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Wrong again

Confusion of homonyms is one of the most vexing and persistent errors to turn up in print. Sometimes the writer simply doesn’t know the distinction, and sometimes, perhaps, the brain automatically corrects the perception to read the word that ought to be there. And spell-checking functions are of little help when the wrong word is correctly spelled. (Microsoft Word will, however, convert Barack Obama into Barracks Boatman if you are injudicious about applying the function.)

One of our readers sent me an irritated message this morning after discovering in the paper a reference to hoards of bar patrons. (Wherever do they store them all?)

The same reader also spotted a reference to police monitors watching live footage. Since footage is on videotape or film, it seems likelier that the monitors were observing live video.

Do keep the cards and letters coming, folks.



Posted by John McIntyre at 11:54 AM | | Comments (10)


I understand that at least one spellchecker changes "Obama" to "Osama."

In the previous post you wrote "It has been a buy week down at the plant".
At first I thought it was a typo and you really meant "busy" but if not, can you tell us more?

It was a typo for "busy" (wrong again), and I have fixed it. Thanks.

Actually "buy" would have been approximately right, because The Sun sold out of papers the day after the presidential election and had to print tens of thousands more to meet the demand.

Given the name of my blog (The Outer Hoard), I'm very well aware that people often confuse "hoard" with "horde". My other blog is called Invisible Hoard (as in hidden treasure), but search for that phrase on Google and you'll find that almost every result is a misspelling of invisible horde. I suspect it's relevant that both words are often associated with the fantasy genre and considered somewhat exotic.

Interesting. I've never heard the live footage one. I'm writing that one down now.

I will humbly admit that it took my brain a good thirty minutes to dig hordes out of its deep recesses as the appropriate replacement for hoards. I don't know that I've ever consciously noted the distinction. (Proof again that you shouldn't stop at 10th grade English, I suppose.)

>Microsoft Word will, however, convert Barack Obama into Barracks Boatman if you are injudicious about applying the function.

As you probably know, John, this has been whimsically named the Cupertino Effect:

In an energy article, a particularly confused reporter devoted a section to "wind turbans," creating an amusing mental image, and repeated the mistake throughout the article. Amazing.

[JEM: I'm posting for Di, who had trouble getting access to the comments function.]

As to the auto-correction function: I was texting someone directions to my home which is on Whitted Rd. It auto-corrected Whitted to a word that rhymes with it but starts with "s" and would probably get this comment bumped.

Love your blog!


Years ago, as I spell-checked my letter of resignation from a job where I had long felt not only underpaid but also unappreciated, the program stopped on the employer's name and suggested a single option:


In those days, Word seemed wiser.

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About John McIntyre
John McIntyre, mild-mannered editor for a great metropolitan newspaper, has fussed over writers’ work, to sporadic expressions of gratitude, for thirty years. He is The Sun’s night content production manager and former head of its copy desk. He also teaches editing at Loyola University Maryland. A former president of the American Copy Editors Society, a native of Kentucky, a graduate of Michigan State and Syracuse, and a moderate prescriptivist, he writes about language, journalism, and arbitrarily chosen topics. If you are inspired by a spirit of contradiction, comment on the posts or write to him at
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