Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Rhinocerus* (for Rhinoceros*)

In the wake of recent news reports about the tragic killing of "Cecil the Lion" (though purely by chance), I just finished reading a fascinating book about "Clara the Rhinoceros." Clara was an Indian rhino who enjoyed incredible fame and influence in 18th-century Europe, where the near-mythical beast had not been seen in over five hundred years. While the orphaned offspring of slaughtered animals are often collateral damage, and generally doomed if not adopted, some poor babies are luckier than others. Clara was left a defenseless infant in 1738 when her mother was dispatched by Indian big-game hunters; she was then rescued by the director of the Dutch East India Company, who gave the docile and appealing calf free range of his estate. Clara "imprinted" on human beings very early on and remained approachable and relatively imperturbable for the rest of her days. (Although apparently she got a little cranky during that time of the month.) Two years later, she was bought by sea caption Douwe Mout Van der Meer of Leiden; it was a highly fortuitous pairing and the rest, as they say, is history. Suffice it to say, though, that "Miss Clara" met more royalty and heads of state, artists and scientists, curious clerics, and eager entrepreneurs, along with countless members of the general public, over the course of seventeen years, than one could reasonably shake a stick—or four-foot "unicorn" horn—at. There are actually two books out about Clara right now. The one I read is called Clara's Grand Tour, by Glynis Ridley, published in 2005. The other is a children's book titled My Travels with Clara, by Mary Holmes and Jon Cannell (2007), produced by the Getty Museum in honor of the life-sized portrait of Clara featured in its exhibit Oudry’s Painted Menagerie. Today's typo turned up three times in OhioLINK, and 68 times in WorldCat.

(The Rhinoceros "Miss Clara," etching by Johann Elias Ridinger, shown with a lake and palm trees in the background, 1748, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Monday, August 24, 2015

Ashely* + Ashley* (for Ashley, mostly)

Je suis Ashley. That's the universal message we should all be taking away from this devastating hack of the now-infamous website for the discreet adulterer. Although it's no longer even remotely discreet. The "down low" has become something one can easily download. And that coy finger to the lips that greets the "curious" cad is starting to look increasingly ironic. No one is quite sure who unleashed this recent dump of personally identifiable info, though. Was it an "inside job" by a disaffected female (as sketchy computer-security expert and gender-gleaning guru John McAfee alleges) or a sort of terrorist attack by an outside group of so-called "ethical" hackers? It's crucial to try and figure this out and to find ways of preventing it from happening again. But we also need to look at the reasons why, as a society, we seem so willing to dispense with pesky things like privacy and personal liberty whenever we find ourselves objecting to another person's values, choices, and free speech. (This is especially true when their own hypocrisy is glaring.) It's like learning of a tragic accident, serious illness, or criminal act that maybe could have been avoided: we assure ourselves that such a thing could "never happen" to us because we are not that stupid, careless, unhealthy, or morally lacking. But pride goeth before a fall. The infringement of the rights of others almost always comes at a cost to ourselves. And those who sit in front of glass monitors (as well as those who don't—perhaps because they can't afford them) really shouldn't be throwing stones. Seventeen cases of this illicitly coupled typo were discovered in OhioLINK today, along with 232 of them in WorldCat.

(Close-up shot of graffiti by Banksy near Park St. in Bristol, United Kingdom, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Friday, August 21, 2015

Mssion* (for Mission*)

The goal of the New York State Education Department is literally carved in stone on the southeast corner of the broadly colonnaded building that serves as its public face. It reads as follows: "Our mission is to raise the knowledge, skill, and opportunity of all the people in New York." Elsewhere it adds that "our vision is to provide leadership for a system that yields the best educated people in the world," but that mission had already missed its mark. Though it may be apocryphal, I've heard it said that the word was badly misconstrued by at least one unfortunate passerby who interpreted mission in its non-bureaucratic, street-wise sense. The use of the word vision may be similarly mystifying to someone in need of new glasses, too, who knows? But for me the biggest problem with that clunker of a sentiment is the word raise. It sounds weirdly condescending (like the controversial mural in Chancellors Hall, in which "a slave in a loincloth" is shown "rising up with a two-handed assist from a bearded white figure"), for one thing, or even ghoulish (a colleague wryly notes that "raising people," though they didn't exactly put it that way, sounds more like something zombies, mommies, or Jesus might do). It also just sounds wrong in general. You don't really "raise" knowledge, skill, or even opportunity. Increase, improve, promote or expand, for example, might have been preferable. Although raise is loosely synonymous and perhaps the lowest common denominator for all that follows. But if this were one of those confounding questions beloved by acolytes of the Common Core, I'd be looking for the answer: "None of the above." Why do modern educators always sound so stilted, awkward, and often ungrammatical in their pronouncements? Is it because nothing ever seems to be written in a thoughtful, meaningful way, but is instead cobbled together by committee and hobbled by euphemism? Or is that our mission has failed the "people in New York" when it comes to our "core" educational values? There was only one case of today's typo in OhioLINK, and 116 in WorldCat.

(One of two sculptures on the steps of the Education Building created by Charles Keck, 1875–1951, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Wtich* (for Witch*)

Which witch is which? Which is our Witch Topic #2 today, but first let me say that I was struck by the similarity in spelling between the notorious Salem witch trials of 1692 and the far lesser-known ones in Samlesbury, England. "Samle" looks like it could be a typo, or even an acronym, for Salem. But in fact, it derives from the Old English sceamol, which means ledge; bury comes from burh, defined as fortification. A little over 400 years ago, and exactly eighty years before Salem, the good folks of Samlesbury were trying to fortify themselves against a scourge of witches, which I imagine some thought they saw under every bed, and sailing off every ledge. The Samlesbury witch trials began on August 19, 1612, and were one of a series of trials held over the course of two days. Eleven defendants (ten in Lancaster and one in York) were convicted and put to death. The three accused "witches" of Samlesbury (accused, that is, of child murder and cannibalism) were ultimately acquitted after the judge declared the main prosecution witness to be "the perjuring tool of a Catholic priest." Though historians have since deemed these trials "anti-Catholic propaganda" (and, I should think, anti-female propaganda as well), in the seventeenth century, and in the "wild and lawless" county of Lancashire, flying femme fatales and "popish plotters" were reportedly running equally rampant. We found five cases of Wtich* (for witch*) in OhioLINK today, and 38 in WorldCat.

("The Ride Through the Murky Air," The Lancashire Witches: A Romance of Pendle Forest, by William Harrison Ainsworth, 1848, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Monday, August 17, 2015

Adress* (for Address*)

In 1938, Helen Hulick, a 28-year-old Los Angeles kindergarten teacher and witness to a robbery, managed to cause quite a stir (and almost ended up in stir) when she came to court wearing a pair of pants. The judge (who also testily noted the "reclining on your neck on the back of your chair") ordered her to go change into something more feminine. Hulick demurred and later quipped: "I've worn slacks since I was 15. I don't own a dress except a formal. If he wants me to appear in a formal gown that's okay with me." When the judge threatened to hold her in contempt of court, she declared: "I'll come back in slacks and if he puts me in jail I hope it will help to free women forever of anti-slackism." The prison matron gave her a denim frock to wear and the judge sentenced her to five days in jail. Her case drew a lot of attention and garnered hundreds of letters of support. The contempt citation was swiftly overturned by a writ of habeas corpus (which, somewhat ironically here, means "you have the body") and Hulick could now appear in whatever attire she liked. She returned to court a couple months later, impishly wearing ... a dress. This typo was blogged back in 2008, but I just couldn't help addressing it again. Do be aware, though, that since many languages (e.g., French, German, Dutch, Polish, Romanian, and Turkish) spell it with one d, you would do well to limit your search to English-language records and examine the hits you get very carefully. Even with that restriction, Adress* (for address*) appeared 290 times in OhioLINK, and in "too many records found for your search" in WorldCat.

(Helen Hulick, photo credit: Andrew H. Arnott / George Wallace / L.A. Times Archive / UCLA.)

Carol Reid

Friday, August 14, 2015

Committe (for Committee, Committees)

Imagine, if you will, that you are serving on a hiring committee at your library. It’s an important position you’re filling—a department head or maybe the dean/director, someone who will be the library's public face on your campus and in your community.  Now visualize a meeting of the committee with this prospective leader.  Perhaps the interview has even gone perfectly up to this point—the candidate has answered every question spot-on. Then suddenly you hear him or her say:

"I do whine because I want to win and I'm not happy about not winning and I am a whiner and I keep whining and whining until I win."

So would you hire that candidate? Yet that’s exactly what one of the presidential hopefuls told a CNN reporter earlier this week. Yes, a contender for the most important political office in this country.  You may very well scratch your head as you go about correcting today’s typo in your library catalog. The highest-probability Committe appears in 367 OhioLINK entries and  8,774 WorldCat records (more if not limited to English-language results).

(Robert's Rules of Order, a procedural guide used by many committees.  Image from Wikimedia Commons)

Deb Kulczak

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Adversitis* (for Advertising, Adversities, etc.) defines “-itis” as: “a suffix used in pathological terms that denote inflammation of an organ ( bronchitis; gastritis; neuritis) and hence, in extended senses, nouns denoting abnormal states or conditions, excesses, tendencies, obsessions, etc. ( telephonitis; baseballitis).”

Playing with that, one could come up with all sorts of interesting meanings for today’s typo. How about “an obsession with adversities” or “the fear of being excessively contrary, adverse”?

Alas, the reality is much more mundane. The single instance of Adversitis* in OhioLINK and most of WorldCat’s seven entries are for “Adversitising.” 

(This recently discovered (and now ubiquitous) WW II poster advised British citizens how they should deal with adversity. Image from Wikimedia Commons.) 

Deb Kulczak