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Karen Virag

GETTABLE GRAMMAR: I come to praise typos, not to bury them

Close-up profile of a white llama’s head, outdoors.

Summer is often called the silly season—it is, after all, generally a time of cheap escapist paperbacks and brainless blockbuster movies (Sharknado, anyone?). So, in honour of that most thought-free, indolence-inspiring and cogitation-challenged of seasons, for this posting I will neither opine nor berate; instead, I will celebrate the little language mistakes that make us chuckle—and keep editors employed (though most of the mistakes that appear below actually got to print before an editor could apply first aid).

Ridiculous recipes

Menus are an especially rich source of language faux pas. For example, my ex’s brother used to run a café where the special one day was “cream of leak soup.” One hopes it was not, um, yellow. On the same theme, I once saw this delectable-sounding menu item that made me think of a beach in Italy: “Pasta with steamed muscles.”

Cookbooks are not immune to such linguistic lunacy. Why, just the other day, in George Lang’s classic The Cuisine of Hungary, I ran across a veal recipe that called for this magic ingredient:

six slices of smoked him

How sexist, I thought! It really should be “him or her.”

Education that lifts the spirits and other things

At my workplace, the Alberta Teachers’ Association (ATA), we publish a journal for our Religious and Moral Education Council. One day, the word moral on the cover of the journal somehow transformed into morel, a gaffe that gives new meaning to the term “magic mushroom.” Fortunately we caught the mistake before the issue went to print.

Every October 5, World Teachers’ Day, the ATA publishes a special supplement in Alberta newspapers lauding teachers. One year someone sent in this helpful advice: “Ways to celebrate World Teachers’ Day include balloons broadcasting the names of teachers sent aloft by students.” I don’t know about you, but that sounds more like Get Even with Teachers Day to me.

Another person submitted an article to our phys-ed journal that provided step-by-step instructions on a new game that phys-ed teachers could teach in phys-ed class. One of the steps exhorted teachers to “make sure that the body has some legs under the balls.”

Well, that’s better than having them up in the air, I guess.

Close-up profile of a white llama’s head, outdoors.
“I leave you with another amusing and delightful typo….”

So, my friends, have a giggle now, in the few weeks that remain in silly season. Soon enough, classes will start, solemn tomes and films starring actual human actors will come out, and it will be time to get serious again. For now, though, I leave you with another amusing and delightful typo. Or is it? Actually, I like to think that an editor actually purposely ignored a mistaken double l in a phrase to give us an unforgettable, remarkable, inerasable image of a woolly Peruvian monk—the Dalai Llama, of course.

Gettable Grammar is a monthly series of conjectures, opinions and postulates by Karen Virag.

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