It happens to everyone eventually, amateurs and pros alike. I’m not just talking garden-variety typos—although those happen too, albeit rarely for those of us whose job it is to eradicate them. I’m talking about the editor-defying, snorf-eliciting Typos of Death, the ones that inspire cringes decades on, the ones from which it seems we can never be fully saved, either by technology or common sense.
These days, with the ubiquity of spellcheck, which catches most errors, they tend to be homonyms—too for to, thus for this, wonton for wanton, and so on. (The most notorious, of course: pubic for public.)
My favorite in this genre was spotted on the chest of a man bathing at a Tahoe-area hot springs: “Live To Fast, Die To Young.” It didn’t help that the guy’s generous waistline gave the lie to the first statement; I’m still puzzling out the second.
And so, in this spirit, I present to you some less-than-fond typographic recollections from the good folks at the Content Bureau:
In a health club newsletter I edit, members were informed that if they signed up for a summer get-fit program, they would receive a “free T-shit.” (Yes … I caught that before it went to press.)
—Jane Irene Kelly
One tends to make minor mortifications like typos evaporate from one’s brain (to leave room for the really ugly mortifications to swell up), but I do remember misspelling the name “Rainer Werner Fassbinder”—the famously ornery German film director—as “Raiger Werner Fassbinder” on an invitation to his movie’s premiere, back in my long-ago New York Film Festival days. There were a lot of nervous jokes about how Rainer was a rager and we’d have hell to pay, but if he was any crankier than usual it was hard to tell the difference.
Shortly after moving to San Francisco and getting a job as a reporter, I made a reference to the “Greatful Dead.” That one still makes me cringe.
Plaid Pantry is a convenience store chain in the Northwest. As a young consultant, I created a PowerPoint slide deck featuring the business, with a full-color cover emblazoned with the words “Plaid Panty.” I remember it like it was yesterday.
And finally, Eric Wilinski reminds us of this classic story, proof that the problem has been with us for a very long time:
An item meant to describe the president’s social evening at a local theater with Mrs. Galt included the phrase “rather than paying attention to the play the President spent the evening entertaining Mrs. Galt.” What was printed in the first run of the Washington Post was the phrase “rather than paying attention to the play the President spent the evening entering Mrs. Galt.”