Thursday, June 30, 2011

Pissaro (for Pissarro)

I saw the exhibit "Pissarro's People" at the Clark Institute in Williamstown, Massachusetts, last weekend, and followed it up with a lecture about this amazing artist and activist at the Albany Institute of History & Art yesterday. Camille Pissarro, dubbed the "dean of the Impressionist painters," was born in 1830 on the island of St. Thomas to a Jewish father of Portuguese descent (and French nationality) and native Creole mother. At the age of 41, he married Julie Vellay, his mother's maid; together, they had eight children, both before and after wedlock. Pissarro related strongly to the "common man" and felt that the process of painting (especially in the rather painstaking Impressionistic style that he favored) was akin to laboring out in the fields. He envisioned a utopian lifestyle where all people were treated equally and lived peacefully together in a largely agrarian setting. The Clark exhibit comprises about forty oil paintings; a number of sketches, drawings, and watercolors; and, perhaps most intriguing of all, 28 drawings from an anarchist booklet called Turpitudes Sociales. After the Dreyfus affair split the artistic community and stirred up anti-Semitic passions, Pissarro was forced to hide from the authorities and do most of his painting in hotel rooms. There were 37 hits on Pissaro in OhioLINK (12 if you combine it with the proper spelling) and just over 200 with both spellings in WorldCat. The authority file contains about a dozen entries for various people with the surname Pissarro, only one of which includes a cross-reference to the alternative spelling Pissaro. Be certain to consult the original source before you alter any records containing these names you may find in your own library's catalog.

(Self-portrait by Camille Pissarro, 1873, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Agicult* (for Agricult*)

I'll try and keep this one brief, unlike the tax code, because the topic both befuddles and bores me. Some people view the IRS as a virtual cult, with its byzantine rules and regulations and its virtually undefiable demands. Others may regard tax resistance or the refusal to pay taxes as the more cult-like position to take. AGI, or Adjusted Gross Income, is defined as: "Total gross income minus specific items laid out in the tax code." Almost everyone thinks taxes are too high and hates paying them, but Republicans in particular run campaigns around this issue. George Bush the Elder famously said: "Read my lips. No new taxes." Benjamin Franklin came a lot closer to the truth with his quotable quote: "In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes." But I especially like Margaret Mitchell's take on the subject in her 1936 book Gone with the Wind: "Death, taxes and childbirth! There's never any convenient time for any of them." Try and find a convenient time to check your catalog for our typo of the day: Agicult* (for Agricult*). We found 17 of these in OhioLINK and over 400 in WorldCat.

(From Wikipedia, the author writes: "My son in 1st grade demonstrates even the tooth fairy is subject to New York State taxes!")

Carol Reid

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Digtal (for Digital)

Archaeologists dig things and so do beatniks. We all dig different things, but some things are more diggable than others. In 1952, children's author Ruth Krauss put it plainly with her now classic A Hole Is to Dig: A First Book of First Definitions: "What is a hole? A hole is when you step in it you go down. A hole is for a mouse to live in. And, of course, a hole is to dig..." A hip cat named Maurice Sendak drew the pictures for this one, you dig? (Along with Atomics for the Millions by Dr. Maxwell Leigh Eidinoff in 1947, The Wonderful Farm by Marcel Aymé in 1951, and Good Shabbos, Everybody! by Robert Garvey in 1951, this was among Sendak's very first books as an illustrator. He wrote his first one, Kenny's Window, in 1956.) Sendak thought highly of Krauss, calling her "a giant" in the world of children's literature. "Prior to the commercialization of children's books," he said, "there was Ruth Krauss." The two of them collaborated on nine books for children (A Very Special House won the Caldecott Award in 1954). Krauss also produced four books with her illustrator husband, Crockett Johnson, most notably The Carrot Seed in 1945. We dug up nine cases of today's typo in OhioLINK and 75 in WorldCat.

(A Hole Is to Dig, by Ruth Krauss and Maurice Sendak.)

Carol Reid

Monday, June 27, 2011

Equalt*, Equlit* (for Equality)

There was one dissenting hit on the typo Equlit* in OhioLINK this morning, along with three for Equalt*. Of the latter, however, only one was a typo; the other two were for "Equaltime" books and a long title about astronomy from 1825 containing the phrase "a five-feet equaltorial instrument employed in the observations." Actually, that's an apparent typo too, but for the word equatorial. In any event, today's typo may not be one we tend to make all that readily since it represents a word that has been written repeatedly on the pages of history. Equality was granted under New York State law while history was being made late Friday night (signed into law by Governor Andrew Cuomo at 11:55 pm), when the legislature passed the Marriage Equality Act, giving homosexuals the right to get married. Gay marriage is an issue currently being debated and decided all over the world, in countries as diverse as Nepal, New Zealand, and Nigeria. The French protestor in the photo shown above holds up a sign that, translated, reads: "And why not unions with animals?" He cites Brigitte Bareges (their version of, sadly, more than one antigay politician in the United States) as his source. It seems that people are pretty much alike all around the globe—despite equatorial instruments employed in the observations—which is a thought that can afford us both hope and despair.

(Toulouse Gay Pride 2011 in Toulouse, France, on June 18th, 2011, by Guillaume Paumier, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Friday, June 24, 2011

Bibliogaph* (for Bibliograph*)

Proofreading is important for all textual material, but perhaps most crucial when it comes to citational matters like footnotes, indexes, and bibliographies. These are not places you want to make gaffes. You can brush up on your grammar, punctuation, vocabulary, and other stylistic skills with the book Mind the Gaffe! A Troubleshooter's Guide to English Style and Usage by the late British professor of linguistics, R. L. Trask. Variant titles and subtitles for editions of this work include Say What You Mean! and The Penguin Guide to Common Errors in English. These errors include such egregiously misused terms, according to Trask, as: empowerment, feminism, hermeneutics, prior to, aforementioned, communicate, feedback, input, and synergy. There were 16 cases of Bibliogaph* in OhioLINK and 161 in WorldCat. Look for this bibliographical gaffe in your own library's catalog today.

(Cover of Mind the Gaffe! from

Carol Reid

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Philosopy, Phiosophy (for Philosophy)

I was recently asked if I had ever blogged about typos of my own surname, which seemed like a commonsensical suggestion at the time, given that it's often misspelled by others. But it seems that some names are simply too common to make sense of the compound search that works so well with more unusual names. For instance, if I try searching on Reid and/or Reed (or Reede) and/or Read (or Reade), I generally get a bunch of records with all of those names (and sometimes the verb "read") spelled correctly for different entities. I did, however, find eight clear examples of the Reid + Ried typo in the OhioLINK database. Regardless of how it's spelled, the name apparently connotes someone with red hair, as well as one who lives in a wooded clearing, which, oddly enough, both tend to signify my own Scottish paterfamilias. We also found 31 cases of Philosopy and five cases of Phiosophy, which makes sense since it's far commoner to drop an early letter than a later one. The Reverend Thomas Reid was a man of philosophy who lived from 1710 to 1796, was a contemporary of David Hume's, and founded the "Scottish School of Common Sense."

(Portrait of Thomas Reid by Sir Henry Raeburn, 1796, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Unusal* (for Unusual*)

I love Cyndi Lauper (born on June 22, 1953) and I especially loved her during the early 1980s when her debut album She's So Unusual came out. I thought the music videos for "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" (a collection of family, friends, and associates, all having fun), "She Bop" (a spirited ode to onanism), and "Time After Time" (an achingly plaintive love song with the Marlene Dietrich flick Garden of Allah playing on a TV set in a trailer) were brilliant. Interestingly, Lauper changed the original lyrics to GJWHF, which she says were about a "girl pleasing a man" and were frankly "misogynistic." Lauper has put out 11 albums and has appeared numerous times on film, TV, and Broadway. She has also been the recipient of a great many music awards and is a long-time advocate for gay rights. There were 11 hits on today's typo in OhioLINK and 192 in WorldCat. It wouldn't be unusual for you to find a few in your own catalog as well. Have fun! And happy birthday to Cynthia Ann Stephanie Lauper!

(Cyndi Lauper in the video "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun," from the Unpiano website.)

Carol Reid

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Romat* + Romant* (for Romantic, etc.)

Today is the first day of summer and time to start selecting your vacation reading or books for the beach. Romances are always a popular choice. Some of the most well-written of these were written by a French teenager in the 1950s, Françoise Sagan (real name: Françoise Quoirez). Sagan was born in Cajarc (Lot) on June 21, 1935. At the age of nineteen, her bestseller Bonjour Tristesse ("Hello Sadness") was published. Her books are highly romantic (as one might well imagine coming from such a creative and high-spirited adolescent girl) as well as being acerbic commentaries on the bourgeoisie (or "older generation" as we tend to call it over here). "Sagan" was a nom de plume, taken from a character in Marcel Proust's In Search of Lost Time, and some say that the title of her first book inspired the Simon and Garfunkel song "The Sounds of Silence," which begins with the words: "Hello darkness, my old friend..." Sagan was a media darling as well as an enfant terrible, dubbed "a charming little monster" by François Mauriac on the front page of the French daily Le Figaro. She was married twice and had numerous affairs and long-term relationships with both women and men. She loved the fast life and struggled with drug addiction and varying degrees of literary success throughout her life. When she died in 2004, French president Jacques Chirac proclaimed: "With her death, France loses one of its most brilliant and sensitive writers—an eminent figure of our literary life." There were 14 instances of Romat* + Romant* (for Romantic, etc.) in OhioLINK and over 200 in WorldCat.

(Portrait de Françoise Sagan au Studio Harcourt, 1963, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Monday, June 20, 2011

United Stats (for United States)

In 1911, an estimated several thousand British women boycotted the federal census. ("Women do not count, neither shall they be counted," wrote one.) This was a form of peaceful but pissed protest over their government's refusal to grant women's suffrage. Some of these women, or their husbands, refused to fill out the form; others simply stayed out the entire night the census takers were coming round. (I'll bet the second way was the most fun, although modern genealogists are grateful for the former option, which at least registered the presence of a woman or women in a given household.) Women over the age of 30 got the right to vote in 1918; women over the age of 21 in 1928. American feminists found other ways of making their voices count; women got the vote here in 1920. We noted the presence of 11 United Stats (for United States) in OhioLINK today.

(Suffragettes gathered in Manchester Census Lodge to boycott the 1911 census, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Friday, June 17, 2011

Managment (for Management)

It's axiomatic (if not actually true) that women "nag" more than men do. According to one online source, the term itself "is used almost exclusively by men to describe women. Although the word nagging has its roots in the definition meaning to gnaw at, that hasn't stopped people from associating the term with female animals, as in 'hen-picked' [sic] and ... 'old nag' (horse)." We're also told that in the 16th century it was a crime for women to nag men and that "until the 20th century, women were still being publicly punished for nagging." I Googled "male nags" and "men + nagging," etc., and got some rather depressing stuff about Islamic gender relations as well as a bit of feminist debate over the difference between "nagging," "whining," "pouting," "bitching," and "lecturing." I'm certain that when I tell you there were 199 cases of today's typo in OhioLINK, I won't have to resort to nagging to get you to manage this one in your own catalog.

(A gargoyle of a nagging wife, from Grendon, Northamptonshire, church, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Dulbin, Dubin + Dublin (for Dublin)

Today is Bloomsday, a day to celebrate the life and work of James Joyce, but the day itself marks the author's first date (memorable for its sensual aspects) with his wife-to-be, Nora Barnacle, in 1904. Though the Dublin couple didn't marry until 1931, Joyce's father, when apprised of her surname, is said to have commented: "She'll stick with him." Barnacle, who had borne Joyce a son in 1905 and a daughter in 1907, did just that, up until her husband's death in 1941. Perhaps she stuck with special stubbornness given the fact that she'd been dubbed a "man-killer" by her friends after two young lovers of hers had died, from unrelated causes. In any case, Nora's relationship with Joyce was complicated and, despite her early efforts to make him happy, she never really appreciated his work and would have rather he had become a musician. Happy Bloomsday to the real Molly Bloom! There were three cases of Dubin + Dublin in OhioLINK today, and two of Dulbin, all typos for Dublin.

(Nora Barnacle, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Benifit* (for Benefit*)

Beni is the Japanese name of a color commonly called "carthamin" or "safflower red" in English. As if ginger isn't spicy enough already, the pickled form of the root shown to the right is dyed hot pink and labeled beni shōga. This dish is not the same thing as gari, the pickled ginger meant to cleanse the palate between sushi servings and help cool down your mouth after eating wasabi—that pretty, green, unbelievably hot horseradish paste traditionally served with sushi as well. Ginger has many purported health benefits and can aid in a wide variety of conditions, from morning sickness to radiation exposure. No matter what form it comes in, a little bit of ginger goes a long way, so try and fit some in the next time you're out eating Japanese. There were 12 hits in OhioLINK on Benifit* (for benefit) and 317 in WorldCat.

(Pickled ginger, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

MacGuire + McGuire (for McGuire or MacGuire)

It seems that there is nothing new under the sun, and the sexual objectification of women (or "looksism" in general) is a good example of that dictum. Yesterday I wrote about the sociologist Harriet Martineau, whom the great Charles Darwin did not find pulchritudinously evolved enough to suit his purposes, although her mind wasn't too bad. (If these two had naturally selected one another and had a baby, however, would it have been a social Darwinist?!) Today marks the birthday of actress Dorothy McGuire, who was born in 1916 in Omaha, Nebraska. Turner Classic Movies is celebrating McGuire by showing several of her many films today, one of which I caught a bit of this morning before coming in to work. It's called The Enchanted Cottage and it's about the relationship between a blind man (Robert Young, disfigured by war wounds) and a shy, "homely"* woman, played by McGuire. They didn't even bother putting her in thick-rimmed glasses; simply patting her hair down and clipping it with a barrette was apparently all it took to make her look unattractive, according to the Hollywood beauty standards of the time. Today's posting is a shout-out to all you dowdy, frumpy, generally unlovely librarians out there (extra points if you're an "old maid" as well). There were four cases of MacGuire + McGuire (for McGuire or MacGuire) in OhioLINK, three of which were typos and one of which had an [i.e.] after it indicating a misprint on the piece itself. You can do this sort of check on various names, using the correctly spelled form plus a common misspelling; I find it to be a very useful trick for uncovering personal-name typos. Happy hunting and Happy Birthday to the beautiful Dorothy McGuire!

*Interesting note: I once had an elderly artist tell me that the old-fashioned frock I was wearing was very "homely" and he meant it as a compliment! See this definition as proof.

(Cropped screenshot of Dorothy McGuire and Gregory Peck from a trailer for the 1941 film Gentleman's Agreement, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Monday, June 13, 2011

Socilog*, etc. (for Sociolog*)

Harriet Martineau was born on June 12, 1802, in Norwich, England, the sixth of eight children. According to Wikipedia, she was an "English social theorist and Whig writer" and is widely regarded as the first female sociologist. She wrote over fifty books, translated the works of Auguste Comte, and believed that any study of society should include "an understanding of women's lives," thereby addressing such matters as marriage, children, and the domestic sphere, in addition to religious and racial issues. She was the first feminist to promote "equal pay for equal work"; she also advocated for protections against domestic violence. Martineau was a Unitarian and, while away at school, was greatly influenced by a minister named Lant Carpenter, whose teachings, she said, afforded her "an abominable spiritual rigidity and a truly respectable force of conscience strangely mingled together." Martineau was afflicted with a lack of taste or smell and was also deaf from an early age. Despite these handicaps, along with the fact that her family was left nearly destitute after the death of her father and various financial setbacks, Martineau went on to become an accomplished writer. She counted among her friends and acquaintances such notables as Thomas Malthus, John Stuart Mill, George Eliot, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, and Charlotte Brontë. Charles Darwin admired her as a thinker, but seemed almost jealous of her writing ability, and was downright sexist in his assessment of her appeal overall, expressing astonishment at "how ugly she is." He added, however, that she was "not a complete Amazonian, & knows the feeling of exhaustion from thinking too much." Try not to think about that too much and concentrate instead on finding typos for words such as sociology and sociologist: Socilog*, Socolog*, Socioilog*, and Soicolog*, which were found between one and seven times apiece in OhioLINK. These were also found 907*, 74, four, and 14 times each in WorldCat.

*N.B.: if you do a keyword search on a word or typo (or partial one truncated by an asterisk) and some of the hits retrieved are for foreign words that include a diacritic, OCLC apparently skips the letter with the diacritic when it searches. This would explain the large number of hits returned on the typo Socilog*, which brings up records containing the Spanish word sociólogos.

(Portrait of Harriet Martineau by Richard Evans, exhibited in 1834 and currently hanging in the National Portrait Gallery in London, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Friday, June 10, 2011

Sorceror* (for Sorcerer*)

Those of us of a certain age tend to associate sorcerers with the 1940 Walt Disney feature Fantasia and the "Sorcerer's Apprentice" (aka Micky Mouse), while those of a later minting may be primarily inclined to think of J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. However, if you were around at the turn of the (20th) century, an English comic actor by the name of Walter Passmore might be more your cup of tea. According to Wikipedia: "While rehearsing the role [of Joseph in a revival of H.M.S. Pinafore in 1899], Passmore suggested to W.S. Gilbert that he might walk around with his nose in the air 'as though raising it above an unpleasant smell.' Gilbert quipped, 'Unpleasant smell? Well, you're the best judge of that, Passmore.'" So, er, not to raise a stink about it, but no matter whose style of magick you prefer, please try and make sure you've got it spelled correctly. There were 27 of these up our sleeve in OhioLINK today, and 220 in WorldCat. And because this one is probably more of a common misspelling than a typo per se, you should be doubly sure to check the "sorce" before making any edits: the mistake could well be on the OR-iginal.

(Walter Passmore as John Wellington Wells in an 1898 revival of The Sorcerer.)

Carol Reid

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Millard Filmore (for Millard Fillmore)

What do you know about Millard Fillmore, or even better, his wife, Abigail Powers? I knew nothing, essentially, but after a bit of research, I now know that Millard was a member of the Know Nothing Party, a nativist, anti-Papist movement opposed to immigration and naturalization (mainly of German and Irish Catholics), which splintered over the issue of slavery. (The party was rather secretive and members were advised to rotely reply, "I know nothing" when asked about its activities.) Abigail was two years older than Millard and was his teacher when they first met. (She had been born in Saratoga County, but her widowed mother moved her and her brother to western New York shortly after her birth, where she felt they would be better able to survive on their own.) Abigail and Millard were both bookworms and libraries had played a large part in their lives: together they established the first White House Library. In 1846, Millard Fillmore also founded the University of Buffalo, a private college which later became the State University of New York at Buffalo. There were six hits on Millard Filmore in OhioLINK and 57 in WorldCat. A combined search on Filmore + Fillmore garnered 12 hits and 103 hits, respectively.

(House built by Millard Fillmore in East Aurora, NY, in 1825, where he lived with his wife Abigail until 1830. Image created and copyright held by Yoho2001, Toronto, Ontario, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Femim* (for Femin*)

A Mimosa is clearly a feminine libation—if pretty, sparkling, and packing a fairly weak punch is your definition of "feminine." It usually comprises three parts champagne to two parts orange juice and is customarily drunk at brunches, showers, and holidays such as Mother's Day. It made its first appearance at the Ritz Hotel in Paris during the early 1920s. The word also refers to "any tropical shrub or tree of the leguminous genus Mimosa, having ball-like clusters of yellow or pink flowers and compound leaves that are often sensitive to touch or light." (It's actually known as the sensitive plant.) A somewhat less girly name for this femmey beverage is a "Buck Fizz." If you want your beautiful, brightly-colored Mimosa, served in a slender champagne flute, to appear even lovelier, you can garnish it with a section of orange or other fruit frippery attached to the rim. We found five instances of Femim* in OhioLINK and 50 in WorldCat.

(Mimosa—champagne and orange juice cocktail—San Francisco, 2007, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Transpot* (for Transport*)

It might be easier to spot* a trannie (i.e., transvestite or transsexual) nowadays than it used to be, but there were lots of New Yorkers in the early 18th century who thought they had spied one in their very own governor, Edward Hyde, Lord Cornbury. The story apparently has it that one evening a constable for the colony approached and apprehended what he took to be a hooker working on Broadway. When he got "her" back to the stockade, however, he learned that his collar was in fact the governor of the Province of New York. (Supposedly, the governor enjoyed getting out and about in his wife's clothing from time to time. And, being further burdened with an "ear fetish," he even reportedly once urged visiting dignitaries to freely fondle Mrs. Hyde's "shell-like" lobes!) Lord Cornbury and his wife ran up an enormous debt during his tenure in office and the governor was eventually unseated by Queen Anne in 1708. He spent time in debtors' prison until he was able to get out again with the aid of a large inheritance, whereupon he moved back to England and served in the House of Lords. It's a great story, but most likely untrue, according to NYU professor Patricia Bonomi, who doubts the provenance of the portrait (see above) and suspects the accounts of Lord Cornbury's kinky antics to have been politically motivated and flatly false. We spotted 21 cases of Transpot* in OhioLINK and 193 in WorldCat. Transport the correct spelling of this typo into any records containing it that you may come across in your catalog today.

*Speaking of easy to spot, note the typo in the description here. Is that like a transgendered form of "sexting"?

(Supposed portrait of Lord Cornbury, first exhibited in London in 1867 and currently owned by the New-York Historical Society, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Monday, June 6, 2011

Modfi*, Modifc* (for Modif*, Modify*)

"Mod" can stand for a great many things, and for a good many reasons as well, but it's mainly because every time is Modern Times, no matter how many things get modified along the way. "Modern art" goes back a hundred and fifty years, and "modern dance" at least a hundred. To an aging child of the Sixties, however, the word "mod" still largely evokes the Zeitgeist of Beatles-era London, distilled into the hippiest of all hip places happening at that time, Carnaby Street. We found a modest four cases of Modfi* and one of Modifc* in OhioLINK today (plus 98 and 89, respectively, in WorldCat). You will probably find a modicum of these typos in your own catalogs too, so please modify the spelling of any that you do, some of which may have been sitting around since way before "modern" was modern.

(Carnaby Street, London, from Great Marlborough Street, looking south, September 2006, by David Iliff, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Friday, June 3, 2011

Champoin* (for Champion*)

One of my favorite words at the spelling bee this year was apolaustic. It means "devoted to enjoyment." While preparing to take part in the Scripps National Spelling Bee must seem like the dictionary definition of grueling to most people, the tiny speller who got apolaustic, and got it right, grinned as if she might in fact have been suffering from that very condition. By contrast, sitting next to her was one who looked like she could have had a bad case of anhedonia—a lovely, superstitious girl with a penny in her shoe, a dictionary under her pillow, and a dour expression on her face. (Dour, by the way, is not primarily pronounced as if it rhymes with sour, but rather like all of these kids are, not just thinkers, but doers. Another great spelling-bee word, anhedonia means the "inability to experience pleasure from normally pleasurable life events" and was the working title of the Woody Allen film Annie Hall.) The only competitor at the end of the (very long) day who could fairly be said to be feeling no pain was the champion, Sukanya Roy, who managed to uphold the "Indian-American dynasty at the National Spelling Bee" for one more year. This year's program honored the first two spelling bee winners, Frank Neuhauser and Pauline Bell, according to an article on Salon today. In 1925, Neuhauser won with the word gladiolus and in 1926 Bell won with cerise. Both of them passed away recently and a floral arrangement of cerise gladioli was placed onstage in their memories. Champoin* was found four times in OhioLINK and 17 times in WorldCat.

(Gladiolus, 2008, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Mozarella, etc. (for Mozzarella)

M ... O ... Z ... OMG! Like this young competitor in the Scripps National Spelling Bee this week, I too spelled mozzarella wrong, in my own very first bee a few years ago at a local bar. And I still can't believe it. It's a word that almost everybody knows, and a food that almost everybody (in this country, anyway) has eaten. And none of the potential ways of misspelling it (one Z, two R's, one L, even an E instead of an A) look remotely correct. And yet... And yet... It happens. And a lot more often than one might think. I'm sure the girl who flamed out on this word yesterday is still burning with shame, like having a too-hot piece of pizza stuck to the roof of your mouth. And I'm certainly not here to poke fun or to pile on. On the contrary: I'd like to welcome her to the club. There just seems to be something about spelling under pressure that can cause an otherwise excellent speller to choke at bat, to whiff a slow ball, to basically hand your opponent the point on a silver platter. Take the Indian kid who couldn't spell Darjeeling, or the Canadian cutie who didn't seem to recognize the word confiserie (this one was like taking candy from a baby, although some of her fans have argued that the judge mispronounced it), or the other Canadian girl, with the German-speaking father, who nailed the word weltschmerz, except for the fact that she spelled it with a V! And then there are all those people who, when it really and oh-so-ironically counts, misspell the word misspell. I would love to be able to report that there were many examples of today's typo in both OhioLINK and WorldCat; however, it seems as if most people can spell this word just fine when they're not melting under the hot glare of the spotlight. But spelling beesters are a very special breed and they all have my utmost sympathy and respect. Mozarella was found only one time in OhioLINK and 24 times in WorldCat. All other probable variants were found there, at most, once or twice. Although you might want to check your own catalog anyway. You can never really tell when someone's gonna miss an easy layup.

(Mozzarella-filled gnocchi found in Amsterdam, 2008, from Wikimedia Commons. Extra credit if you can spell both mozzarella and gnocchi.)

Carol Reid

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Ecno* (for Econo*)

Thomas Carlyle was a 19th-century Scottish satirist, essayist, historian, and teacher. From a series of lectures, this one on the subject of "The Hero as Man of Letters," he once wrote: "All that mankind has done, thought, gained or been: it is lying as in magic preservation in the pages of books." He also declared: "What we become depends on what we read after all of the professors have finished with us. The greatest university of all is a collection of books." One of his best bon mots, concerning what was then the relatively new field of economics, has persisted to this day: Carlyle dubbed it the "Dismal Science." Sounds about right. In any case, I doubt there are many practitioners these days who would say "Heck no!" to that depressing assessment, despite their unfailing faith in its terrible tenets. It's pretty hard, in fact, to come up with a discipline that's any less dismal. One of the most pathetic things about it is the way it often seems like nothing more than simple guesswork, or divination, or even a deliberate manifestation of the Big Lie. Or, worse yet, pure politics, like the never-ending Trickle-Down Theory. (Almost like being pissed upon. Happily enough, however, it seems this imperishable expression was originally coined, as a joke, by the humorist Will Rogers.) And yet the idea does have a certain cache, which in general smells like cold hard cash. It's something everybody's interested in, but nobody really understands. There were 27 cases of Ecno* in OhioLINK and nearly 800 in WorldCat, some of which might be correctly spelled foreign words, but most of which are clearly typos for words like economics. It may seem like a dismal chore, and you might not see any real returns right away, but believe me, you will. Just kidding, but seriously. You will.

(A print of Thomas Carlyle in 1865, taken from a photo by Elliot & Fry, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid