Thursday, September 30, 2010

More Typo Crime Scenes - and the Rewards of Vigilantism

I was at a petrol station in Dungarvan the other day when I spotted this gem out of the corner of my eye as I was gazing into the middle distance while filling the tank. I did a double take as I couldn't believe such a glaring possessive punctuation error could have made it to the printers without someone proofing it en route - but I suppose nothing should surprise me at this stage!

My typo vigilantism is getting worrying now - not alone am I winning the prize for the best entry in the Irish Times Terrible Typos competition which I blogged about here - but I spotted two errors in the Letters page of the same "paper of record" as it's dubbed - which prompted me to write to Madam Editor. I didn't get published in the Letters Page - rather I got an email from the Letters Ed thanking me for pointing out the error of their ways.

Sparing the blushes of the writers of the letters with the typos probably, or their own blushes for missing them in the proofing. I did ask if they can mess around with someone's letter and correct spelling mistakes and grammatical glitches, but that wasn't addressed in the reply I received.

So there I was wandering around a Home and Garden shop - again in Dungarvan, where I'm work-based - one lunchtime last week, and marvelling at the prices (high by my frugal standards) when this beauty leapt from the display stand, begging to be snapped. I duly obliged and here is the result. Isn't it amazing that the boss wouldn't check the spelling before putting the poster on display, as it is written correctly on all the boxes containing the same Utensils!

But then there'd be no fun for anoraks like me - and no market for books like the "Great Typo Hunt" one and the classic that (for me) started the ball rolling - Lynn Truss's "Eats, Shoots and Leaves"

By the way, in case you're (your!) wondering what I bought with my winnings from the Terrible Typos competition - well, half the tokens are gone - on two great books that I know will give me hours of pleasure. One is "Adrian Mole - The Prostrate Years" by Sue Townsend who penned that wonderful series of Adrian Mole books, taking us from his adolescent agonies to his male menopausal misery and beyond.

The other is Tim Butcher's new African saga - "Chasing the Devil: The Search for Africa's Fighting Spirit" - his Boys' Own Adventure re-telling of following in the footsteps of Graham Greene's 1935 "Journey Without Maps". I haven't yet read Greene's book, and I guess that's another one to add to my wishlist. Tim was in Lismore two years ago at Immrama as a speaker and enthralled everyone with his account of his travails and travels in the footsteps of Henry Morton Stanley along the Congo River which he wrote about in "Blood River". I had the pleasure of meeting him at Immrama and the dubious pleasure of having him tell me he'd read an online review I'd written on Blood River after our Book Club in Lismore had read it!

The moral of that story was never to write anything about someone you wouldn't be happy to have them read in your presence - unless you're a journalist or a pol. corr. or suchlike.

I hope you enjoy these lighter looks at life and literacy - as well as literature!


Susan said...

I love your typo stories! (Please excuse any I make here- I'm just waking up after a late night!)I am heading to Chapters books in Dublin today & will be looking out for both of Tim Botcher's books. I am still on a Congo reading theme after PW Bible, & have read King Leopold's Ghost, which I thought was very good, & am now on 2 others- which I can't remember the titles of without more coffee... I've not read the Blogger's Book Club book for this month, as I've been too busy 'in' Africa (& Corduroy Mansions, for balance!)
Just FYI, a while back you were kind enough to comment on my new blog, but it went to the Askimet spam filter & I didn't find it for ages.

Stephanie V said...

Well-spotted! But, I'm left wondering at the state of spelling and/or the obvious reluctance of the writers to employ spell check. We all miss keys but does not one read over what's been typed? Especially if it's for display adverts.

Of course, the thought occurs that it may be a marketing ploy. If so, we've all fallen into the trap!

Irene said...

I, as a Dutch woman, do a better job than the ordinary English speaker. I do spot the mistakes, I'm happy to say. Americans make terrible errors too.

Mise said...

Catherine, have you tried The Compleet Molesworth by Geoffrey Willans and Ronald Searle? If not, you might love it; it transcends misspellings and typos. And thanks for the kind invitation! I'm sure your cooking is well worth a journey, and maybe one day I'll get down to those less-travelled (for me) parts of Ireland.

Mimi said...

Good typo finds!
I find it incredible that, with spellcheck, these kind of errors are still around, but most people just couldn't be bothered, and think that we're fuddy duddy to care.
And we've never had so many A grades in Leaving Cert English! bah!

Catherine said...

Wow - great to get feedback from like-minded bloggers - it really is amazing the number of typos that slip under the radar and out into the public arena. Teaching is probably partly to blame as there was a tendency to emphasise creativity and not to correct grammar as it might cramp style - seems it just abandoned style entirely! I guess I always had it drummed into me to speak "proper" and while I couldn't describe the technicalities of grammar I instinctively know how it works.

Susan - glad you found my comment - must check spambox from time to time! How did you get on in Chapters? Did yo find the Tim Butcher books? They are in Easons too. Yes, the Congo theme is very popular and there are many others out there - there's one by Ronan Bennett I can't recall right now but it's set in Congo - excellent. Tell me the ones you refer to when you've had enough coffee!

Stephanie - of course there's money in bad grammar with the spinoff books it's generated!But it's still a lot of fun for anoraks like me! Glad you enjoyed them. Computers making us lazy? Probably!

Nora - your English is excellent as you know - and great that you spot the errors - Americans spell words differently which is acceptable but the errors are quite similar - greengrocer's apostrophes everywhere there too I'm sure!

Mise - that's a book I haven't heard of - I have heard of Ronald Searle so I must google/amazon check it out! And of course drop in if you're ever down this neck of the woods! I'll try to have apple tart ready!

Mimi - I agree that it's got beyond a joke with spellcheckers - but as I ranted in an earlier grammar post there's a lot the spellchecker will miss like the homophones (I think that's what you call words that sound the same) like bail and bale! I read one about "baling" out the banks - they could do with being tied up with baling twine alright! Maybe the LC is being dumbed down. I often see spelling mistakes in my daughter's (14)work not corrected - maybe in the interest of creativity again?

Thanks again all - Catherine