Bad Typo Dept.

No typo is a good typo. I’ve had more than my share. In a long-ago article about Central Park, I referred to its bridal trail, which implies it is a place that brides, not horses, do their running.

Another memorable snafu wasn’t technically a typo, but it was still pretty terrible. For a profile of Catherine Abate, the commissioner of New York City’s Department of Corrections, I took a brief tour of Rikers Island with Abate, hanging out while she chatted with guards, prisoners, etc. At one point, while describing how Abate greeted the prisoners and then listened to their various complaints, I wrote something like:

“Abate grasps their hands and cocks her ear …”

Shortly after the article was published, a reader pointed out how that sentence could be badly misread. (Talk about the Department of Corrections!)

And just the other day, I wrote a brief blog post about the American Economic Association’s annual meeting in New Orleans and the “virtual flood of press coverage” that came out of it. As a commenter named Brian soon wrote: “New Orleans and a ‘Flood’ of coverage? Groan…”

He was entirely right.

So I am as guilty, if not more so, as anyone of creating typos. But the following typo strikes me as worth pointing out, if only in the hopes that someone will fix it in a hurry. In my copy of today’s Times (yes, I still prefer the paper version, by a long shot), on the back page of the Business section is an “Information Directory” that helpfully offers the e-mail addresses and phone numbers for various Times departments, including:

Letters to the Editor
Public Editor

And also, if you really need to, you can contact the paper’s very top editors, whose e-mail addresses are listed under — and I quote:

The Editoprs.


Leave A Comment

Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.



View All Comments »
  1. Fred says:

    Our local news stations’ web site is notorious for horrible spelling and grammar. My all-time favorite is the story about a damaged bridge (emphasis added by me):

    “A pickup truck pulling a trailer with a backhoe hit the bottom of the bride on Monday.”

    Poor girl.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  2. CB says:

    One of my personal favorites was a property management company in my area whose website, in big, bold, red letters, advertised “Great Low Prices on
    Brand New Renal Units!” Apparently they were anticipating the new research on possible free market organ trade.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  3. Fred Beukema says:

    When I was in an American History course in college, I wrote a paper on what the reaction to the film “Dr. Strangelove” can tell us about popular sentiment towards nuclear brinksmanship (short answer: they thought it was scary).

    Anyway, at one point, I tried to write “..a growing public awareness…”

    Except I misspelled public in the worst way possible. Thankfully Prof. Hietala has a sense of humor.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  4. D. Flynn says:

    Dr. Dubner, “typo” is short for “typographical error,” a mistake due primarily to mechanical failure, such a page mentioning grocery store banned goods instead of grocery store canned goods or a dropped or misplaced letter or punctuation mark, such as when a panda bear eats, shoots, and leaves.

    The latter two errors that you describe are not typos. The one concerning Ms. Abate is simply overly loose phrasing and the one concerning New Orleans is a Freudian slip.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  5. Bob Koblish says:

    Saw a comment the other day on a listserv to which I subscribe — someone spoke of “gelding the lily”. Still shaking my head over that one.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  6. Brian says:

    Watch out spell check can bite you too…

    The Gazette (Colorado Springs, CO) front-page story on May 20, 2005, reprinted from The New York Times, was about how Iraq had issued a statement admitting fault in its war with Iran in the 1980s. The piece started off just fine, but when it jumped to page 8, all heck broke loose. Here’s just one paragraph, to give you an idea of what the Gazette reported:

    “Sunny resentment has hardened recently, with a leading Sunny cleric accusing a government militia, made up largely of Shelties, of carrying out mosque raids and killings. On Thursday, two Sunny groups called for the temporary closing of dozens of Bighead mosques as a protest.”

    Sunny, Sunni … Sheltie, Shiite … Bighead, Baghdad. It’s all the same, right? The story referred to Saddam Hussein as “Sadden” Hussein; Saleh Mutlak as “Sale Mukluk”; and Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini as Ayatollah “Royally” Khomeini. Our favorite: Farideh Farhi, a professor of Iranian politics, became “Frieda Fairy.”

    Rather than providing a detailed correction listing the embarrassing individual mistakes in the story, the Gazette opted to reprint a corrected version the next day.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  7. Austin says:

    “Winfield goes back to the wall. He hits his head on the wall — and it rolls off! It’s rolling all the way back to second base! This is a terrible thing for the Padres.”

    The great Jerry Coleman.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  8. Frank says:

    “the one concerning New Orleans is a Freudian slip.”

    No, that’s just a bad choice of words.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0