Sunday, 6 June 2010

Spelling mistakes - public and embarrassing ones

Let's be honest - we all make spelling mistakes sometimes. It may be because we don't know the spelling, or we think we know it but we are wrong. Often it's just a typo or lack of concentration and editing. Sometimes the spelling mistake doesn't matter too much, but other times - it really does!

Here are some very public and very embarrassing spelling errors:

A very public mistake was made by the Chilean mint. Thousands of coins were issued with a misspelling of the country's own name - the word 'Chiie' was stamped on them instead of 'Chile'. Incredibly, nobody noticed the error for a year. The Chilean mint decided not to take them out of circulation and now they are becoming collectors' items. So if you've got any Chilean coins lying around, take a close look to see if they are in fact 'Chiiean'.


In the recent British general election, UKIP (UK Independence Party) candidates made a number of spelling gaffes. One sent out a leaflet from the 'UK Independance Party'. And another published a poster saying he was 'fighting for Britian'. This candidate later claimed that it had been a deliberate error to create interest and discussion. Of course we believe him!

The most recent one I've seen is not IN English but BY the English and it is rather embarrassing because of where it is rather than what it is. The new glass doors to the Classics building at Cambridge University needed some kind of decor to make sure people saw them and didn't walk through the glass. So the University decided on a quotation from Aristotle: “All men by nature desiring to know” written in Greek, but unfortunately the Greek “Σ” in ΦYΣEI – or phusei, “by nature” – has been written as an English “S”. There is also a mechanical problem with these automatic doors and they are very slow - which gives each student plenty of time to contemplate the spelling while they wait for the doors to open.

In March 2009 The Daily Telegraph reported on the spelling mistakes found on the blog belonging to John Knight who was then the Schools Minister. They found the following: "maintainence", "convicned", "curently", "similiar", "foce", "pernsioners", "reccess" and "archeaological". Most of these look like typing errors to me and Mr Knight himself is quoted as saying, "When I was at school the teachers told me to always check my work. While my spelling is generally pretty good, I need to focus more on checking." Yes, you do Mr Knight. But wait a minute, the Telegraph should also check its work carefully when it complains about his 'mispellings' - in other words his 'pelling mistakes'. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/howaboutthat/4522525/Education-ministers-blog-littered-with-spelling-mistakes.html

The unfortunate Mr Brown, when he was Prime Minister, made a small spelling mistake which caused offence. He personally wrote, by hand, to every family who had a member killed in battle in Afghanistan. Mr Brown is partially blind and has to use a thick pen to make the letters clear for himself. It is said that he has a 'unique' handwriting style and it is at times difficult to read. However, he had clearly misspelled the surname of Grenadier Guardsman Jamie Janes, who had been killed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan, as Jamie James. The bereaved mother, on reading the letter, was so angry about it that she sold the story to a newspaper. http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/campaigns/our_boys/2720283/Prime-Minister-Gordon-Brown-couldnt-even-get-our-name-right.html .

And here is a flyer I received a few years ago and just had to keep (sorry Collins!). I'm not sure it's such a good advert for their 'dicationary':



Finally, this is not really about spelling but has to be my favourite blunder. In Wales road signs have to be in Welsh as well as English. So when a road sign was made saying "No entry for heavy goods vehicles. Residential site only", the local authority emailed their in-house translation service to ask for the Welsh translation. They got a very quick reply, copied it onto the sign below the English and installed the road signs. Only those who spoke Welsh knew that the translation of 'Nid wyf yn y swyddfa ar hyn o bryd. Anfonwch unrhyw waith i'w gyfieithu" is "I am not in the office at the moment. Send any work to be translated". Love it!!! http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/wales/7702913.stm

Any mistakes you find in this article, or in the blog as a whole, are of course entirely deliberate and just to create interest and discussion!

Do you know of any other public or embarrassing spelling mistakes? Any of your own?
How carefully do you check your spelling?
If you're a teacher, how do you encourage your students to edit?

15 comments:

  1. Those capital letters are abominable Greek typography, anyway. Greek doesn't go in for complex serifs like that.

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  2. Callie WilkinsonTuesday, June 08, 2010

    I always have to think about 'ence' and 'ance' endings. Oh, and recently I asked someone on Twitter to 'bare with me'. That was a bit embarrassing. Why is it, though, that I can only see my spelling mistakes once they are 'out there'?!

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  3. Ha ha, Callie, 'bare with me' could be a good one. I know absolutely what you mean about only noticing when your mistake is out there for the world to see.

    Thanks for dropping by.
    Johanna

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  4. When I read "ΦYΣEI" fast, I thought it said "PSYK!" - some sort of play on psychology (I could use a good dicationary).

    Spelling mistakes always seem worse when they are on display. I make lots when writing quickly on the white-board in class, and no one cares, really. But, then, I sometimes take a pic of the board to illustrate a blog post, and there's the mistake, proudly displayed.

    If only we could have access to those red squiggly lines all the time!

    :)

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  5. Read this on the same day as the story the "Barrack Obama mug in Australia"
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/asia_pacific/10262818.stm
    (Think you have to cut and paste the link on Blogger.

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  6. Not so much as spelling mistake as a typo, but I almost delivered a powerpoint presentation once on "countable and uncountable nuns" ;-)

    There's a lesson on my student blog that I did a while back featuring some of my favourite signwriting spelling bloopers, including the classic "Entrance To Collage Car Park Only":

    Funny Signs - Spot The Mistakes

    Sue :)

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  7. 'Countable and uncountable nuns' sounds like it would really draw in the crowds at a conference Sue! Looking forward to looking at your blog post.
    Johanna

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  8. Ha ha ~ wonder if I could get away with passing my errors off as 'deliberate ... to create interest and discussion'! I doubt it somehow.

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  9. MotherofReinvention. It would be an interesting USP for a proofreader! Good luck with your freelance career - I love mine!
    Johanna

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  10. Just come across this misspelling of 'ratchet' - it made me laugh.
    http://arbtalk.co.uk/forum/lounge/17842-lovely-spelling.html
    Johanna

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  11. in the philippines, the 100peso bills containing pres. arroyo's name spelled as arrovo. they tried to take it out of circulation and tried to get the released bills which caused quite a frenzy that the 100peso bills instantly became a collectors item.

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  12. Ouch! Perhaps it's a good idea to produce something with an 'accidental' mistake so everyone wants one!
    Johanna

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  13. There are several words that I often misspell ("misspell being one of them, ironically enough) but whenever I use those words, I always check and check again. Particularly if the text is going to be seen by anyone other than myself.

    I haven't seen any absolute howlers go public around here. There are plenty of signs that I'd rephrase, given the choice but so far, the spelling's been correct.

    I did see a notice saying "Do not distrub" in Spain once though, although I suspect that was more of a typo or not having the budget for translation companies than an outright spelling error.

    And I didn't see this for myself, only in a picture online but it's still one of my favourites. The picture is of a man at a protest of some kind, proudly holding up a placard that said: "Get a brain! Morans."

    Hopefully he was going for irony but I have my doubts.

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  14. Wow - Glad I came across this site. I really needed to feel better about a blunder on sermon slides that I produced for our church. I got the sermon from our pastor and I needed to put into PowerPoint and then save as a jpeg. I made 4 spelling mistakes (on for one, where for were and case for cast and the dozier... "mailed to the cross" but of course it should have read "nailed to the cross". This just happed yesterday at our church. We have 3 serves and the errors weren’t fixed until two serves had seen the mistakes. Feeling really stupid - any encouragement you can give me would be welcomed.

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  15. Oh, April, we've all been there! But I have to say 'mailed to the cross' is a good one!! Maybe your congregation thought you'd done them deliberately. In fact maybe next time you should put in some deliberate ones and refer to them.

    In fact they look like typos, not spelling mistakes, to me. You just missed out a (rather important) checking stage. Bet you'll never do it again!

    As I've said before I have a particular problem because people are dying to catch me out making spelling mistakes! I've just started a new Facebook Page called Making Sense of English Spelling at www.facebook.com/thespellingpage and I tweeted about it (posted it on Twitter) but accidentally wrote "join the converation" . When I noticed that I'd misspelled conversation maybe I should have left it but didn't. So I corrected it and suddenly everyone started retweeting my error. Thanks Guys! But perhaps it led some new people to the FB page.

    Anyway, there aren't many people who can say they never make spelling mistakes. And if they do, nobody likes them much!

    Johanna

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