“Where is Canada?”

A few days ago I messaged my sisters about some information I’d just found about the family of one of our great-great-grandmothers. We’d previously had information about her husband, but not her, except that they married in Canada in 1863 and she was born about 1843. One of my sisters replied:

Where is Canada?

This is a perfectly formed question and I can imagine a child or parent/teacher asking it in the context of learning/teaching about countries of the world, but it didn’t make immediate sense in this context. I’m sure she knows where Canada is, and meant “Where in Canada?”, so I answered that question, specifically Saint John, New Brunswick. But I’m puzzled about the typo of is for in, given that s and n are so far apart on the keyboard. (Maybe she’d typed something else and autocorrect changed it to the full question Where is Canada? rather than the elided question Where in Canada? (By itself in is more common.))

Some time ago, another sister commented on Facebook that she was looking forward to seeing one of her children (who lives some distance away) “in Thursday”. That is more easily explained: i and o are next to each other on the keyboard.


DAFT and deep fat

When I encounter other people’s typos (or notice my own), I try to understand why they’ve occurred, which is sometimes more interesting than the actual typos. The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is usually abbreviated as DFAT and pronounced dee-fat. Two recent documents rendered that as DAFT and deep fat. Our legal officers can type documents or dictate them into an auto-transcription tool. Either way, their self-checking is sometimes not totally diligent, which is why my colleagues in the proofreading team have a job. DAFT is a typing error, maybe because people are more used to typing d-a than d-f. (Very possibly, autocorrect would change dfat (lower case) to daft. (In fact, Page for Mac just changed dfat to fat, but as far as I know, upper case strings are left as they are.) deep fat is a voice-to-text transcription error, maybe because the tool hasn’t been trained in Australian government acronyms. No-one ever said “daft” when they really meant “dee-fat”, or typed “deep fat” when they really meant DFAT. 

A qualification in …

A document referred to someone gaining a qualification in “Bossiness” (a typo (or ‘replaco’) for “Business”). In Australia, some courses allow students to apply for “Recognition of Prior Learning” and/or “Recognition of Current Competency”. I know some people who would gain recognition of current competency for their bossiness. No names …

eak, nouce and beaurocratic

When I’m not working, I don’t set out to find typos in what I read, but sometimes I just can’t not. I’m re-reading some old books before deciding whether to keep them or sell, give, donate or throw away (I can’t stand throwing away books!). One of these is the story of the British comedy team The Goons. In one chapter, there were three instances of one mis-spelled word and one of another, and I found a third while I was skimming through to find them before drafting this post.

Spike’s time spent eaking out unperformed scripts on his old typewriter would not go to waste.

‘Now most of those tapes lie gathering dust at the BBC. You’d think they would have the nouce to broadcast [them].’ (quoting Spike Milligan)

‘I’m not surprised at the way the BBC eak out an occasional Goon Show recording rather than broadcast a whole series on radio.’ (Milligan)

’Now a Goon Show is being eaked out for a miserable once-a-year airing on cassette. Blind, misguided, beaurocratic BBC.’ (Milligan)

This is a quality production, edited by a woman who used to be Milligan’s personal assistant. It’s easy to say “Haha, you made a mistake in a printed book”, but it’s more interesting to explore the linguistic issues behind them, and I don’t want to name and shame the editor and publisher. Eke and nous are very rare words, bureaucratic is moderately rare, and all three have very unusual spellings. Continue reading