January 25, 2008

Cupertino, Part Deux: I read it on misplace

Continuing the Cupertino theme... Michael Covarrubias and Mike Pope both noted a fine example of spellchecker miscorrection from the Associated Press last week. As the AP reports, a Washington State trooper made the unorthodox decision of putting Oregon plates on his unmarked car in order to catch a speeder unawares:

That's how the article continues to appear on the AP's own website, as well as on hosted versions from Google News, Yahoo News, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, the Boston Globe, and many other news sites. As the two Michaels observe, this appears to be a case of a spellchecker unable to recognize Myspace, or at least a misspelled version of it. Covarrubias writes:

It looks like a clear example of the Cupertino effect turning myspace into misplace. But most spell checkers are pretty good at recognizing conjoined words. And the only suggestions I get for "myspace" are "my space" and "MySpace". So the networking sight site has made it into the Word 2007 spell check dictionary.
Where did 'misplace' come from? Perhaps the writer put an <l> in there: 'mysplace'. 'Place' seems like a much more common string than 'pace' so a slip like that makes sense. Especially if the writer's ear was contaminated by the old line: 'my place or yours?'
But no one really says that anymore do they?

If misplace is indeed the result of misspelling Myspace as Mysplace, we'd expect it to show up in texts with Myspace also spelled correctly (since the misspelling wouldn't affect the recognition of correctly spelled instances of the word). Sure enough, here is just such an example, from a transcript of a panel discussion at the 2006 Web 2.0 Summit (oh, the irony):

Safa: Let me see, one of you, Ryan, you describe Misplace as...
Myspace is like on Christmas morning when you go downstairs and there’s the presents under the tree, because when I sign on I see I have a new message or new friend request or comment, it’s like “ta-da!” I’m so happy I can’t wait to see who it is or what it is.
Safa: Everyone but Sheena and Pamela has a
Myspace page.
Bernadette: I recently started because my son told me I wasn’t with it so he showed me how to get a page. I also realized my 14 year old son is 17 on
Remy: My mom tells me to get off because it’s so time consuming and fixing it up so you have the background and pictures so all your friends will be like “I like your
Myspace, it’s nice.” It's not an everyday thing, but I spend two to three hours on Misplace when I do get on.

So there we see Myspace spelled correctly four times and "incorrected" twice, possibly from Mysplace. In other cases, misplace shows up as a replacement for Myspace but not myspace.com, as in this transcript from WMAZ Eyewitness News in Macon, GA (yet another report of police officers finding tips online):


And here's a music review with links to myspace.com where we find misplace along with two bonus Cupertinos, Sounder Lerche for Sondre Lerche and Elvis Costless for Elvis Costello:

Apparently Sounder Lerche toured with Elvis Costless and was influenced greatly because of it. The experience pushed him to “write songs with his band in mind”. “Say it All”, “Phantom Punch”,” Airport Taxi Reception”, and “The Tape”, can be heard on his misplace page.

Another review on that page has Alines Modiste for Alanis Morrisette and Tore Amos for Tori Amos. Stop the Cupertino madness, people!

[Update #1: Stephen Jones points out that not only does the latest Word spellchecker give misplace as the first suggestion for Mysplace, it also gives it for Mispace. (Myspace is included in the spellchecker dictionary but is only suggested second.) So that gives two potential sources for the misplace Cupertino.]

[Update #2: Thierry Fontenelle of the Microsoft Natural Language Group weighs in here.]

Posted by Benjamin Zimmer at January 25, 2008 10:42 AM