

Dicuss* (for Discuss*)

In the erstwhile SNL sketch "Coffee Talk with Linda Richman," comedian Mike Myers was satirizing his own real-life mother-in-law. According to Wikipedia: "Whenever Richman would get upset, she would put her hand on her chest and say 'I'm all verklempt.' Then she would say, 'Talk amongst yourselves,' sometimes waving her hand in a dismissive gesture toward the audience." She would helpfully add, "I'll give you a topic," which would follow the format: "[Two- or three-part phrase] is neither [first part], nor [second part], nor [third part]). Discuss." Barbra Streisand, whom Myers had often called the greatest actress of all time ("like buttah"), re-spoofed this spoof at a 1993 New Year's Eve concert by stating: "The Prince of Tides is neither about a prince nor tides—discuss." Another famous quotation on discussion (although definitive authorship is lacking) goes like this: "Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people." The saying is generally attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt, but frankly, it's hard to imagine such a passionate, outspoken, compassionate, and outgoing person entirely eschewing the topic of others. Besides, in another epigrammatic piece of advice, she says, "Think as much as possible about other people." Perhaps ER's unfaithful spouse, as well as her own same-sex leanings, had led the First Lady to develop an outsize loathing (or well-founded apprehension) of "gossip." Browsing the web for a bit more discussion of this, I found a lot to both agree and disagree with. But I also found myself nodding at certain lines like these: "I've always thought of it as pretentious navel-gazing, personally. It's the sort of thing that only the kind of people who fancy themselves in the first category would say ... Most of the people I've met who claim to have something along the lines of a 'great mind' are slightly above average at best. The ones I know who truly do have incredibly powerful minds, though, don't bother with insulting other people's intellect with sideways comments like this ... I know plenty of people who will discuss all of their big ideas with you and will also likely never leave their mom's basement ... I'm surrounded by people I find endlessly fascinating and brilliant and the only thing they all have in common is that they'd all scoff at this statement..." And last but not least: "I like another Roosevelt quote on the subject: 'If you haven't got anything nice to say about anybody come sit next to me'― Alice Roosevelt Longworth." To my mind, it's obvious that people, ideas, and events are inextricably linked and far from mutually exclusive, but I suppose if I really had to choose, I too might pick people. A 2012 essay in the Paris Review makes a very good case for gossip, the word for which supposedly derives from either "god-sibling" or "go sip," which are both rather lovely, people-centric theories. I'm not exactly sure what or whom I'm discussing when I say there were 73 cases of today's typo in OhioLINK, and "too many records found for your search" in WorldCat. But instead of cussing the causes of our deteriorating databases, come sit next to me and we'll all get "catty" with it!

(Portrait of Alice Roosevelt Longworth, Teddy Roosevelt's eldest daughter, uploaded 19 February 2006, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Monday, July 1, 2013

Patteren* (for Pattern*)

This fantastically prehistoric-looking cross between a broccoli and a cauliflower caught my wandering eye in the produce section the other day. It sort of resembles the succulents you plant in a rock garden and it goes by the enticing Italian name of Romanesco. I haven't tried it yet, but Wikipedia says that "when compared to a traditional cauliflower ... its texture is far more crunchy, and its flavour is not as assertive, being delicate and nutty." According to Gardening Know How, Romanesco's "neon green color is unearthly" and at first it "appears to be from Mars." But the most fascinating detail here may be the fact that "its form is a natural approximation of a fractal" and the number of spirals on its head a Fibonacci number. What that actually means is hard for a non-science geek like me to explain, but I do know it has something to do with naturally occurring patterns in the world, prompting some people to cite it as proof of "intelligent design." This gorgeously green vegetable shares that feature with a pineapple, an artichoke, a fern, and a pine cone. (Almost like the set-up to a joke: A priest, a rabbi, a pineapple, and a pine cone walk into a fern bar, wondering about the meaning of life...) Speaking of number patterns, there were three cases of today's typo found in OhioLINK, and 141 in WorldCat.

(Photo of "brocciflower, posted 23 October 2006, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Monday, June 24, 2013

Slence*, Slience*, Slent, Slient (for Silence or Silent)

I have actually heard two different iterations of the following theme or "joke" recently: What do men want most from a woman? Sex, food, and silence. This is one of those funny cuz it's true, sorta, kinda things, I think. People tend to make light or sport of stuff that they really do feel, and perhaps even feel guilty about. But what those long-suffering listeners often fail to understand is that it's just as uncomfortable on the other side of the divide: the laconic are as hard to bear for the loquacious as the loquacious are for the laconic. I guess silence can slice both ways here, and it often speaks louder than words. For example, it's chilling when the Wizard of Oz cries "Silence!" while Dorothy and company are quaking in their boots, but on a chilly Christmas Eve I've always loved warbling "Silent Night" into the stille nacht air. As Simon and Garfunkle once put it: "The words of the prophets are written on the subway walls, and tenement halls. And echo in the sounds of silence..." Slence* and Slent show up one time apiece in the OhioLINK database, and eight or nine times each in WorldCat (a few being proper Russian names), whereas Slience* and Slient were each found a few times in OhioLINK, and 42/44 times in WorldCat.

(The Silence Between, oil on canvas, by Peter McArdle, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Monday, June 17, 2013

Improtan* (for Importan*)

I wanted to make today's typo Improt* (for words like import or important, etc.), but when I went to go and search for it, I found I was getting far too many hits on the Italian surname Improta. (All four entries for Improta in Wikipedia are for Italian soccer players, three of whom are brothers.) So I'll leave it up to you: you can start out with Improt* and then, if you like, move on to narrower searches like Improt, Improts, Improting, and Improted. Although frankly, I didn't have a lot of luck with any of those—your best bet is probably Improtan*. I'm not sure whether Italian "football" fans are as rowdy as some of the sport's other so-called hooligans, but I did get a chuckle out of the misprint appearing above this image of a soccer jacket: "31 inches long on the back, just bellow the collar." Improt* (like a bellowing collar) turned up 27 times in OhioLINK (twelve of which were for the last name Improta), and 704 times in WorldCat. We also got fourteen hits on Improtan* in the former database, and 315 in the latter. Score!

(Italian soccer jacket, 30 May 2008, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Monday, June 10, 2013

Thnk* (for Think*, Thank*)

Although all of us think (and therefore all of us are), virtually none of us really understand or completely agree with the ways in which other people think. Three movie quotes that I like speak comically to this conundrum, so I thought I would pass them along. There's George Sanders to Marilyn Monroe in All About Eve ("You've got a point. An idiotic one, but a point"); Frances Dee to William Holden in Meet the Stewarts ("Oh darling, you're so mental-minded"); and one women's prison inmate ("I was just thinking...") to another one ("Quit bragging!") in Caged. Perhaps the most important thing to think of in the word think is the letter I, the very one that's missing from our typo for the day. After all, much of what we "think" is just a matter of opinion, one that may or may not be shared by others. As a bumper sticker I once saw rather ingeniously put it: "Don't believe everything you think." There were eight examples of Thnk* (for Think* or Thank*) in OhioLINK this morning (half of which were actual typos and half of which weren't), and 212 in WorldCat. You can thank me later, if you think of it.

(The Thinker, 1918, by William Orpen, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Monday, June 3, 2013

Lenght* (for Length*)

"How long do men's peanuseas grow?" wonders a young boy (presumably a boy, that is, but not necessarily, I guess, and on shocking-pink paper for what it's worth) in what Buzzfeed calls "the cutest spelling of 'penises' ever." Well, let's see. Longer than a peanut? How about long enough to pee in the sea (a sort of kinky variant on the children's classic The Five Chinese Brothers)? Or what about as long as this little exercise in DIY phonetics can possibly make them? It's almost like the longer the kid thought about it, the longer the word itself became. (Sort of like autological words and heterological ones, something I was just reading about in a book called Plato and a Platypus Walk into a Bar). And not to go on at too great length here or anything, but come on, man! If that isn't one of the funniest typos you've seen in a long long time, then perhaps you've grown a little too hardened to the frustrating if often delightful romp that is Anglo-American spelling. But getting back to those five Chinese brothers (who were capable of all sorts of magical thinking when it came to their own masculine physiques), this one was one of my favorite books growing up, so I was stunned to discover, back in 1990s, that it had been wilfully vilified by assorted and sundry book banners and self-appointed "diversity" czars. Pulled or replaced (with a newer version entitled The Seven Chinese Brothers) by some librarians, the original was derided and called racist, despite its having been characterized in 1938 by the New York Public Library as a "dramatic retelling of an old Chinese tale which Mr. Kurt Wiese has turned into a picture book as amusing as it is Chinese in character." (Wiese apparently loved China and wrote close to a dozen other children's books about that land and culture.) The newer version (colloquially known in library circles as "the p.c. Five Chinese Brothers") was reviewed in the New York Times by an editor of Parenting magazine, who approvingly described it as "spruced up and destereotyped" and snidely dismissed the original as "amazingly durable" and "marred, for modern eyes, by Kurt Wiese's yellowface caricatures." She even cast the moral of that fatally flawed folk tale in a thoroughly modern light: "Apparently you can get away with murder (or at least childslaughter) if your family's willing to back you up." Truthfully, though, I have nothing against the second book per se and credit our local public library for carrying both titles. But I can't escape the uneasy suspicion that the latter was conceived specifically in order to unseat the former, and to do so in a way that would seem to circumvent the sin of censorship through the familiar adage "The answer to bad speech is more speech." I just hate the assumption that old speech is necessarily bad speech, or that any generalized, unrevised, or minimalist rendering from the past is now "offensive" and needs to be suppressed. Which is to say that I don't object to the second book itself nearly as much as I do the invidious comparisons with its predecessor, or the whitewashing of "weeding" when it ensues in the wake of patron complaints. Anyway, I'll quit complaining now myself, and simply add that there were 31 cases of Lenght* found in OhioLINK, and "too many records found for your search" in WorldCat.

(The Five Chinese Brothers, courtesy of Wikipedia.)

Carol Reid

Monday, May 27, 2013

Facsis* (for Fascis*)

"Betcha didn't know George Washington was a fascist, did you?" joked a friend of mine last week as he showed me this photo he had taken of a statue situated between the New York State Capitol and the Alfred E. Smith Building here in Albany. He then explained that the bundle of sticks at Washington's side is known as fasces, a term that ultimately gave rise to the word fascism. This ancient Roman symbol of authority and justice was apparently hijacked by Mussolini in much the same way as the Hindu "swastika" was by Hitler, and in fact had appeared on the U.S. dime well before Il Duce got his grubby little hands on it. Ironically enough, later on that same day I voted for Not-the-Nazi (as some folks were calling him) in a local election for library board. His eminently beatable opponent had been spotted posing in front of a fascist flag and spouting bigoted drivel on YouTube and Facebook, though even apart from those dubious credentials, the guy never would have stood a chance: his campaign statement on the library's website capitalized the first letter of every word (including A and The) and deployed punctuation in the most completely random way imaginable. But still. How often do you get the chance to vote against a self-proclaimed fascist? (Note that had he chosen to include this juicy tidbit in his statement, he would have upper-cased the word, making his proclivities look all the more literal.) In another bit of irony, fasces, sort of loosely defined as a bundle or band, tied me up one time in a local pub's spelling bee. Fascist and fascism can be slightly tricky words to spell, but other than that, this matter's a no-brainer. Let's keep typos for these words out of our library catalogs—and wackos with these wonts off our library boards. Facsis* was found three times in OhioLINK, and 103 times in WorldCat.

(Picture of the Washington statue in Albany, New York.)

Carol Reid

Monday, May 20, 2013

Speee* (for Speed*, etc.)

Have you ever seen that Trojans commercial called "The New Apartment" in which a female singer can be heard in the background softly crooning the Elvis Presley classic "All Shook Up"? All shook up, that is, and all slowed down. As a matter of fact—and apart from the fact that anything in the erotic realm that encourages people to slow down and take their time is to be highly recommended—somehow it seems like the exact right tempo at which to sing this song. It's only a short clip, and they wisely decided to leave out the cryptic lyric "I'm itching like a man on a fuzzy tree," which when you stop to think about it probably isn't the best imagery to employ in an ad about lovemaking. A friend thinks it might be a reference to Spanish moss, but others have suggested a rose tree or a peach tree. Regardless, it's really a rather haunting rendition and I'm happy to have heard it, albeit in a condoms commercial. So who do you thank when you have such luck? The singer, it turns out, is a young woman named Eva Avila, who enjoyed a speedy rise to fame after winning the fourth season of Canadian Idol in 2006. (Just "hours after her victory," she signed with a major record label.) At any rate, don't rush through today's typo, which was found five times in OhioLINK and 115 times in WorldCat.

(The Lovers Tango, La Boca, Argentina, 4 October 2009, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Monday, May 13, 2013

Salvadore Dali (for Salvador Dali)

Friday marked the birthday of surrealist painter and all-around eccentric Salvador Dali, who was born in Figueres, in the Catalonia region of Spain, on May 11, 1904. Catalonia (rather like Dali himself, whose given name was Salvador Domingo Felipe Jacinto Dalí i Domènech, 1st Marqués de Dalí de Pubol, though he claimed he was descended from Moors) has an interesting if somewhat confounding etymology, with various theories as to the word's meaning, ranging from "Land of the Goths" to the fact that it has so many castles. Dali, who thanked his "Arab" ancestors for his animating "love of everything that is gilded and excessive," was an accomplished sculptor, filmmaker, and photographer. However, he was probably best known for his various antics, provocations, and overall outré demeanor. He kind of reminds me of John Waters, and I guess I'm not the only one. Apparently, the Salvador Dali Museum resides in St. Petersburg, Florida, so check it out the next time you're at a convention or on spring break—or just taking a break from social convention. There were four misspellings of Dali's first name in OhioLINK, and 101 in WorldCat.

(Portrait of Dali by Carl Van Vechten, 29 November 1939, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Monday, May 6, 2013

Converstation* (for Conversation*)

They say communication is the key to a successful relationship, but let's be honest now (pretend you're under oath): many people (I'm talking to you, guys!) don't always like to do this all the time. For that reason, it might be a good idea to have certain rules and boundaries in place in order to govern both the mundane chitchat and the inevitable arguing. And maybe even a special place in which to do all that—a "converstation" (if you will). I confess I'm somewhat partial to judge shows and find myself rather entranced by the pixie-ish Lynn Toler, the current diva of daytime TV's Divorce Court. She's funny and fierce, and can rock a chunky-looking necklace or Wilma Flintstone-style choker better than anyone I've ever seen (although she says she has sensitive skin and only dons the jewelry under duress). Maybe it's the stark contrast with the black judicial robes, sort of like a Muslim in a burqa with designer sunglasses or fashion stilettos on. I almost feel like tuning in just to see what she's wearing, if not underneath, then just above that unvarying attire. But there's so much more to her than that. The other day she was commiserating with a man whose irritating wife had left him for another woman, and then tried to sue him for some confabulated prior abuse. He mentioned "conversing" with his ex, whereupon the judge interrupted him to say: "Thank you for not calling it conversating. I really appreciate that!" Lynn Toler has a lot of empathy for women who suffer at the hands of abusive men, but she is just as unstinting in reverse if she thinks the woman is at fault. She often talks about her own difficult childhood in Columbus, Ohio, and claims to have had her "first nervous breakdown" at the tender age of ten or so. In 2007, she published the book My Mother's Rules: A Practical Guide to Becoming an Emotional Genius. Choosing wisely what to say—and how, when, and why to say it—is very important. But let's also not underestimate where. It never hurts to be comfortable in these scenarios, no matter what one's station is in life. As one fan noted on the judge's blog: "The chair behind you looks comfy enough for a nap!" Judge Toler has got a knack for putting both of her litigants at ease, often facilitating constructive conversation in the courtroom, and hopefully later on between the sparring spouses. There were seven cases of today's typo in OhioLINK, and 101 in WorldCat.

(Exhibit A, your Honor, taken of my own TV screen.)

Carol Reid

Monday, April 29, 2013

Jelous* (for Jealous*)

Do you admire (or possibly even resent) people who know the difference between jealousy and envy? It's a real stickler for many of us. Even the thesaurus seems to be reaching a bit to come up with synonyms for these two somewhat jaded cognates. Under the word jealous it gives us: "anxious, apprehensive, attentive, begrudging, covetous, demanding, doubting, emulous, envious, envying, grabby, grasping, green-eyed, grudging, guarded, intolerant, invidious, jaundiced, mistrustful, monopolizing, possessive, possessory, protective, questioning, resentful, rival, skeptical, solicitous, suspicious, vigilant, watchful, [and] zealous." (Whew. That certainly covers a lot of ground. A bit like a gumshoe hired by a jealous spouse.) Under envious, we've got "appetent, aspiring, begrudging, coveting, covetous, craving, desiring, desirous, distrustful, fain, grasping, greedy, green with envy, green-eyed, grudging, hankering, invidious, jaundiced, longing for, malicious, spiteful, suspicious, umbrageous, watchful, wishful, [and] yearning." I thought emulous, fain, and umbrageous were especially nice touches. According to the always helpful Grammar Girl, whose grasp of the un-obvious often makes me envious: "Some sources say 'jealous' is supposed to be limited to resentful emotional rivalries (often romantic) with another person, whereas 'envious' can expand to cover desiring or coveting objects or accomplishments gained by another person." Another expert puts it a tad more plainly: "Although these are often treated as synonyms, there is a difference. You are envious of what others have that you lack. Jealousy, on the other hand, involves wanting to hold on to what you do have. You can be jealous of your boyfriend's attraction to other women, but you're envious of your boyfriend's CD collection." Perhaps a bit harder to explain is what looks like a sudden cultural meme of sorts regarding one of the classically disreputable "Seven Deadly Sins." (It calls to mind the old boast "Greed is good" from the 1980s, as well as the overall overuse of the word "pride" to describe one's status as a member of a disenfranchised minority group.) The other day, I came across three rather striking examples of this emerging trend: the new GM car, the EN-V; something called "Massage Envy" (a possible Mother's Day destination); and "Storenvy," described as a sort of online "store builder and marketplace in one." It looks as though envy may finally be getting the facelift it's always wanted. (Lust hasn't been quite the same since Jimmy Carter had it in his heart; gluttony is hanging on by its fat greasy fingertips; and I myself am patiently waiting for a movement for those of us who actually hate to move, otherwise known as "sloths.") To err is human, as they often say, but it would be a sin to ignore this typo of the day, which occurs five times in OhioLINK, and 31 times in WorldCat.

("Green with Envy," 15 September 2009, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Monday, April 22, 2013

Nabakov*, Nobokov* (for Nabokov*)

Vladimir Nabokov was born in Saint Petersburg, Russia, at the fin de siecle, on or about April 22, 1899. The true date of his birth is somewhat debatable due to a "misunderstanding [of] the relationship between the Julian and Gregorian calendars." According to Wikipedia: "In his memoirs Speak, Memory, Nabokov indicates that 22 April was the correct date, but that he nevertheless preferred to celebrate his birthday 'with diminishing pomp' on 23 April. As he happily pointed out on several occasions during interviews, this meant he also shared a birthday with William Shakespeare and Shirley Temple..." That offhand reference to "America's Sweetheart" might be regarded as a bit ill-advised, however, since I'm sure there are those who actually consider the author of Lolita to have been something of a pedophile himself. At any rate, given the fact that I've written about him, or at least mentioned him in passing, on five separate occasions here, one could certainly be forgiven for balking at the prospect of yet another blog entry on this beloved/ beleaguered artist: "Nabokov? ... No, back off!" Nabakov* was found four times in OhioLink, and 111 times in WorldCat, with Nobokov* six times in the former, and 69 times in the latter.

(Monument of Vladimir Nabokov in Montreux, December 2006, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Monday, April 15, 2013

Erikc* (for Erick*)

Erick Berry was born Allena Champlin in 1892, in New Bedford, Massachusetts, but grew up for the most part in New York State. The budding children's author and illustrator got her love of books from her father, George Champlin, and later wrote: "Father was reference librarian in the State Library in Albany, New York, and I had free access to the big files at almost any time; a wonderful library to grow up in. Because my eyes were not strong my reading was cut down to an hour a day, and so between reading I started copying the book illustrations; from this the family decided that I had ability as an artist and so, a little later, I went off to Boston to study with Eric Pape." (Allena Champlin later adopted the pen name "Erick" in homage to her beloved art teacher.) The New York State Library was then located in a crowded room at the top of the Capitol, but plans were under way to move into the new Education Building across the street. By 1911, after a series of bureaucratic delays and other holdups, State Librarian Melvil Dewey was clamoring to make it happen. Tragically, however, in the spring of that year, before it could be transferred to its new home, a devastating fire destroyed almost the entire collection. Erick Berry would have been nineteen years old at that time, and must have been broken-hearted at the news. The State Library currently owns about 25 of the nearly 100 books she produced during her lifetime, many of them with her second husband, Herbert Best. It also holds some of her personal papers, letters, photos, news clippings, promotional materials, and original drawings. There weren't any cases of Erikc* (for Erick*) in OhioLINK the last we looked, although we did find 30 in WorldCat, around a third of which seemed to be actual typos. But be careful with this one. There are unexpected surnames like Erikci, and more ways to spell and misspell Eric (Erik, Erick, Erich, etc.) than perhaps even the inventive Ms. Berry was capable of imagining.

(Cover of Berry's 1929 Newbery Honor book The Winged Girl of Knossos.)

Carol Reid

Monday, April 8, 2013

Spirng* (for Spring*)

You could say that spring was here, or that the scent of spring is near, or all the ways the poets put it—but it wouldn't be better than this, now would it?

Spring was in the air. Birds chirped, other animals made other sounds, and you could practically smell Mother Nature's vulvanus...

I have it on good authority that New York City's Bike Snob deploys the equal-opportunity neologism scrotanus on rare occasions as well, but in any event, it's clear that this guy is a funny and fanciful word creator (he coined the popular term "salmoning" for the irritating practice of riding on a bike path in the wrong direction). Words seem to spring easily to his mind, like the hope that springs eternal in his breast—hope for a burgeoning urban bike culture, as well as for keeping it real. The Brooklyn blogger, who had carefully guarded his anonymity for several years, finally revealed his true identity in the spring of 2010, just before launching a book tour for his first book, also called Bike Snob. The "very reserved" B.S., it turns out, is 39-year-old Eben Oliver Weiss, former Big Apple bicycle messenger, long-time literary agent, and now-married father of one. With a spring in his step and a quip on his lip, Bike Snob inspires all pedaling proles—plus those who appreciate well-written prose. We uncovered three cases of Spirng* (for spring*) in OhioLINK this morning, and 57 in WorldCat.

(Düsseldorf, Räder im Grünen, spring 2004, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Monday, April 1, 2013

Prespect* (for Perspect* or possibly Respect*)

PRESPECT ... find out what it means to me! The most common typos I myself tend to make are those involving short prepositions and other words of two letters: of for on; on for or; it or in for if or is, etc. However, it's one thing to commit that sort of mix-up in a rough draft or an email; it's quite another to do it on a professionally produced piece of signage. The other day I saw a large museum exhibit label with the title: "An Archeological Perspective of Albany." Um, of? Can a place be sentient and thus have a point of view? Was the exhibit about the perspective of the people of Albany, or was it about a perspective on the city itself? Well, clearly it was the latter, and the sign certainly should have said so. The same day that I spotted this failure to proofread, I found myself doing a bit of the crossword puzzle posted in the staff elevator lobby. One clue for Across was "Ulysses or Lee." Someone had filled in the obvious answer, "Grant," but then another person, presumably, had erased it so they could put "to" for the Down clue "toward." But since "Grant" was undoubtedly correct, I thought about that "to" for a minute and realized that "at" was a better choice for "toward" than "to" was. Although "to" would have probably passed muster—were it not for General Grant and Ms. Lyova Haskell Rosenthal. The moral of the story is that sometimes only one preposition is proper, while other times they can be more or less synonymous. Prespect* (for perspect*) was found 81 times in OhioLINK, and 1471 times in WorldCat.

(Aretha Franklin, 15 July 1967, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Friday, March 29, 2013

Percy Bysshe Shelly (for Percy Bysshe Shelley)

In honor of her birthday on Monday, I blogged about the writer Flannery O'Connor, who was a devout Catholic. To balance it out, here's another "March 25" story about another famous author, this one an infamous atheist...

On March 25, 1811, Percy Bysshe Shelley was expelled from the University of Oxford for publishing a pamphlet entitled The Necessity of Atheism. Shelley, who had been practically friendless while at Eton and was rumored to have attended but a single lecture at Oxford (choosing instead to spend up to sixteen hours a day reading), seemed destined to become a poet of great renown and enduring influence, if only posthumously. One can also see the roots of his political worldview in his personal upbringing. At public school, he had been the victim of sustained bullying attempts (dubbed "Shelley-baits" by his peers) for his refusal to participate in "fagging" (which isn't exactly what it sounds like, but may in fact be related to the homophobic slur we know today), and surely ("Don't call me Shirley!") just for being the sensitive bookworm that he was. Shelley was a Romantic in every sense of the word. After getting kicked out of Oxford (aka "rusticated") in his first year for writing that godless screed (and then refusing to be readmitted contingent on recanting, causing his father to disinherit him), he ran off with and married a young friend, mostly because she was miserable at home. But by this time, Shelley was already well-known and admired (by some) for a number of things: his nonviolent anti-war activism (Thoreau was inspired by him in the writing of Civil Disobedience); his fervent vegetarianism and belief in the rights of animals; and his support of the poor and defense of the world's exploited, disenfranchised, and misunderstood. (Perhaps the most misunderstood of all 19th-century creations, Frankenstein, was invented by Shelley's second wife, Mary.) We found 30 examples of today's typo in OhioLINK, and 324 in WorldCat. You could widen your search a bit by omitting the "Bysshe" (which is a little iffy in and of itself), but that might increase the number of false positives you get.

P.S. (those initials, you'll note, can also stand for Percy Shelley) needed to "drop out" from time to time, and so do I. I have been falling further and further behind on this blog, and am going to try and play catch-up now by cutting back to once or twice a week for the remainder of the year. (Actually, I'll be predating these, and posting nearly every day, but they will all be new entries.) By 2014, I hope to have rounded up a few robust volunteers—at which point we'll come roaring back, better and and more diverse than ever!

(Portrait of Shelley by Alfred Clint, 1819, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Monday, March 25, 2013

O'Conner* + O'Connor* (for O'Connor* or O'Conner*)

Flannery O'Connor was born on March 25, 1925. She is one of several women writers of the so-called Southern Gothic school and, along with Carson McCullers (with whom I happen to share a birthday), lived in the state of Georgia for most of her life. (O'Conner was actually born in Savannah, where I myself went to live for a year after college.) Flannery O'Connor once wrote that "anything that comes out of the South is going to be called grotesque by the northern reader, unless it is grotesque, in which case it is going to be called realistic." O'Connor is known for both her grotesque realism and her unique religiosity. She was a passionate and practicing Catholic who considered her Creator to be not only her co-pilot, but her co-author as well. In the recently published (full disclosure and to avoid any confusion: I'm writing this in November, and predating it) A Prayer Journal, she claims: "If I ever do get to be a fine writer, it will not be because I am a fine writer but because God has given me credit for a few of the things he kindly wrote for me." They seem to have made a great team. O'Connor was the first fiction writer born in the twentieth century whose works were collected and published by the Library of America; and The Complete Stories of Flannery O'Connor won the National Book Award for fiction in 1972. I haven't read her novels (Wise Blood and The Violent Bear It Away), but I did just read a short story she wrote called "Revelation." It was published just after her death and deals with both God and race relations in the Deep South during the fractured 1960s. Mary Flannery O'Connor finally met her Maker on August 3, 1964, after a long battle with lupus; she was only 39 years old. In spite of her ongoing efforts toward patience and humility, however, I'm sure she was much like all writers, and would greatly appreciate us getting her name right. O'Conner* + O'Connor* turns up 70 times in OhioLINK, and 453 times in WorldCat.

(Portrait of Flannery O'Connor, 1947, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid