Wednesday 19 July 2006


I recently blogged a thought or two on what I call WYTAWYG (What You Type Ain’t What You Get) and the role of the well-intentioned, but far from perfect, spell-checker.

This prompted me to ponder a small literary mystery: why haven’t J K Rowling or Terry Pratchett (as far as I know) thought of providing the wizards of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry or Discworld’s Unseen University with the invaluable services of exactly that - a Spell-Checker?

It seems to me, that the teaching staff overseen respectively by Professor Dumbledore and Archchancellor Mustrum Ridcully could make profitable use of the services of such a functionary.

Essentially, the chief role of the Spell-Checker would be to ensure that spells were properly formulated before being ‘cast’:

“No, no, no! It’s ‘Eye of NEWT and toe of FROG’! It never works the other way around!”

However, the Spell-Checker might also be given discretionary powers of censorship in order to restrain any over-zealous wizards from spell-making that could cause unnecessary mayhem:

“Enough! This is nowhere near serious enough a situation for the use of a word like ‘Abba-Dabba-Ooga-Booga-Hoojee-Goojee-Yabba-Dabba-Doo’! You can have ‘Abbadazoola’ but NOTHING STRONGER!”

But I digress…

My real reason for returning to this subject was to note that the rewrite offered me by my computer's spell-check in place of “Call me Ishmael” is, perhaps, more widely known than I had supposed.

In fact, I’ve just discovered that cartoonist, Craig Swanson, made it the subject of one of his drawings - five years ago!

So, if you’re in need of a wry smile or two, take a browse through the very entertaining Notebooks of Craig Swanson at Perspicuity.

Meanwhile, Ms Rowling and Mr Pratchett: let me know which of you wants to use the Spell-Checker in your books and we’ll talk terms…

[Magic image: Puzuzu]

1 comment:

Anna said...

One wonders what kind of situation does call for the use of a Abba-Dabba-Ooga-Booga-Hoojee-Goojee-Yabba-Dabba-Doo.

I wonder if a wizard's spell checker would use some variation of the squiggly red line. And what would be the implications of the squiggly green line for spells...? Perhaps the words are right, just in the wrong order?

'Spell fragment. Consider revising.'