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From Expensive To Unholy, Mistakes Are 'Just My Typo'


A new book called "Just My Typo: From Sinning With The Choir To The Untied States" - this book features some classical and hilarious misspelling, failures to punctuate, things that have been gleaned from historical texts, major media publications - NPR not included - here's one from a magazine cover. Rachel Ray finds inspiration in cooking her family and her dog. Drummond Moir is the collector of these gems and also a book editor. He joins me from our London bureau. Drummond Moir, welcome to the program.

DRUMMOND MOIR: Hi there Linda. It's great to be here.

WERTHEIMER: It seems to me that this is a perfect bedside table book - you can go to sleep giggling. What is your pick for the - the one that just completely destroyed you? The funniest typo that you found.

MOIR: My favorite one comes from an old book called "The Parting" by an author named Millicent Hemming. I'll read it out to you in full. And it goes like this (reading) I'm certain of one thing, whatever may come between us and wherever he may be on Earth, Arthur, will always know that I love ham. And obviously, it was meant to be I will always love him...

WERTHEIMER: Yes, it is

MOIR: But...


WERTHEIMER: Why do you think typos are funny?

MOIR: The majority of typos aren't actually funny. The majority of typos renders something confusing or nonsensical or just kind of dull or odd in some way. What I've tried to do in the book is pick typos where the actual meaning of the sentence completely changes - and that's really what creates the humor.

WERTHEIMER: You think that's what does it - it's that the sentence is just nonsensical?

MOIR: There are some funny typos where it just renders the sentence completely nonsensical. But I think it's funnier when it's a bit subtler than that. So for example, from a church magazine, there was a line (reading) they were married and lived happily even after.


MOIR: And obviously it's meant to be ever after, but there's an element of truth there. You know, that it's kind of - it's almost like an accidental joke against marriage. So I find personally that those typos are the funniest ones - when you actually get a completely different word than what was intended.

WERTHEIMER: Now you begin the book with one of my personal favorites, which I happen to know about because one of the Shakespeareans who failed to find it is one of my oldest friends, John Andrews.

MOIR: Oh, I'm thrilled to hear that. Fantastic.

WERTHEIMER: Why don't you give us the quote?

MOIR: To be or to be - that is the question. And what's amazing is that apparently six proof-readers - professional proofreaders - missed that. And what's going on there is because it's such a well-known phrase, it's actually very difficult to spot that there's a mistake in there because you just kind skim over it.

WERTHEIMER: Not only are people making the sorts of human mistakes that we know people make, but the computers are making these very strange mistakes.

MOIR: Yeah, I have a chapter in the book based on it - autocorrect. I will share one of my favorites. This is one - it was an exchange. So the first guy says so how did the date last night go, bro? Did you score? His friend writes back - not quite. First date - we went to dinner and then walked her home. Then I killed her in the woods outside her house and left.

WERTHEIMER: (Laughing) Oh, dear. You divide typos in two types of typos. Some of them, as you point out, are quite serious. You have fatal typos and expensive typos.

MOIR: Yeah, some of the most expensive ones - I mean, there was a couple who won the lottery and they were meant to win $500,000. But there was apparently a typo in the lottery ticket, so they didn't get it. In 1962, Mariner 1 was meant to be sent to Venus. But because of a typo in the NASA calculations, it was sent into the ocean. And that apparently cost something in the region of $80 million. So yeah, they can definitely backfire and they can have quite an impact.

Part of the point of my book is to say that, you know, typos - they're- they must never be glorified. There's never any excuse for them. They should never happen. But at the end of the day, over the course of the last thousand years or so, a few have slipped through that are just too funny not to celebrate. So this is just a chance for us to - to have a bit of a break and just enjoy some of the humor that's inadvertent, but certainly quite funny.

WERTHEIMER: Drummond Moir's book is called "Just My Typo." We'd like to know your favorite typos. You could tweet @NPRweekend of #justmytypo. And we promised to share them with Mr. Moir. Thank you.

MOIR: Thanks so much, Linda. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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