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by The London Times and The New York Times



Notes Upon Spell-Checking


Norbert Tudwallow

(Former Curator of the LOADSTAR Museum of the Snooty Arts,

Now Best Boy at Ramble House)


Nyello. Tudwallow here. It’s wonderful to be back in print after all these years. I’d like to thank Fender Tucker for allowing me to spell-check this new Ramble House book. I’ll do my best to keep the red-underlined words to a minimum, and perhaps one day, I’ll look at a document such as this and the word TUDWALLOW will not be underlined in red. Hey, I can always dream.

But to business. Here is what I found as I spell-checked this book, which seems to be about some guy who kills people. I only really pay attention to the words underlined in red.

The first word is “endeavour” and of course I left that alone. British is so much more classy than American, don’t you think? And I’d like to think that if I ever used that word—which I won’t, don’t worry—I’d have the last syllable rhyme with “boor”.

Next up are a pack of place names, which are easy to skip over, followed by a disconcerting menagerie of misspellings. Yes, misspellings. In the London Times! Surely the higher up mucky-mucks at Ramble House retrieved this text by flying to London, and used their considerable prestige and political capital to force the Times’ managing editor to provide them with actual galleys from the 1888 editions?

Or could the misspelled words be those supplied by some computer user who compulsively typed in the text—gathered from who knows where—and uploaded it to a web site? Where it was snagged by the Ramble House team of text-wranglers?

It’s one of those questions that will never be answered, I guess.

The words were “receive”, “parallel”, “vigilance”, “occurrence”, and a few more that may have been typos from the newspaper. I fixed them, of course.

One I found particularly charming was the word “upmost”, where we would use “utmost”. Did Britishers say “upmost” in 1888? Did the typist think “upmost” was correct?

Another favorite—I almost said favourite—is the beautiful letter construction “connexion”. That word, so streamlined and unassuming, beats “connection” all to hell. It discourages one from ending the word with a disturbingly Ozarkian “shun”. It stays.

Then, as a spell-checker I encountered my first real roadblock. Not a complete stoppage, of course, but definitely an annoying DWI checkpoint. Apparently, in 1888, in London, England, the main thing anyone wanted to know about the people they’re reading about was their height. Everybody and his dog gets their height in feet and inches listed in the paper. It’s news, people! And of course the spell-checker stops at every damn “5ft” and “4in” slowing me down to a crawl.

I tell myself, look, the first half of this book is mainly the London Times and maybe it’s only the Brits who were hung up on height. Maybe the thicket of short red underlinings will ease up when we make it to the Big Apple?

Yes, things are better, notwithstanding a pothole encountered soon after I reach New York. “Supineness”. “Supineness?” Surely they should have tried “supinity”, even in those days.

I soon get a clue to the question about who spelled “receive” as “recieve” every time. It was misspelled in both the London and the New York Times. Nuff sed?

But as all good journeys must come to an end, so does this romp through the red underlined world of spell-checking RIPPED FROM THE HEADLINES. The rest of the hits are merely funny-sounding English names.

The newspaper articles are arranged chronologically. I hope you enjoy the story. It looked like it might be interesting. Those droll cads from the 1880s were such cut-ups!


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