There are errors and then there are typos

Some mistakes are annoying, but some of them are just hilarious

I was a good typist; at my high school typing was regarded as a secondary female sex characteristic, like breasts.

—   Margaret Atwood




’m not surprised that Margaret Atwood was a good typist. She’s great at everything she does.  Me?  I’m a lousy typist (my breasts are no hell either) — but I don’t fret about it because when it comes to typing, fate has given all of us, ept and otherwise, a great leveling device — the typo.

Anybody, saint or sinner, genius or journeyman, can make a typographical error.  It’s simply a mistake made in the typing of a document or other printed material.  Now, thanks to that infernal computer Nazi called Spellcheck, typos are even easier to make.

Yew sea wad eye mien, don’t ewe?

Typos are usually meaningless but occasionally hilarious. Not long ago the Toronto Sun ran a short item apologizing for an error.

“Incorrect information appeared in a column” …the piece began.  Unfortunately it ran under a boldface headline that read CORRERCTION.

A college catalogue description for a course in Shakespeare: Intensive analysis of Hamlet, Macbeth and Anatomy and Cleopatra.”

A luncheon menu: “Today’s special: Dreaded Veal Cutlet.”

And the New York Post is a two-time loser.  On Monday it ran a story that said “…Sergeant Alfred Blaine is a twenty-year defective on the New York police force.”

The next day it ran a correction: “Sergeant Alfred Blaine is a twenty-year detective on the New York Police Farce.”

My favourite typo occurred nearly 150 years ago.

It was made by a German chemist studying the iron content of vegetables.  In transcribing data from his notebook, the chemist ascribed 35 milligrams of iron to each 100-gram serving of spinach.

Big mistake.  He should have put a decimal point between the three and the five – i.e.: 3.5 milligrams per 100 grams. It was only a dot —  the smallest typographical mark you can make — but it transformed a so-so green into a miracle muscle builder and eventually gave us Popeye the Sailor Man.

“I fights to the finich

‘Cuz I eats me spinach!

I’m Popeye the Sailor man.”

The popularity of the Popeye comic strip increased American consumption of spinach by over 30 per cent.

So.  Truth in advertising?

Me muskels is hard

‘Cuz I eats me chard.

Nah.  Just doesn’t sing.


Arthur Black is a regular columnist.