Monday 17 July 2006


I've coined the useful acronym WYTAWYG (What You Type Ain’t What You Get) in an attempt to offer a rational explanation for the root cause of the many zillions of unfortunate or hilarious typos scattered through the publications of countless decades.

Many of these gaffs have been gathered into funny anthologies, such as Denys Parson’s classic ‘Shrdlu’ books of the 1950s, beginning with It Must Be True, a volume about which I have recently written on my Ex Libris blog.

I’ve suffered from a good few ‘misprunts’ in my career, but none more galling than that which appeared in an Edinburgh newspaper's critique of my play about Edward Lear, To Sea in a Sieve. An otherwise glowing review was ruined by a single, simple error when the writer (or possibly an over-zealous sub-editor) revealed a pathetic lack of childhood exposure to such Leary creatures as the Dong with the Luminous Nose ...

“Brian Sibley" ran the notice, "presented many lively nonsense characters on stage including an extremely amusing portrayal of the DOG with a luminous nose…”

Today, in the era of the computer spell-checker, it should all be so much easier. Except, of course, that it isn't! The other day, mine bumped up against the name Tolkien - admittedly mistyped as ‘Tolkine’ - and decided that the word I was really looking for was Tow-line!

Perhaps the best example in my recent experience was while writing the screenplay for an animated film based on Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick. I confidentally typed the immortal opening line - “Call me Ishmael” - without giving a thought to the consequences.

When the spell-checker (not knowing Melville's novel or the Old Testament) came to do its job, it was hopelessly nonplussed; but - in the spirit of automated helpfulness - felt obligated to make a suggestion...

By way of a not unreasonable alternative to Ishmael, I was offered ---- FISH-MEAL...

As it happens, Ishmael was alone among the crew of the ill-fated ‘Pequod’ in not becoming fish-meal at the end of the book; otherwise it wasn't a bad harpoon stab-in-the-dark - especially since, in Melville’s day, the whale was still believed to be a fish, rather than a mammal.

I think I might now almost be ready to start a collection of spell-check aberrations... So, if anyone wishes to contribute known examples - ‘freel fee’!

No comments: