Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Zoolg* (for Zoolog*)

January 21 is the birthday of German artist Joseph Wolf. Wolf lived from 1820 to 1899 and was born a farmer, but became a pioneer of wildlife art. Unlike his contemporaries, who drew posed animals in a studio, Wolf observed animals in their natural habitat, showing their grace and personality. One of my favourites is this illustration of the leopard – I can feel its power and wariness nearly jump off the page.

Wolf illustrated works by David Livingstone, Alfred Russell Wallace, and Charles Darwin, and was invited to work at the British Museum. Once he’d joined British society, the Zoological Society of London commissioned him to draw exotic new animals from the British colonies, such as the gorilla, elephant, hippopotamus, and giraffe.

Imagine – being the first person to capture these animals for Western eyes! He must have inspired a whole generation of young kids seeing these animals for the first time. I’d think it was similar to my own early-1980s obsession with sketches of dinosaurs.

Zoolg* is a low probability typo. For more possible errors when typing zoology, see Carol’s entry from January 3, 2008.

Leanne Olson

(Leopard illustration by Wolf courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.)

Monday, January 19, 2015

Biobraph* (for Biograph*)

If someone convinced you that biography is spelled with more than one B, I’m afraid you’ve been the victim of a malicious typographical hoax.

Today is the anniversary of Howard Hughes’ record-breaking transcontinental flight from Los Angeles, California to Newark, New Jersey in 7 hours, 28 minutes and 25 seconds in 1937.  This was not a hoax, but got me thinking of one: Clifford Irving’s faked biography of the billionaire recluse.

This wasn’t a simple mistake, where Irving misattributed a few quotations to Hughes. He set out from the start to fake the book, and spend a year in prison as the result. I recently stumbled across a fascinating interview with Irving at

In it, Irving claims that money wasn’t his motivation, and that he had no idea that what he was doing was criminal. I have an odd love of hoaxes and can understand the appeal of doing something crazy just to see if you can get away with it. Irving describes how he faked conversations with Hughes:
We didn't make them up. We actually had the conversations. My friend Dick Suskind and I set a Sony tape recorder on the table and we'd switch playing the roles of Howard Hughes and Clifford Irving. We got into it as actors.
I’ve done similar mental and artistic workouts with fellow theatre geeks, and it’s quite fun. I suppose the difference is that we didn’t get paid a $750,000 advance or receive jail time for our goofing around.

Biobraph* is a low probability typo, with 71 hits in Worldcat.

Leanne Olson

(Photo of Howard Hughes courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.)

Friday, January 16, 2015

Any Rand (for Ayn Rand)

Ayn Rand, primarily known for the novels Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead, once wrote a play called Woman on Trial. It opened in Los Angeles in 1934, and was produced on Broadway the following year under the title Night of January 16th. Inspired by the death of Ivar Kreugar, the so-called "Match King," Ayn Rand's play concerns a woman accused of murdering her lover; selected audience members play the jury, thus nightly rewriting the ending. There's a lot to be said about Ayn Rand, her "conservative" politics, her "objectivist" philosophy, and her internal contradictions, much more than can really be discussed at any length here. But I loved this random fact gleaned from the Wikipedia article about her: "Her closest friend was Vladimir Nabokov's younger sister, Olga." Though the two Russian writers apparently didn't know each other, it looks as if their paths may have crossed in childhood, in addition to later on when Atlas Shrugged and Lolita were both on the New York Times bestseller list. There were four examples of today's typo in OhioLINK, and 23 in WorldCat. Once again, you may get a few false positives with this search (e.g., "It does not reflect any RAND research"), but the vast majority should prove to be typos for Rand's first name—which is to say, her assumed name: her given name was Alisa Zinov'yevna Rosenbaum. It's thought that Ayn was based on the Finnish name Aino or perhaps the Hebrew word עין (ayin, meaning "eye"). It might be noted that the RAND Corporation was not named for the first lady of libertarianism; it is an acronym for "Research ANd Development." I'll leave you with one of the best and wittiest arguments for the serial comma, not to mention Rand's own reputation, taken from the "apocryphal book dedication" quoted by Teresa Nielsen Hayden: To my parents, Ayn Rand and God. Dedicate your typo searching time to all your "Ayn Rand" records today and make sure there aren't any spelled Any.

(Portrait of Ayn Rand, February 2, 1905–March 6, 1982, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Jesse + Jessie (for Jesse or Jessie)

Jesse Williams, according to the winter 2013 issue of New York Archives, "pioneered the cheese factory system and thereby helped to propel New York State into the dominant cheese-making state in the nineteenth century." The New York State Museum of Cheese is located near Rome, New York. So is the cheese plant pictured here; Edmeston is south of Utica. But to me, the biggest of the big cheeses in the big-cheese-tributes category has got to be Canadian James McIntyre's infamous "Ode on the Mammoth Cheese Weighing over 7,000 Pounds" (about an actual cheese produced in Perth, Ontario, in 1866, and exhibited in Toronto, New York, and Britain). The poem breathlessly begins: "We have seen thee, queen of cheese / Lying quietly at your ease / Gently fanned by evening breeze / Thy fair form no flies dare seize..." The author goes on to hope: "May you not receive a scar as / We have heard that Mr. Harris / Intends to send you off as far as / The great world's show at Paris..." (It may have been that very verse that pushed this one into the annals of Very Bad Poetry, although I kind of love the rhyme scheme!) The ode concludes on the following feverish note: "We'rt thou suspended from balloon / You'd cast a shade even at noon / Folks would think it was the moon / About to fall and crush them soon." We looked up and found a crushing 148 examples of this typo in OhioLINK, and a mammoth 1186 in WorldCat. Some of these will undoubtedly be false positives (two different people named Jesse and Jessie), but most of them are probably the real deal.

(South Edmeston, NY, cheese plant, no date, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Monday, January 12, 2015

Stawbe* (for Strawbe*)

I used to write little poems for my nieces and nephews on their birthdays and other holidays, and would always give them books. On one occasion, when one of them was about three years old, I sent him a couple of children's cookbooks. He was a real fruit and veggies kind of kid, and had a penchant for strawberries. (One of the books included recipes that featured them specifically.) In acknowledgment of the gift, he wrote me an email my sister must have helped him with—but one for which he was clearly the main content creator. I have never forgotten it; it's one of my all-time favorite poems. It goes like this: "Thank you for the cookbook. I really like it best. I never had a cookbook. Pidder padder pest!" Strawberries and rhyme, plus an adorable nephew. What could be more delicious? There were nine cases of Stawbe* (for strawbe*) in OhioLINK today, and 131 in WorldCat.

(Strawberries in a white bowl, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Friday, January 9, 2015

Servey* (for Survey*)

Speaking of boiled eggs, biology, and typos, we just heard a funny story from a reader (thanks, Misha!) concerning the Washington Biological Survey. This tale, which unfortunately would appear to be apocryphal, involves a camper from Arkansas (or a farmer from Alberta, etc.), who after shooting a banded bird with a tag reading "Wash. Boil. Surv.," dashed off an irate note to the Survey complaining about its product. In one version, the note went like this: "Gents: I shot one of your crows last week and followed instructions attached to it. I washed it, biled it, and surved it. It was awful. You should stop trying to fool the public with things like this." Although the story is apparently a not-so-urban legend of rather long standing, the typo itself was real. According to Smithsonian magazine, it may have gotten its start during the 1920s when the government made use of a batch of bands on which the abbreviation "Biol." was misspelled "Boil." A couple of decades later, this amusing typo had evolved into a popular yarn, which, as Snopes puts it, "played on the stereotype of the backwards, rural farmer as too unsophisticated to recognize the significance of a banded bird, too unschooled to interpret the designation on its band as anything but cooking instructions, and too poor to let something he'd killed go to waste by not eating it." It's pretty silly, I agree, but considering that birds are often boiled and eaten, I prefer to think the joke was on the gummint agency that couldn't even spell its own name right. There were 14 cases of Servey* (for survey*) in OhioLINK today, and 473 in WorldCat.

(Frederick Charles Lincoln, in the field, applying a leg band to a duck. Lincoln was an accomplished biologist, administrator, and writer. From the U.S. Bureau of Biological Survey and the U.S. Bird Banding Laboratory. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Boilog* (for Biolog*)

Years ago I had a coworker who delighted us one time by bringing in Chinese tea eggs, or what I believe she called "twice-boiled eggs." They were regular boiled eggs that had then been reboiled in a blend of black tea, soy sauce, and the various flavoring agents in "five-spice powder": i.e., cinnamon, fennel seeds, star anise, cloves, and Szechuan peppercorns. These traditional Asian snacks are both delicious to eat and beautiful to look at: some resemble chocolate Easter eggs and others display a sort of marbled effect, depending on whether you remove the shell completely, or simply "crackle" it before reboiling. As long as you have eggs on hand, access to a Chinese grocery, and a modicum of patience (the eggs have to steep in the liquid for several hours or more to maximize the taste and color), these festive treats are easily made in your own kitchen. So don't just sit there like an egg on a log; let's get cracking! There was one instance of today's typo found in OhioLINK, and 26 in WorldCat.

(Kinesiske tea egg, April 28, 2012, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid