Whatever curious and interesting subject strikes my fancy, be it silly or serious, gets posted for your reading pleasure.

Monday, 3 August 2015

The Curse of the 'Printer's Devil' ~ Why Authors and Editors Fail to Spot Typos

(Post originally published December 20, 2010)

 In the good old days of the printing press when texts were set by hand letter by letter, it was easy to make typos as all the type had to be set backwards like the image in a mirror to ensure it would print correctly on the velum or paper. Whenever a mistake would show up in the printed work, it was always blamed on the ‘printer’s devil’ similar to our ‘gremlins’ today. Eventually the poor apprentices in the print shop were stuck with the title as they carried out a considerable amount of typesetting and were blamed when type went missing. They were usually covered in black ink, which didn't help, giving them the appearance of devilish imps.

 (Image: A replica printing press at the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky)

 However, why are we still stuck with typos when we have electronic equipment with keyboards to handle the typesetting and spell-checking? No longer do printers have to envision sentences backwards in order to print a book or newspaper. Perhaps the two paragraphs below may help solve this annoying riddle:

“Aoccdrnig to rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a tatol mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe.”

Stargne, ins’t it?

Now take a look at the poem below, (it might help if you read it out loud):

“Spell Check Poem”   Also known as…

“The Pullet Surprise Can Did Ate”

Eye halve a spelling chequer
It came with my pea sea,
It plainly marques four my revue
Miss steaks eye kin knot sea.
Eye strike a key and type a word
And weight for it two say,
Weather eye and wring oar write
It shows me strait a weigh.
As soon as a mist ache is maid
It nose bee fore two long,
And eye can put the error rite
Its rare lea ever wrong.
To rite with care is quite a feet
Of witch won should bee proud,
And wee mussed dew the best wee can,
Sew flaw's are knot aloud.
Eye have run this poem threw it
Your sure reel glad two no,
Its letter perfect awl the weigh
My chequer tolled me sew.
-Sauce unknown

In this electronic age, perhaps ‘Printer’s Devils’ have evolved into ‘Spell Checker Spirits’?

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