Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Inpact* (for Impact*)

I just found my first typo in a crossword puzzle! The Sunday paper's "premier" puzzle, no less. I'm pretty sure I did, anyway, and the effect on me has been galvanizing. (My affect is one of pure beaming. Unlike the puzzle, it's not at all "flat.") Although the answer, my friends, is not the part that blew. The mistake was in the clue, namely 53 Down, which read: "—— impact on (effects)." The answer, as I initially surmised, and as it later turned out, was HASAN (has an impact on). But since the phrase is a verb, the parenthetical must be one as well. So if affect (v.) means to change or influence something and effect (v.) means to bring about, accomplish, or cause a thing to happen, then it should follow that the former word is the one that was intended. Amirite? Am I as effective a puzzle-proofer as I think I am? Am I simply trying to effect change? Or am I, simply, both trying and affected? I thought about making our typo today Affect* + Effect* (for effect* or affect*), but it seems that there are over 11,000 of these in OhioLINK, many if not most of them false positives. (Take a look, in any case, for examples of how to use these words correctly, even within a single phrase.) And if you're feeling as confident about all this as I am, you might want to try taking Oxford Dictionary's online quiz and see just how effective and affected you can be! There were 18 instances of Inpact* (for impact*) in OhioLINK, and 522 in WorldCat.

(Details from crossword puzzle in the Albany Times Union, April 17, 2016.)

Carol Reid

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Porvinc* (for Provinc*)

Calvin Trillin came under fire last week for a little poem he had published in the New Yorker. Trillin has been writing spoofy doggerel "since before God was a child," according to one online comment, but it seemed as if many of his critics had never heard of him before. And some of them were quick to accuse him of cultural appropriation and flat-out xenophobia. Trillin's liberal bona fides would appear to be in perfect order, though. He has been covering issues of racism and progressive causes since the early 1960s, and been writing for the utterly left-wing Nation on a regular basis for nearly just as long. Trillin is also a heralded food and travel writer and is generally considered a humorist. The offending poem was titled "Have They Run Out of Provinces Yet?" It's a send-up of anxious hipster foodies (who have always managed to exist in one form or another, it seems) with a somewhat retro finish, in which the aging narrator bemoans the seemingly endless proliferation of Chinese cuisine. The politically correct Twitterverse was apparently triggered by Trillin's use of such tacitly tactless terms as tension, fears, stress, and threat. (In his defense, the author notes that some years back he had penned a similar morsel, "What Happened to Brie and Chablis?" "It was not," he pointed out, "a put-down of the French.") Jezebel strikes just the right note in its parody composition, which pokes gentle fun at both Trillin and his detractors. Some shied away from harsher, more ad hominem critiques, settling for just calling it a "bad poem" or "bad satire," citing "technical flaws," "gracelessness," "stumbling meter," and "silly rhymes." (Matter of opinion. Don't see them. Working within constraints of the form. Um, no. But of course!) A careful reader further demurred: "I have a bit of a bone to pick with the article. It isn't okay for the meter and rhyme of doggerel to be slack or inconsistent. The point of doggerel is that it uses very tight meter and precise rhyme to take on trivial or ridiculous subjects..." It's a tasty tempest in a millennial teapot, but I'm starting to get a little hungry again. Anybody interested in Chinese? We uncovered five cases of Porvinc* (for provinc*) in OhioLINK today, and 176 in WorldCat.

(Dim sum, 5 May 2013, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Chesnut* + Chestnut* (for Chestnut* or Chesnut*)

A reader commented on a recent blog entry for the typo Oiho with some disappointment that the reference made to his home state had merely been to a clock known as the "Ohio Clock," which, as he pointed out, is not even in Ohio. He then listed a bunch of much cooler things that are, one of which is the Ohio buckeye tree. He added, meaningly: "Many people don't know what a buckeye is or looks like." At first, I didn't think I knew either, until I found out it's the same thing as what we generally call a "horse chestnut" tree in New York. The kids in my neighborhood would peel the spiny outer hulls off the smooth round seeds (or leave them on), then set about throwing them, rolling them, or smashing them against the rocks. We girls would occasionally try to make "necklaces" out of them, but once pierced, they would rapidly lose their plump, their sheen, and their charm. (I still feel rather let down about that, myself, Gentle Reader.) We all understood, though, that, unlike the "chestnuts roasting on an open fire" at Christmastime, the horse chestnut was poisonous, which perhaps only heightened its allure. The buckeye would seem to be an ephemeral thing, meant to be handled, admired, and kicked to the curb. I'm wondering about their names now too. Do the words "horse" and "buckeye" refer to the way these chestnuts appear, when first opened to the air, like the big dark eyes of those bucolic creatures? Buckeyes are lovely in other ways as well. They're tall and stately, have large shiny green leaves, and produce a really striking flower. The chestnut has also lent its name to what is probably the most appealing shade of brown. Take a good look around the next time you're in the great state of Ohio, and enjoy everything Buckeye! Speaking of Ohio, we found 43 cases of today's typo in OhioLINK, and 711 in WorldCat.

("Pod seed. Capsule. Chestnut. Buckeye." 5 October, 2011, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Ambrose Pierce (for Ambrose Bierce)

Aubrey Beardsley is the seemingly "gay one" who drew flamboyant pen and ink caricatures of erotic and "decadent" figures, and also the one I've been inclined in the past to confuse or conflate with Ambrose Bierce. (Note, for the record, that neither of these "AB" blood brothers' surnames starts with the letter P, which will nonetheless be the source of all of our typo troubles today.) Bierce, who was born in 1842 in a log cabin in Ohio, and Beardsley—thirty years later in Brighton, England—were also, despite some obvious dissimilarities (the former was a journalist and writer, the latter a graphic artist), akin in certain ways. Ambrose Bierce brought a sardonic viewpoint to his work: he wrote the satirical lexicon The Devil's Dictionary in 1906; his nickname was "Bitter Bierce"; and his motto was "Nothing matters." Beardsley had a similar outlook and, although his career was unfortunately short (he died at age 25), he was considered the Oscar Wilde of the Art Nouveau world. We found three cases of "Ambrose Pierce" in OhioLINK, and 21 in WorldCat. You can also search these terms without the quotation (or other truncation) marks for additional hits, but watch out for legitimate cases of two separate people. Minus quotes, there were 41 in OhioLINK and 196 in WorldCat.

(Pencil drawing of Ambrose Bierce by F. Soule Campbell, from the first volume of The Collected Works of Ambrose Bierce, 1909, and Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Youg (for Young)

A coworker was talking recently about feeling nervous or anxious and said, "I get myself into such a tither..." Normally, I try not to be an obnoxious ass, but frankly this woman is so funny and charitable, I figured I would take my chances this time. "You know," I said, "there's actually no such word as 'tither.' There's dither, and tizzy, and even lather. But there's no 'tither'..." She nicely burst out laughing in reply. (We then agreed that young folks these days have probably never heard of any of these words.) Speaking of obnoxious asses, that's just how Dagwood Bumstead often regarded his boss, Mr. Dithers, a pint-sized and petty tyrant whose full name was "Julius Caesar Dithers." But just like my hapless colleague and me, the two men were fundamentally friends. Some people would argue that Dagwood Bumstead (bum + homestead?) was even sillier and more indecisive than his supervisor, as is perhaps Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin, who was dubbed "Mr. Dithers" by the press for a similar tendency to hem and haw. "Blondie" (the real star of the strip) was created by Chic Young, who debuted the cartoon on September 8, 1930. He had begun his career in 1924 with another newspaper strip about a fetching and somewhat scheming young flapper called Dumb Dora. Dora Bell (her adorable real name), according to the tagline, "wasn't as dumb as she looked." The term was widely applied to the wild young women of that era and was further popularized by George Burns and Gracie Allen's vaudeville act. Several years later, Dora morphed into the nominally less dumb, but blatantly more blonde and matronly "Blondie," who has been ruling the Bumstead roost for nigh on ninety years now. So if anyone ever calls you a "dumb Dora" (or even implies as much by correcting your creative syntax), just bear in mind that Allen is generally considered to have been the brains behind Burns, and don't work yourself into a tither. There were 17 cases of today's typo in OhioLINK, and an even 600 in WorldCat. Another way to approach this typo is to search on Youg* + Young*, which garnered us 23 hits in the former, and 439 in the latter. In both cases, you should see a fair number of false positives (Asian names, variant spellings, etc.), but most will be typos for forms of the English word young.

( Photo of Penny Singleton as Blondie and Arthur Lake as Dagwood Bumstead from the radio program Blondie, 6 July 1944, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Oiho (for Ohio)

Daylight Saving Time, a thing that many of us tend to look forward to in these late gray waning days of winter, was first instituted on March 31, 1918, as a wartime measure to help conserve fuel. This photograph shows the very first man to "turn the clock ahead," as three others stand nervously by—the whole lot of them looking rather like sheepish schoolboys caught in the act, or white whiskered mice having a fine old "Hickory Dickory Dock" of it. (I'm teasing. In truth, they were only senators, albeit ones who probably did feel a little like travelers in a sci-fi tall tale, somehow altering the very fabric of time.) Some people would say that the date of the occasion was inadvertently well timed too, the whole thing being perhaps a bit of a Fool's errand right from the start. In 1784, Ben Franklin published an anonymous letter entitled "An Economical Project for Diminishing the Cost of Light," in which he observed that Parisians burned candles after dark, and then slept past dawn. He proposed "taxing shutters, rationing candles, and waking the public by ringing church bells and firing cannons at sunrise." It was satire, but Franklin is also known for the proverb "Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise." (James Thurber offered a differing point of view when he stated in The New Yorker in 1939: "Early to rise and early to bed makes a male healthy and wealthy and dead.") In 1966, Lyndon Johnson signed the Uniform Time Act into law and we've all been "springing forward" and "falling back" ever since. The time-shifting system still has its critics, who say that simply trying to adjust to the shift can be unhealthy or risky, and that our lifestyles have changed so much that the purported benefits of "daylight saving" simply no longer exist or are outweighed by the drawbacks. In any event, don't forget to fool with your clocks tonight, kiddos! (Just kidding, of course. You should have already done that, on March 13th.) And now that we all know what time it is, let's turn our attention to today's typo (Oiho for Ohio), found twice in OhioLINK, and fifteen times in WorldCat.

(Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Charles P. Higgins turning the Ohio Clock forward, while Senators William M. Calder (NY), Willard Saulsbury, Jr. (DE), and Joseph T. Robinson (AR) observe, 1918, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Harald* + Harold* (for Harold* or Harald*)

Happy Birthday, Bud! Born Walter Edward Cox on March 29, 1948, Bud Cort decided take a stage name due to the fact that there was already a well-known actor named Wally Cox out there. Both men exhibited quirky, sort of geeky personas that, to some extent, belied their actual personalities. Wally Cox is perhaps best known for playing "Mister Peepers" on TV and being the voice of cartoon canine Underdog. He was also married three times; an Army vet; and BFFs with Marlon Brando. Bud Cort, despite his constant association with the 1971 "cult film" Harold and Maude, has in fact been acting in movies and television for almost half a century now. In 2004 he appeared alongside his friend Bill Murray in The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. "I had three great grandfathers, all fishermen, all lost at sea," Cort claims. He admits that over the years he has feared being typecast as an oddball, and at times even wished he had never made Harold and Maude. (But we'll forgive him for that!) The previous year he had starred in the perhaps even cultier film Brewster McCloud, which garnered him a nomination for "Laurel Award for Male Star of Tomorrow." A young Roger Ebert wrote of the film: "I'm not sure it's about anything. I imagine you could extract a subject from it, and I'll try that the next time I see it. But I wonder if the movie isn't primarily style; if Altman doesn't have a personal sense of humor and wants his directing style to reflect it. One could, of course, get into a deep thing about birds and wings and freedom, but why?" Bud Cort also landed roles in Up the Down Staircase, Sweet Charity, M.A.S.H., and The Strawberry Statement, for starters. In 1971, he was cast in a movie called Gas-s-s-s (also known as Gas! or, It Became Necessary to Destroy the World in Order to Save It), Roger Corman's last film for American International Pictures. (Corman broke off longstanding ties with AIP after they cut the final scene, a shot in which the Almighty weighs in on the wacky goings-on, and one of which the director was particularly proud.) It boasts an absurdist post-apocalyptic plot line (think Edgar Allen Poe on a motorbike), though as Wikipedia put its: "Eventually God intervenes. Coel and Cilla are reunited with all their friends, and there is a big party where everyone gets along." Which may be the biggest gas of all. If, like me, you're a big fan of Bud Cort, but are yearning to move on beyond Harold and Maude, check out some of his earlier films, along with his middle and late periods as well. There were 133 cases of today's typo in OhioLINK, and 1281 in WorldCat.

(Bud Cort in Brewster McCloud, taken from the web.)

Carol Reid