John Kelly: More spelling misadventures


A misspelled sign for a mulch site at the Agricultural History Farm Park in Derwood, Md. (Courtesy Don Wittig)
John Kelly
Columnist October 7, 2012

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John Kelly writes "John Kelly's Washington," a daily look at Washington's less-famous side. Born in Washington, John started at The Post in 1989 as deputy editor in the Weekend section. View Archive

elcome once again to Typo Monday — or, as I suppose it should be called, Typo Modnay — when readers share the unfortunate spelling, grammatical and other language errors they have encountered.

Ashburn’s John Mazor remembers a typo in the (otherwise always error-free) Washington Post Sports section back in the late 1950s or early 1960s. It recounted the highlights of a Senators game and noted that entertainment was provided by the Army’s crack “Drum and Bungle Corps” unit.

Wrote John: “The insertion of one little ‘n’ left me with the image of bungling drummers and buglers resolutely rat-tatting their drums and holding their embouchures as their neatly dressed marching lines descended into chaos when they randomly criss-crossed and crashed into each other.”

Wes Pedersen of Chevy Chase said the funniest typo he’s seen in The Post was in an ad for the Prime Rib restaurant: “Jackie and Tire Required.”

Wes knows how easy it is to make mistakes. He spent 10 years writing commentaries on foreign affairs for the U.S. Information Agency’s International Press Service. “I was on constant guard in spelling out ‘Eisenhower’ and ‘Dulles,’ ” he wrote. “To this day, ‘Eisenhower’ rolls off my keyboard as ‘Eisenhowever.’ ‘Dulles’ comes out ‘Dullest’ — actually quite appropriate. Secretary of State John Foster Dulles was one of the most boring speakers in public life at the time.”

I have a similar problem. No, I’m not boring. I just can’t spell the word “washing” without having to backspace and delete “ton.”

Bob Dawson of Arlington used to work in the PR department at the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association. The organization had a women’s program that was a significant presence at annual meetings, with seminars, raffles and the like. One year, the raffle prize was the very desirable original artwork for the South Dakota duck stamp.

“The women’s program’s newsletter prior to the meeting announced this coup, and invited all the women to come visit the women’s booth to see the duck hunting stamp,” Bob wrote. “Unfortunately, the ‘u’ in ‘duck’ became an ‘i.’ ”

Don Wittig of Olney wonders whether there’s a spelling-error-prone gene in some people’s DNA. He was at the Montgomery County Agricultural History Farm Park in Derwood in June when someone was striving mightily to spell “mulch” correctly. One sign read “mluch,” while another read “multch.”

Wrote Don: “Much ado about mulch, to corrupt Shakespeare’s title.”

Not a typo, but fun nonetheless: Robin Cook remembers an India video store on Devon Avenue in Chicago that read: “English, Hindi, Urdu, Nintendo.”

Babs Klein said there’s a restaurant in Cheyenne, Wyo., where she lives, that had to fix a menu Catholics could have found offensive. For breakfast, diners could order Strawberry Delight, which was described as “Sliced papist muffin topped with strawberries, whipped cream and silvered almonds. Yummy.”

Sliced papist? What they meant was sliced poppyseed muffin. (And could they have actually meant “slivered” almonds?)

Betty Jacob insists that typos aren’t always bad things — and she says she’s proof. Many years ago, as she was finishing up her master’s degree at the University of Wisconsin, she applied for a government job in the D.C. area. She flew out for the interview and provided the hiring manager with information on how to get a copy of her university reference file — “a routine matter (or so I thought),” Betty wrote.

But after returning to Wisconsin thinking she had the job pretty well in hand, the hiring manager called Betty to say the university had said she was not a student there.

“Turns out it was a typo,” Betty wrote. “My maiden name is RIEGER, and the clerk had typed REIGER. Everything was paper then, so there were no computer crosschecks. There were, of course, telephones, but no one had bothered to call me to inquire about the discrepancy. And by the time I got that fateful phone call, someone else had been hired.”

Betty said that at the time she was devastated. Now she thanks that unknown clerk for “changing the course” of her life. If Betty had been offered the D.C. job, she wouldn’t have taken one in Milwaukee. If she hadn’t taken one in Milwaukee, she wouldn’t have gone with a co-worker on a picnic to a nearby lake. If she hadn’t gone to the picnic, she wouldn’t have met Dick Jacob. And if she hadn’t met Dick Jacob?

Well, they’ve been married since 1796 — I mean 1976.

To read previous columns, go to washingtonpost.com/johnkelly.

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