Annals of Unfortunate Spellcheck Accidents

by Henry Farrell on April 7, 2009

From the “Chronicle”:

The student-newspaper staff at Brigham Young University removed some 18,500 copies of the paper from the campus yesterday, and reprinted nearly the entire press run, because an embarrassing typo in a front-page photo caption appeared to offend key leaders in the Mormon hierarchy…. The caption described a photograph illustrating the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ General Conference, and it referred to the group’s “Quorum of Twelve Apostates” rather than “Apostles.” … A student had misspelled the word “apostle,” and the article’s editor chose the wrong word from among the options offered by spell-checking software.



Charlie 04.08.09 at 1:37 am

Well, one man’s apostle is another mans apostate…Just ask the pharisees.


Michael Drake 04.08.09 at 1:39 am

Let that be a lesson to prostitutes everywhere.


Michael Drake 04.08.09 at 1:40 am

Damn! I meant protestants.


Delicious Pundit 04.08.09 at 1:51 am

At least they didn’t drop the second “m” in “Mormon”.


ignobility 04.08.09 at 2:12 am

I personally know at least 12 Mormon apostates.


Phill Hallam-Baker 04.08.09 at 3:16 am

They still print their newspapers? I didn’t think Mormons went in for the Amish thing.


engels 04.08.09 at 3:38 am

I am sure it was an honest pistake…


MH 04.08.09 at 4:28 am

One place I worked once received a shipment of promotional mechanical pencils printed by somebody who forgot ‘i before e, except after c’. The boss tried to trash them as quickly as possible, but I still have a few.


Colin Danby 04.08.09 at 5:13 am

I caught (and reluctantly had fixed) “pubic knowledge” in one of our course descriptions … a quick google shows plenty more examples to snicker at.


The Brucolac 04.08.09 at 6:55 am

I once read an entire appellate brief– in a capital case, on the side of the condemned– that referred throughout to “public hairs” discovered at the crime scene.


yabonn 04.08.09 at 9:10 am

Because no, a self-respecting Timberite would not lower itself playing with that second “n” in the title. That’s what lowly commenters are for :)


Preachy Preach 04.08.09 at 10:49 am

My wife once encountered a job application where someone had got ‘innate’ and ‘inept’ mixed up…


sanbikinoraion 04.08.09 at 11:28 am

“I’m sorry, Tim, I have to work late tonight. There’s been a typo on the front cover of one of our magazines.”
“Which one?”
“Total Cult.”


eric 04.08.09 at 12:06 pm

When I was in legal practice, I had a case in which the opposing lawyer’s first name was Spero. It was only my eagle-eyed secretary who corrected a letter in which spellcheck had “corrected” the name to “Sperm”.


Jacob Christensen 04.08.09 at 12:20 pm

I recall being asked once by a spellchecker to replace (Angela) Merkel with Berkeley. Ah, the Land der Dichter und Denker…

My Firefox spellchecker doesn’t know the word spellchecker, by the way. It wants me to replace it with spellbinder. Go figure.


Ahistoricality 04.08.09 at 1:05 pm

I’m going to have to remind my students: Spellcheck is your fiend.


Stuart 04.08.09 at 1:46 pm

One place I worked once received a shipment of promotional mechanical pencils printed by somebody who forgot ‘i before e, except after c’.

What a weird mistake to make, especially when the rule you quote is so well known.


Donald A. Coffin 04.08.09 at 3:43 pm

Apparently Zenith once had to trash an entire load of shipping cartons, because the company’s slogan appeared on the boxes as:

“At Zenity, the qulaity goes in before the name goes on.”


GeoX 04.08.09 at 5:17 pm

The single most common spelling error among freshman comp students is “defiantly” for “definitely.” This baffled me for a long time, but then I realized that they were almost certainly writing “definately,” which was being helpfully autocorrected into “defiantly” by Word.


Edis 04.08.09 at 6:03 pm

I once nearly handed in a review dealing with the geography of Sikh settlements in an UK town with a table of references containing a mention of a then-active UK Politician Eunuch Power. Fortunately I did a bit of checking beforehand…


Sassafras 04.08.09 at 7:20 pm

I once got a dictated letter returned to me with a blank space in the middle of a line.

I took it back to the secretary, who got rather flustered. She couldn’t type what I’d said on the tape, she said, and I couldn’t possibly mean anything so rude.

Rude? What did she think I’d said?

She wasn’t quite sure, but she’d looked for it in the dictionary and couldn’t find it, so she’d tried it beginning with “ph” and it was all to do with “a man’s private parts” and surely I couldn’t mean *that*.

Ah. Fallacious…


paul 04.08.09 at 10:54 pm

The sadly defunct online newsletter for nerds Need to Know used to run a feature called “Puerile google misspellings”. It listed innuendo-laden typos and spell check artefacts occurring frequently enough to return multiple results in Google. Examples included “ming boggling”, “mailing lusts”, “t-shitrs”, and, best of all, “poofreading”.

From the same source, surely this extraordinary claim cannot be true?


ignobility 04.09.09 at 1:58 am

Many, many years ago, I was reading the want ads and saw one from Burger King that wanted a manager who was smart, energetic, and vicious.


gray lensman 04.09.09 at 3:52 am

Several years ago I saw a proofing job go wrong when thousands of envelopes, letterhead sheets, business cards, etc., were printed for the US Olympic Committee with the Y left out of “Olmpic”. The young woman who made the original mistake was distraught, but someone pointed out that numerous hotshot management types had signed off on the whole job, on both coasts, over a several month period. You see what you expect to see.


Ludwig 04.09.09 at 6:32 am

You did mean to title this post “Anals of Unfortunate Spellcheck Accidents”, didn’t you?


mollymooly 04.09.09 at 10:09 am

I stand for thouands of new green jobs for Dublin“. Not a Cupertino, but funny in context.


roac 04.09.09 at 2:22 pm

Not technically a spellcheck issue, but funny: A few seasons ago the chorus I sing with performed a Latin mass setting with a local semipro orchestra. Whoever was in charge of printing the program decided that instead of inviting patrons to buy an “ad,” it should say “sponsorship,” and did a global find-and-replace to that purpose. Which filled the mass text which was incorporated in the program with lines such as “Qui sedes sponsorship dexteram Patris, miserere nobis.”


Preachy Preach 04.09.09 at 2:40 pm

There’s a story that the Guardian, back in the 80s, obviously had had a harried sub do a global search and replace on an election story to remove references to ‘poll’ and replace with ‘turnout’. Which led to the article referring to the close defeat of Ms AJ Turnoutack’.


toby 04.10.09 at 10:50 am

I once typed in an acronym with a C, a T and an R , which stood for the organization for which I worked, and the spellcheck suggested the word “cretins”.

It got that right.


Jeremy 04.10.09 at 12:52 pm

Wordperfect used to mark “Piaget” as a spelling error and suggest “Piglet” as an alternative spelling.
One of my students turned in a paper with the sentence “The children had many guest ions.” She meant to say “questions”


rea 04.12.09 at 3:26 pm

When I was in legal practice, I had a case in which the opposing lawyer’s first name was Spero. It was only my eagle-eyed secretary who corrected a letter in which spellcheck had “corrected” the name to “Sperm”.

Similar experience in which opposing counsel’s name, “Yanich,” was rendered, “Eunuch.”

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