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Year in review

The year in typos: 2011's gaffes in print Add to ...

As the world prepares to celebrate either New Year’s Eve or Old Year’s Eve (don’t get whiplash), it is time to salute 2011’s best WonderTypos.

These are the printed gaffes – typographical errors, confused homonyms, mistakes born of mishearing – that transcend the dull, ordinary errors that most of us make. WonderTypos provide an extra dash of unintended levity or absurdity, the sort that can bring a smile to humanity’s face as it strolls into 2012 to greet the end of the Mayan calendar and of civilization as we know it.

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The hands-down winner comes from Australia, where a newspaper reported in January that “more than 30,000 pigs have been floating down the Dawson River since last weekend.” A correction appeared the next day: “What Baralaba piggery-owner Sid Everingham actually said was ‘30 sows and pigs,’ not ‘30,000 pigs.’” That’s a relief, although it’s a missed opportunity that a news item about pigs didn’t originate in Bora Bora.

The caption under a photograph of a woman sitting in her shop, with poultry dangling all around her, said: “A meat vendor waits for costumers in Shanghai.” How appropriate, reader Dave Valentine commented, that the woman was selling dressed meat.

Marnie Crowe spotted a food ad in her local newspaper, “advertising in big, bold print: ‘Always a feast, for the eyes and the stomach, Strip Lion Grilling Steaks!’” Her comment: “I hope they didn’t have to import them from the Serengeti.”

An article about Ottawa’s efforts to win an exemption from the United States’ Buy American policies contained this sentence: “Nonetheless, the provision ‘poisons the water,’ said Perrin Beatty, head of the Canadian Chamber of Commence.” A chamber of commerce has to begin somewhere, I suppose. Maybe Beatty’s pay is commensurate with the common sense of his comments.

The next two items really belong together. The first article said a film company had to keep shooing away Canada geese that “were constantly fowling the lawn.” It must have been a toss-up whether to call in a fowler or a de-fouler.

The second article quoted a kitchen designer as saying, “Our design coup de gras came by adding further work surfaces.” Coup de gras may be a relative of coup de grass, which perhaps means to mow the lawn after it has been fouled by fowl – specifically, those fowl not in demand for pâté de foie gras. If the lawn was ruined, there’s a goodbye phrase for that, too: Grace à dieu.

News of the proposal to build the Keystone XL pipeline from Alberta to Texas took an ominous turn when a headline on CNN.com declared: “Giant Oil Pipeline Would Dissect U.S.” What science students had done to frogs, the Keystone would now do to America. Presumably the headline-writer meant to say “bisect.” And no, bisects aren’t sexually adventurous cults.

Some typos are perennials – cannon for canon, tick for tic – but that doesn’t mean they can’t be entertaining. One old friend popped up in an article about a man who sued film director James Cameron’s Lightstorm Entertainment because he had worked on Cameron’s blockbuster Avatar but had allegedly “not been sufficiently renumerated for his efforts.” He should have worked on One Two Three, Oceans 11 or 101 Dalmatians.

A promotional list of DVDs announced the arrival in October of the film Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Ties. Yes, it should have been “tides,” but there is something diverting about the image of pirates trying to outdo each other in the wearing of bizarre cravats. (“I found this one hanging in Davy Jones’s locker.”) The wearers of calming trousers, by the way, are the Pirates of Zen Pants.

Finally, an advertising flyer made this unusual pitch: “We have an outstanding reputation in the driveway ceiling industry, both with customers and companies.” Tough to seal that deal, but it’s good to know cars will have a roof over their headlights.

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