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Of typos and that which lives in my computer

February 12, 2021

There lives within my computer an Evil Thing. It seeks to destroy my writing, either by turning it into so much indecipherable gibberish or by perverting it into something I never meant to express. I typically do my writing in Word. I have a standard format which I use. Word faithfully reproduces that format, time after time after time. Until it doesn’t. Then, it does strange and wonderful things with typefaces and sizes (together those are a font), paragraphs, and both word and line spacing. None of that, though, is as strange as what it does with spell check. Now, understand, my dad was a printer for many years, my mom was a proofreader and I put in my own time in newspapers and print shops. I don’t depend on spell check. I don’t trust it. But I swear that in spite of spell check and my rather anal retentive proofreading, Word occasionally manages to make unexpected changes to my text. As a result, I have discovered that

  • there is a rock band called Piss
  • there is another rock band called The Beagles
  • at one time there was a rock band called Herman’s Helmets
  • Operation Market Garden was “a bridge to fat”
  • the US military has a rank called COW
  • the penis mightier than the sword
  • the worn outside of a house is a withered exterminator

All of which brings to mind a classic, and sadly anonymous, poem from when newspapers were actually a big thing.

Ode to the Typographical Error

The typographical error is a slippery thing and sly;
You can hunt till you are dizzy, but it somehow will get by.
Till the forms are on the press, it is strange how still it keeps.
It shrinks down in a corner, and it never stirs or peeps –
That typographical error, too small for human eyes –
Till the ink is on the paper, when it grows to mountain size.
The boss, he stares with horror, then he grabs his hair and groans;
The copyreader drops his head upon his hands and moans.
The remainder of the issue may be clean as clean can be,
But the typographical error is the only thing you see.

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