November 27, 2007

Cupertino sewage

It started yesterday with Dan Goodman quoting the following in the American Dialect Society mailing list:

From a post in the Minneapolis Freecycle mailing list:

"I have separated and will be forcing from my abusive husband."

Forcing for divorcing, obviously.  A strange eggcorn?  Or what?

Kate Daly figured it out.  It was a very familiar type of error:

WordPerfect and Word both offer forcing as a correction for the typo fivorcing. Since the d and f are next to each other on a standard keyboard, it's probably an auto-corrected typo. Given the topic of her post, I think she can be excused for not checking her work more carefully.

For some time now we've been cataloguing examples of the "Cupertino effect", in which automated spellcheckers yield extraordinary results, as in the "correction" of cooperation (without  a hyphen) to Cupertino that gave the phenomenon its name.  (Well, mostly Ben Zimmer has been collecting them.  See his recent OUP blog entry on the Cupertino effect and his most recent Language Log posting on the subject, on the Muttonhead Quail Movement.)

I'm not a Cupertinologist (pester Ben with your examples, not me), but I very much enjoyed the follow-ups.  First, from Charlie Doyle:

One of the many, many reasons I preferred WordPerfect to MSWord is that every time I typed the word "folksong," WP would tell me I probably meant to say "filching."

Then from Ron Butters, with (in my opinion) the very best so far:

My Blackberry consistently tries to correct "Zwicky" to "Sewage." I hope Arnold will forgive me if that one slips by by mistake.

You can see parts of the program at work here: the W is preserved; before it a Z that could represent an S; after it a K that could represent a G; who knows about the vowel letters.

Posted by Arnold Zwicky at November 27, 2007 07:17 PM