What the L?!
From the Annals of Taboo Avoidance, an elegant solution to avoiding a
not-very-taboo word, and another ostentatious avoidance from the New York Times
First, from Charlie Clingen, an MSNBC tale
of a typo:
In the public interest
Misspelling of 'public' forces Michigan county to reprint ballot for
Updated: 4:21 p.m. PT Oct 10, 2006
GRAND HAVEN, Mich. - Ottawa County will pay about $40,000 to correct an
embarrassing typographical error on its Nov. 7 election ballot.
That's how much it will cost the county to reprint 170,000 ballots that
were missing the letter "L" in the word "public."
They give you the intended word and tell you how to derive the actual
word printed. Thus is the word "pubic" avoided. A bit more
detail from the story:
... The word "public" was misspelled
one of the six times it appears in the text of the ballot issue, county
Clerk Daniel C. Krueger said Tuesday. Five or six people in his office
proofread the ballot but it was a local election clerk who found the
mistake early last week, he said.
"It's just one of those words," Krueger said. "Even after we told
people it was in there, they still read over it."
... If a printing error is discovered before an election and the
mistake changes the context of a ballot item, the ballot needs to be
reprinted, he said. The cost will come from the county's general fund.
I'm a bit surprised that the error was judged to change the context of
the ballot item. I wonder who makes these calls.
Googling on <public pubic misspelling> gets thousands of
occurrences, most of them stories of people who embarrassed themselves
by writing or typing "pubic" for "public". There are, however,
some errors in the other direction, and some of these might be
eggcorns:"public lice" for "pubic lice", for example. Ken Lakritz
the Eggcorn Forum
, 10/25/05, reported getting over 50,000 hits on
"public hair" (for "pubic hair").
Meanwhile, New York Times
reporter Joyce Wadler found herself dealing with the very outspoken art
critic Robert Hughes and decided to show some of his earthy side.
But this being the Times
had to euphemize (and then allude to the original language
indirectly). From "After Calamity, Critic's Soft Landing" in the Home
& Garden section
of 10/12/06 (pointer from Sim Aberson):
Comparing the careers of J. Seward
Johnson Jr. and Jeff Koons, he once said, was like debating the merits
of dog excrement versus cat excrement - although Mr. Hughes would never
use a word as flat and unevocative as excrement.
Actually, there are at least three candidates for the word euphemized
as "excrement". My guess is that it was the old reliable "shit", but I
can't at the moment confirm that.
zwicky at-sign csli period stanford period edu
Posted by Arnold Zwicky at October 13, 2006 04:31 PM