September 14, 2005
Tofurky meets Tobruk in the twitchy little slice of technology known as Suntype.
A funny thing — a veritable Bakst full of them — happened on our way to a new word processing system.
Suntype, the blue-screened behemoth upon which Hood River News writers have composed stories for years, is about to be retired and replaced by Word.
But stodgy Suntype produced its share of surprises during standard copy editing procedures. Like any word processing system, Suntype includes a Spell-check that, in case of a typo, provides a list of preferred words. The way it works is that the first in the list, presumably, is the one you really wanted. Except not always.
I once typed in “cosntant,” intending constant, and Spell-check provided me with: cosecant (trigonometry term — I had to look up) and cotenant.
You can’t teach a computer context, so cosecant makes as much sense to the machine as constant. The odds of my using “cosecant” are astronomically — if not trigonometrically — lower than that of a common word such as constant.
However, the surprises were often not from typos but from actual words for which Spell-check urged an alternative.
Case in point: when you typed in Tofurky, a local soy product made by Turtle Island Foods, Suntype wants you to change it to “Tobruk,” a Libyan port made famous during World War II.
This column is possibly the first time the North African battle site has ever been mentioned in the same sentence with Hood River’s own tofu creations.
In our business, we hope for a little realism for guidance through the lexicon.
But in Suntype, be careful or You Heep for a little rawlins for guineans through the lesion.
Those are first-choice words when Spell-check was faced with hoep, ralism, guidnance, and lesicon.
To demonstrate, I want to do a real-time experiment with the first-ever intentional (brace yourself) typo of my career.
Take a randomly selected word such as percent.
I hurriedly type the word, and come up with: percnent.
And “pendent” is the first word that Suntype provides in the preferred-list. Second is “penitent.”
Percnent contains only an extra “n,” a stowaway. (I typed “sotoway,” by mistake, and the preferred list gave me one word: “someway.” This is, of course, not even a real word. Somehow, we will make it, somewhere, some way, but not “someway”.)
For the constnant flow of typos we always “hoeped” to avoid in Suntype, I cannot blame Spell-check, but nor will I miss the skewed world view of this purportedly helpful function.
Getting back to pendent and penitent, perhaps it was the system’s way of holding me accountable for my errors — to keep me “suspended” while “feeling sorry for one’s sins.”
Some would say that in our Suntype epoch we should be, well, overhanging with guilt over typos. Perhaps I should be feeling that way rather than gloating over the oddities that emerged on my computer over the five years I have worked with Suntype, but here goes a parting list of my favorites, annotated as need be.
The typo is first, followed in parenthesis by the intended, and then — by the Spell-check preferences.
Aerican (American) — Erica’s, Eroica
Activites (activities) — activates, activist, activists, Activision
Allerties (allergies) — allergist, Allerest, Allerest’s
Avuse (abuse) — aves (the only entry: Latin for welcome greeting)
Bakset (basket) — Bakst, Bakst’s (Bakst’s?)
Compter (computer) — compeer, compete, commuter, commute — but no “computer”
Couirts (courts) — cohorts, coitus
Deocorating (decorating) — descanting, desecrates, discord
Forerst (forest) — footers, forbears
Formerl (formerly) — forager, foramen, forbear (but not formerly)
Feruit (fruit) — ferrite
Howrd (Howard) — How’d, Howard, Howdy, Horde (but no How’s, which is more logical than “How’d”)
Ostetrics (obstetrics) — ostrich’s; hosteleries (obstetrics a far more common word than either)
Peronal (Personal) — perineal (an, ahem, personal part of the anatomy), persona, pergonal, perinea, pergolen, person, Pernod.
Poulations (populations) — pulsation, pulsation’s, potations, potation’s
Presdient (prescient) — present, presents, present’s
Prsident (president) — provident, prurient
Prublishes (publishes) — brushlike (brushlike?)
Prze (prize) — prev, pray, prue
Repeates (repeats) — relates, repaints, repairs, repartee, repast, repasts, repeals
Reponse (response) — reopens, repose, repines (but no response)
SCouts (Scouts) — Scoots, Scots, Scotts, Scotus, Scot’s Scott’s, Scours, Scoot’s, Scotus’, Scour’s
Shistory (history) — shyster
Thaht (that) — Thant (United Nations General Secretary, c. 1960s, U Thant of Burma, now Myanmar), Thanh, that
Tixins (toxins) — tiepins, timings, tidings
Understnad (understand) — underlined, undersexed
Whre (where) — whore
There were other correctly typed words that Suntype would not recognize. My favorite: Allende, as in Chilean dicatator Salvador, yielded the word choice “alienee.” (When and where have you ever heard the word alienee?)
Japans/Japanese for Japan’s. Yes, there two Koreas and maybe even two Chinas, but in what wierd context would anyone ever use the word “Japans”?
All told, it’s just nonsensical: whoever heard of Activision? And only someone who drank too much Pernod would put perineal ahead of persona.
But in some ways I’ll miss Suntype.
I once typed tried to type students, got “sutdent’s” and it yielded Sudeten’s: I’m in favor of remembering all the crimes of the Nazi era.
And blitzel (blitz) gave me “blintz.”
I like any system that puts a sour-cream-filled pastry before war.
Hood River News editor Kirby Neumann-Rea would love to have a nikkel for every typo he’s ever made ...