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Most famous typo
February 27, 2007 12:51 PM   Subscribe

What is the most famous typo in history? (And I don't mean malapropisms like "misunderestimated" or Kerry's botched joke.)

Maybe "most notorious" or "most influential" would be a little easier to answer. Are there any typos that have had international consequences?
posted by Plutor to Human Relations (83 answers total) 31 users marked this as a favorite
 
p-o-t-a-t-o-e?
posted by ASM at 12:57 PM on February 27, 2007


One candidate would have to be one of the famous Bible typos. The “Wicked Bible” of 1631 contained the words, “Thou shalt commit adultery” in Exodus 20:14, omitting the vital “not.”
posted by Pater Aletheias at 1:00 PM on February 27, 2007


in·ter·na·tion·al adj.
  1. Of, relating to, or involving two or more nations: an international commission; international affairs.
  2. Extending across or transcending national boundaries: international fame.

posted by timeistight at 1:02 PM on February 27, 2007


Well recently there was a comma that cost a company $2 million CAD.
posted by Cog at 1:03 PM on February 27, 2007 [1 favorite]


Neil Armstrong's "one small step for [a] man." (No international consequences though.)
posted by salvia at 1:07 PM on February 27, 2007


How about the Second Amendment commas?
posted by Aloysius Bear at 1:09 PM on February 27, 2007


My vote is for the Wicked Bible.

But:
Japan’s government rebuked the Tokyo Stock Exchange and one of the country’s biggest brokerage firms Friday after a typing error caused Mizuho Securities Co. to lose at least 27 billion yen ($225 million) on a stock trade.
posted by rafter at 1:09 PM on February 27, 2007


Dord is pretty famous: a word accidentally created and defined (as "density") in Merriam-Webster's New International Dictionary. As far as I know, though, nobody started using it -- so not especially influential.
posted by nevers at 1:11 PM on February 27, 2007 [2 favorites]


Probably not what you're looking for, but a few years ago, Readers' Digest ran a quip about a guy who wrote an essay about ERA, universal sufferage, and the women's rights movement. Unfortunately, the "R" key is next to the "T", and it came out titled "Movers and Shakers in Women's Tights".
posted by DNL at 1:13 PM on February 27, 2007


Not very famous, but I am reminded of a story told me by a Tennyson scholar professor of mine that in one of the Lord's poems, the word "live" had been miscopied as "love". Due to the British Library (or whomever held the original manuscript) policies at the time, researchers who discovered this typo were prevented from writing about it because the library would not allow copies of their materials, thus preventing any proof.

So the scholar instead took to calling the word "love" an "evil lie" (evil being live backwards). Eventually, the library relented and the typo was uncovered for what it is.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 1:16 PM on February 27, 2007


There are several examples of legendary grammar mistakes in Eats, Shoots and Leaves -- but of course I can't remember any of them now.
posted by pazazygeek at 1:16 PM on February 27, 2007


I seem to remember something about people dying because of an error at NASA, but this was all I could come up with:

In 1962, Mariner 1, the first U.S. spacecraft sent to explore the planet Venus, went off-course shortly after launch because of an error in its guidance computer program. The error was small: a wrong punctuation character in one line of code. The result was large: instead of going to Venus, Mariner 1 went into the Atlantic Ocean.

Also, does Y2K count? Or was that more an error in judgement?
posted by nevercalm at 1:21 PM on February 27, 2007


At my old alt-weekly, we added an extra 'o' to a word by mistake.

Unfortunately, that word was "genius" and it was one of only two words on the cover.

Luckily, people thought we were being clever.
posted by docgonzo at 1:22 PM on February 27, 2007


This isn't a famous example, but is nonetheless funny.

One time in the eighties, reading the entertainment pull-out section of an Arkansas newspaper, I noticed that the front cover was a picture of Tina Turner singing onstage, and the cutline (is that the right word) was "Pubic Exposure: Tina Turner in Concert."

(Meant, of course, to read "public.")
posted by jayder at 1:23 PM on February 27, 2007


What about "inalienable", as in the preamble to the Declaration of Independence? That's one that's always irked me.

There was also this great mistranslation in Medieval Europe between Frederick Barbarossa I of the Holy Roman Empire and Pope Hadrian I. Hadrian used a word that meant "friend" and it was translated as "fief," so Barbarossa heard that the Pope thought the Holy Roman Empire was a "fief of the church." That caused a lot of trouble, as the two were almost constantly at each other's throats. I wish I could remember the name

There was also the Roman mistranslation of the Greek word "agape," which the early Christians used to describe 1) their love for God, and 2) the feasts where they would take communion. Because early Christianity was a mystery cult, you couldn't know what was going on unless you were a member, and also because of the fact that the Romans' knowledge of Greek was sketchy, they thought the "agapes" that the Christians were going to were cannibalistic orgies where they all had wanton sex and ate babies.
posted by lilac girl at 1:25 PM on February 27, 2007


How about NASA spacecraft control software?

In "olden days" FORTRAN was the language of choice for engineering and scientific applications. FORTRAN ignores spaces in programs, and variables don't have to be pre-defined.

A programmer had meant to write a "for" loop (this statement means "repeat the code from here to the statement marked '10', setting the variable i to values from 1 to 10"):

do 10 i = 1, 10

Unfortunately instead of a comma he typed a period:

do 10 i = 1. 10

Now if you remove the spaces, you get -- an assignment statement!

do10i=1.10

Now if there were any poetry, this would be the root cause for some spectacular accident. But no; although this code was actually used in the Mercury project, the bug wasn't serious enough to cause problems. It was discovered by another programmer in time to avoid problems with future spaceflights.
posted by phliar at 1:32 PM on February 27, 2007


How about the Second Amendment commas?

There's also a comma issue in the Takings Clause in the Fifth Amendment.
posted by cerebus19 at 1:39 PM on February 27, 2007


When I read this question, my first thought was the Wicked Bible, too. That's probably your best answer there.
posted by Faint of Butt at 1:40 PM on February 27, 2007


I saw this one in a book my brother got for Christmas once:

It was a newspaper ad for "Sesame Street Live," encouraging people to come see their favorite characters, such as "Big Bird, Bert and Ernie, and the Count."

They only messed it up by one letter- they left out the "o" in "Count."
posted by drjimmy11 at 1:40 PM on February 27, 2007


There was this one that cost a Japanese brokerage a quarter billion dollars about a year ago.
posted by gauchodaspampas at 1:53 PM on February 27, 2007


It is often argued that the Virgin Mary is a mistranslation of a Hebrew word, differing by one letter from the word for 'virgin', and ought to have been 'young woman', instead.

On a different note (but not altogether different), I kept a clipping for some time from the Seattle PI (two days before a strike at that paper), reporting a debate between candidates Don(?) Beaver and Norm Dicks, and headlined in quite large type: "Fur Flies as Dicks and Beaver Meet."
posted by jamjam at 1:57 PM on February 27, 2007 [4 favorites]


At a certain State University the first issue of the student newspaper for the beginning of the school year proclaimed in a 48 point headline, "Welcome to Missippi!" I kept it for years as a reminder of why I left.
posted by 1f2frfbf at 1:58 PM on February 27, 2007


I don't know if it's the most famous, but my personal favorite:

When President Wilson was courting a widow by the name of Edith Galt, circa 1914, the Washington Post was, naturally, covering it in their gossip column.

Now, the intended tidbit read: "Rather than paying attention to the play, the President spent the evening entertaining Mrs. Galt."

What was printed in the first edition:
"...the President spent the evening entering Mrs. Galt."

See the wiki bio. I was first tipped to this by a Gene Weingarten column I cannot locate, sadly.
posted by theoddball at 2:01 PM on February 27, 2007


Definitely the Wicked Bible.

What about "inalienable", as in the preamble to the Declaration of Independence? That's one that's always irked me.

There are several confusions here. In the first place, the Declaration says "unalienable" rather than"inalienable," but that's probably what you meant, and you just made a typo. (Such things are pretty much unevitable when discussing typos.) In the second place, "unalienable" is not a typo, it's what they meant to write. In the third place, there's nothing wrong with "unalienable"—it's a perfectly good word that's been used in print in English since at least 1611; it's less common than "inalienable," but I don't think stylists like Goldsmith (1771 Hist. Eng. II. 307 Giving these petty tyrants a power of selling their estates, which before his time were unalienable) and Macaulay (1855 Hist. Eng. xvii. IV. 115 That all men were endowed by the Creator with an unalienable right to liberty) can be accused of illiteracy. I hope this gives you relief from your irkage.
posted by languagehat at 2:02 PM on February 27, 2007


1f2frfbf, that reminds me of an amusing mistake my old college newspaper made.
posted by jal0021 at 2:05 PM on February 27, 2007


This isn't the most famous, but I was working as copy editor around the time of Y2K, when the word "millennium" was frequently bandied about. At least 40% of the time I saw it, though, it was misspelled as "millenium." It drove me nuts, but some people insisted that was correct. It turned out that a fairly common dictionary (I'm not sure which) had misspelled it as "millenium." Urgh. At least you don't see it much in 2007.
posted by lisa g at 2:07 PM on February 27, 2007


It is often argued that the Virgin Mary is a mistranslation of a Hebrew word, differing by one letter from the word for 'virgin', and ought to have been 'young woman', instead.

Um, no. The Hebrew word ('almah) used in Isaiah 7:14 simply means young woman. In the Septuagint, (Greek trans. of the Hebrew Bible), 'almah was translated as "parthenos," which means "virgin." Since the Septuagint was in wide use by the time of Jesus, it's not surprising that the verse came to be seen as a Messianic prophecy. The books of Matthew and Luke unambiguously refer to Mary as a virgin. (This is the simple version of a more complex issue.)

Anyone who often argues some nonsense about "virgin" and "young woman" being one letter off in Hebrew doesn't know what they are talking about it.

I don't mean to derail, but didn't want to let that stand uncorrected.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 2:13 PM on February 27, 2007


What's your definition of 'typo.? I ask because so many of the replies to this thread wouldn't qualify in my mind as typos. For instance, is there any evidence that 'inalienable" in the U.S. Declaration of Independence was a mistaken transcription of unalienable? If so, I'd like to see a citation.
posted by NorthCoastCafe at 2:14 PM on February 27, 2007


OOPS. Upon checking I see the document says 'unalienable" not 'inalienable." My bad.
posted by NorthCoastCafe at 2:18 PM on February 27, 2007


There's one so notorious, it is hardly ever discussed. But according to Christoph Luxenberg the Qu'ran passage that promise martyrs all those virgins in heaven is wrongly handed down from the oldest known Aramaic sources. Instead of 72 huris all martyrs get is 72 white grapes, or raisins.
posted by ijsbrand at 2:18 PM on February 27, 2007


There's the He Bible, but that's probably not as famous nor as far-reaching a typo as far as theology goes as that in the Wicked Bible.

The wreck of Sir Cloudesley Shovell's HMS Association in 1707 was attributed to an error due to poor copying of navigation tables - the wreck was one of the key drivers behind the Board of Admiralty setting up a competition for ways to calculate longitude accurately. That had a pretty far-reaching effect in terms of enabling world exploration and growth of European empires.

In cult TV terms this clip from Spaced has to be up there as a pretty famous spelling mistake referenced in a TV series (from 3:40 onwards).
posted by greycap at 2:20 PM on February 27, 2007


The St. Augustine Record celebrated their anniversary with the front-page, above-the-fold headline, "100 Years of Pubic Service". I cannot find a picture of that paper, but it made a splash in Florida and may have ended up in one of those Jay Leno bits.
posted by derivative algorithm at 2:21 PM on February 27, 2007


Not world-shattering, but certainly very expensive!

Possibly the most expensive comma in Canada.

A misplaced comma in a contract could cost Rogers (big Canadian cable and wireless provider) over $2 million.
posted by generichuman at 2:30 PM on February 27, 2007


On the agape example, I won't deny that early Christianity attracted all sorts of slurs, including accusations of orgies, but I suspect it was more due to orgies being an obvious point of slander/Christianity being lumped in with all sorts of other mystery cults than due to a Roman mistranslation of agape. Post-classical Greek was pretty widely spoken during the empire, after all, and although my understanding of the word is that it was used in a variety of contexts, the non-sexual sense(s) seem to have been more dominant at the time. What later scholars might have made of the word is another matter.
posted by greycap at 2:36 PM on February 27, 2007


Speaking of biblical typos/mistranslations, I read somewhere that the famous verse to the effect of, "it is easier for a camel to get through the eye of a needle than a rich man into heaven," was actually, in the original, "it is easier for camel-rope to get through the eye of the needle than a rich man into heaven." Whoever wrote the thing I read, said that there is a kind of rope called camel-rope, and that's what the verse actually says.

(I may be slightly off in the detail, but that is the gist of what I read.)
posted by jayder at 2:37 PM on February 27, 2007


Geeky answer: referrer was misspelled (as referer) in the HTTP specification, and it has stayed that way since.
posted by grumblebee at 2:40 PM on February 27, 2007


I've always been a fan of the apocryphal typo where the Queen or her entourage, variously, after a ribbon cutting ceremony, was to pass over the bridge, but what was printed in the London Times was "Her Majesty then pissed over the bridge." I can't find any rock-solid cites for this, and it's cited differently, so you'll have to settle for this.
posted by cacophony at 2:51 PM on February 27, 2007


"Referer" is a great one, too. Forgot that.

Here's another famous one: MSNBC's on-screen graphic when Niger Innis was a guest. Yep, they made that typo.
posted by rafter at 3:48 PM on February 27, 2007


It is often argued that the Virgin Mary is a mistranslation of a Hebrew word, differing by one letter from the word for 'virgin', and ought to have been 'young woman', instead.

Um, no. The Hebrew word ('almah) used in Isaiah 7:14 simply means young woman. In the Septuagint, (Greek trans. of the Hebrew Bible), 'almah was translated as "parthenos," which means "virgin." Since the Septuagint was in wide use by the time of Jesus, it's not surprising that the verse came to be seen as a Messianic prophecy. The books of Matthew and Luke unambiguously refer to Mary as a virgin. (This is the simple version of a more complex issue.)

Here is an excerpt of an interesting Slate article by the Rev. Chloe Breyer:

The biblical sources for the virgin conception are a few short passages in two of the four Gospels. In Matthew, an angel appears to Joseph, who is perplexed about his fiancee's pregnancy. Should he divorce Mary or have her stoned her to death, as the law of Deuteronomy requires? "Joseph, Son of David," says the angel, "Do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus." The angel then goes on to quote the Hebrew prophet Isaiah. "Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel." (In fact, "virgin" comes from Matthew's use of a Greek mistranslation; the Hebrew in Isaiah reads "young girl.") The version in Luke is similar.


From another site whose accuracy I do not know how to evaluate:

The author of Matthew quoted the Septuagint (Greek) version of the Hebrew Scriptures. The Septuagint contains a translation error made when the Hebrew of Isaiah 7:14 was converted into Greek. Isaiah used almah to describe a young girl who would give birth. In Hebrew, an almah is a young woman of marriageable age. If he wanted to refer to a virgin, he would have used the word bethulah. The creators of the Greek translation, the Septuagint, mistranslated the Hebrew almah into the Greek parthenos, meaning virgin. The authors of Matthew and Luke were probably unable to read Hebrew; they would have relied on the Septuagint translation. They based part of their writing on the error in the Greek.

I can't read Hebrew either, so even if this article is accurate, I can't say whether 'almah' and 'bethulah' differ by one letter, as the site I linked earlier seems to imply,
or more extensively. Perhaps you could enlighten me, Pater Alethelas?
posted by jamjam at 3:56 PM on February 27, 2007


I don't know if it qualifies as a typo, but there was that Hubble Telescope mix-up.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:02 PM on February 27, 2007


Heh, that Niger Innis one reminds me of a similar typo from Fox News.

I think probably internationally the Wicked Bible is the most famous, but I bet Dan Quayle's "potatoe" is stuck more in the American public mind.
posted by landedjentry at 4:07 PM on February 27, 2007


In 1996, Ms. Magazine ran a cover with the word "FEMINISIM" on it in very large type.
posted by bink at 4:18 PM on February 27, 2007


When I was looking for a link to the Ms. image, I learned that Pennsylvania is misspelled "Pensylvania" on the Liberty Bell.
posted by bink at 4:22 PM on February 27, 2007


Another screwup in the Constitution that hasn't been mentioned yet:

Article I, Section 10
...
No state shall, without the consent of the Congress, lay any imposts or duties on imports or exports, except what may be absolutely necessary for executing it's inspection laws
posted by ewiar at 4:44 PM on February 27, 2007


Claire Booth Luce, ex-senator, related the story that she had an interview with the Washington Post. At the end of the interview there was a filler question: What do you do to relax? She answered: I enjoy shooting and my cats. The Post ran it: I enjoy shooting my cats.
Luce said she then received a phone call from a member of the richest family in Delaware (she didn't identify them, but the Duponts). The man said, I'm glad I found someone else who enjoyed shooting cats, I thought I was going crazy.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 4:51 PM on February 27, 2007 [2 favorites]


Luce said she then received a phone call from a member of the richest family in Delaware (she didn't identify them, but the Duponts). The man said, I'm glad I found someone else who enjoyed shooting cats, I thought I was going crazy.

Well, if it was John Eleuthère du Pont, he probably was:

John Eleuthère du Pont (born November 22, 1939) is a member of the prominent Du Pont family who in 1997 was convicted of murdering Olympic wrestler Dave Schultz and sentenced to up to 30 years in prison. Experts at the trial testified that du Pont suffers from paranoid schizophrenia.[1]

Maybe he couldn't stand cats because "Prior to his arrest and conviction, he was an American ornithologist."
posted by jamjam at 5:12 PM on February 27, 2007


Cinderella's slipper may have been made of squirrel fur (vair) and not glass (verre).

If so -- it's not cut and dry -- that'd be quite the most wide-reaching typo I can think of.
posted by genghis at 5:14 PM on February 27, 2007


I can't say whether 'almah' and 'bethulah' differ by one letter, as the site I linked earlier seems to imply

No. They are completely different words.

It was in print and it was wrong - does that count as a typo?

No.

Neil Armstrong's "one small step for [a] man."

Not a typo.

according to Christoph Luxenberg the Qu'ran passage that promise martyrs all those virgins in heaven is wrongly handed down from the oldest known Aramaic sources.


Not a typo.

Nixon's declaration: "I am not a crook."

note: Ask MetaFilter is as useful as you make it. Please limit comments to answers or help in finding an answer. Wisecracks don't help people find answers. Thanks.
posted by languagehat at 5:20 PM on February 27, 2007


"Cinderella's slipper may have been made of squirrel fur (vair) and not glass (verre)."


Yeah, I was just about to post that, but I couldn't decide if I trusted Wikipedia (says glass was valuable) over my Truth-about-fairy-tales book (the one that explains how, originally, the three bears straight up ate Goldilocks)
posted by niles at 5:42 PM on February 27, 2007


During the Hyphen War (after which Czechoslovakia was split into two), whether or not hyphens or dashes and capitalization were used had highly political implications.
posted by idb at 7:01 PM on February 27, 2007


I can't say whether 'almah' and 'bethulah' differ by one letter, as the site I linked earlier seems to imply

No. They are completely different words.

Of course they are-- just like languagehat and languagehate (if I do not presume too much). Couldn't you be more specific?
posted by jamjam at 7:07 PM on February 27, 2007


"Completely" means something more profound than you think it does.
posted by mendel at 7:59 PM on February 27, 2007


If typo can be loooosely interpreted as reading something wrong, then this is $125m of typo.

Yes I know it's not strictly a typo, but it is a single error.
posted by lalochezia at 8:55 PM on February 27, 2007


How can the commas in the Second Amendment be an issue? The original signed document has commas. Isn't that definitive? Isn't any reprint that leaves the commas out just wrong?
posted by kirkaracha at 9:01 PM on February 27, 2007


My personal favorite is the Inverted Jenny.
posted by astruc at 9:29 PM on February 27, 2007


Because early Christianity was a mystery cult, you couldn't know what was going on unless you were a member, and also because of the fact that the Romans' knowledge of Greek was sketchy, they thought the "agapes" that the Christians were going to were cannibalistic orgies where they all had wanton sex and ate babies.

Why would the romans care about orgies?
posted by delmoi at 10:23 PM on February 27, 2007


Lots of Bible typos here including my fave, "Printers have persecuted me"!
posted by zadcat at 10:24 PM on February 27, 2007


The name 'Imogen'— an apparent Shakespearean coinage from Cymbeline—likely exists because of a printing error in the 1623 First Folio. Shakespeare almost certainly gave his heroine the old gaelic name 'Innogen', but his manuscript was misread in the printing house.
posted by Sonny Jim at 12:13 AM on February 28, 2007


Wow, there are a lot here. One I thought of as I was drifting off to sleep is "Marvin Gardens" in Monopoly. The place it's named after is spelled "Marven Gardens". Not famous for being a typo, but probably millions of people have seen it.
posted by Plutor at 3:56 AM on February 28, 2007


Iron content of spinach: the decimal point was transposed in a publication so that spinach appeared to have ten times as much iron as other green vegetables. Error occured in 1870, not identified until 1930s. (Wikipedia link) By then Popeye had been created and the myth of spinach's miracle iron content still remains today.
posted by boudicca at 4:10 AM on February 28, 2007


"Millenium" is a perfectly serviceable word, in the right context :-)

But it did make me laugh when it turned up on a massive tram-side advertisement for St Joseph's College in Melbourne, in the middle of a slogan that was supposed to read "education for a new millennium".

St Joe's does have about a thousand students, but I am pretty sure that the administration does not think most of them are arseholes :-)
posted by flabdablet at 4:42 AM on February 28, 2007


I saw a 'Judas bible' in Totnes in Devon recently - the 1611 edition, in which Judas is supposed to have said "Sit ye here while I go yonder and pray". That was mildly amusing.
posted by altolinguistic at 5:02 AM on February 28, 2007


The timing on this is interesting, because "dord" was discovered on this date in 1939. I particularly like the editor's response to its removal, and the malleability of language it implies: "probably too bad, for why shouldn't dord mean 'density'?"
posted by jbickers at 5:14 AM on February 28, 2007 [1 favorite]


I don't know if it's exactly famous, but on the right side of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC, the speech that's etched on the wall says "euture" instead of "future".
posted by borkingchikapa at 5:33 AM on February 28, 2007


The Guardian newspaper in the UK has misprinted its own name more than once, most notably as 'Grauniad', through never on the actual masthead.
posted by Hogshead at 5:38 AM on February 28, 2007


UN security council resolution 242 is more of a translation error than a typo...
In English:
Withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict.
In French
Retrait des forces armées israéliennes des territoires occupés lors du récent conflit.
The difference being: in french it asks for withdrawal from 'the territories occupied' which can be aurgued that it means 'all the territories', whereas the English version can be argued that it only means 'some of the territories'.

Much legal arguing has been made on the basis of that one missing article ('the').
posted by nielm at 5:39 AM on February 28, 2007


How has nobody mentioned Dewey Defeats Truman yet ?? I was certain this was one of the more famous typos (in newspaper history) at least. More info here.
posted by dead_ at 7:06 AM on February 28, 2007


As languagehat might say, "Not a typo." Dewey defeats Truman has no errors of spelling or meaning in it. It means exactly what the paper's editors intended.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 7:20 AM on February 28, 2007


Ah, that is true.
posted by dead_ at 7:28 AM on February 28, 2007


I once sang in a performance of Handel's Messiah in which one line in the programme read:

24. Chorus. Surely He hath borne our briefs

Not internationally famous or anything, but it did cause a choral meltdown.
posted by Pallas Athena at 7:34 AM on February 28, 2007


[languagehat, please tell me if I'm mistaken.] You see this one everywhere: Ye Olde Whatever. It's supposed to be archaic English. Except that Ye means "you", so all these signs actually say, "You Old Tavern," "You Old Shoestore," etc.
posted by grumblebee at 7:42 AM on February 28, 2007


grumblebee: William Caxton decided on the letter Y as a substitute for the Old English character thorn: þ. So in old printed documents, "the" often appears as ye and "that" as ytt. That's where the whole "ye olde" thing comes from.

See also

But yes, in middle- to- Early Modern English usage, "ye" is also a pronoun for "you" (formal/plural, nominative.)
posted by Pallas Athena at 8:11 AM on February 28, 2007


Thanks, Pallas Athena! Really interesting.
posted by grumblebee at 8:49 AM on February 28, 2007


Aluminium was misspelled in an early American dictionary, thus making the word Aluminum that we use today. (Hopefully that's not an urban legend)
posted by Four Flavors at 10:02 AM on February 28, 2007


4Flav, it seems that you've got it backward.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 10:37 AM on February 28, 2007


To clarify what Pallas Athena said. "Ye" was a correct spelling for the word pronounced "the" as well as for the word pronounced "ye."
posted by winston at 11:48 AM on February 28, 2007


of course, at the time, I don't think businesses would have had this type of signage at all, but that's getting off-topic
posted by winston at 11:55 AM on February 28, 2007


Yeah! What winston said.
posted by Pallas Athena at 1:18 PM on February 28, 2007


Can only find the first page of the relevant article online, but one historian has argued that perhaps much anti-Semitism can be blamed on the introduction into the Bible of a comma that was not present in previous versions. Essentially it laid blame for the killing of Jesus on all Jews, instead of a few:

"The Jews, who killed both the Lord Jesus and their prophets."

It's been a while since I read it, but I think he argues that the introduction was inadvertent.
posted by donpedro at 4:18 PM on February 28, 2007


we all know about the fleeting "l" in "public".
there's a fleeting "l" in russian too, in the word "glavny" which means "main" or "primary", and according to a story i heard once, omission of this letter once led to a suicide. the man had written a book about stalin, during the stalinist era, and his printer left out the "l" in the author's description of stalin as the primary commander of a force...

resulting in the new meaning "shit commander". he didn't wait for them to come and take him away.
posted by bruce at 8:57 PM on February 28, 2007


I vaguely recall reading some years ago about an anti-drug law where the legislative body (in the U.S., I think, but I don't recall whether it was federal, state, or municipal) had included a list of banned substances, and had intended to ban methyl-something-or-other, but the law as passed prohibited ethyl-something-or-other. Or possibly the other way around. Sorry I can't remember more details.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 10:46 AM on March 1, 2007


Slightly off-topic, but there's this lovely urban legend (false but nonetheless amusing) of an African representative addressing the United Nations in French. He intended to make a point about African nations and peoples being more developed than commonly assumed:

"L'Afrique n'erecte plus des auteils aux dieux."
Rendered in English as: "Africa no longer builds temples to the gods."

But allegedly it was translated by the FR-EN interpreter as:

"L'Afrique n'erecte plus des hôtels odieux."
Sounding almost exactly the same in French, rendered as: "Africa no longer builds dirty hotels."

Feel free to correct my French if it's off, I can't find an online source for this.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 8:00 PM on March 1, 2007


A book to be about renowned mistakes, Regret the Error.

EEK, A Typo! blog.

The Web's Million-Dollar Typos.

A typo generator.

The malapropisms of Father Gerald in Four Weddings and a Funeral, were hilarious verbal typos of a sort:

Father Gerald: "In the name of the father, the son, and the holy spigot. Spirit!"

Father Gerald: "In the name of the father, the son and the holy goat. Eh... *ghost*."

Among the Bushisms, there must be at least one whopper typo?
posted by nickyskye at 9:52 PM on March 3, 2007


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