Thursday, June 4, 2009

On Acuracy and Misteaks

Recently I was reading something that a blogger wrote late one evening. In the post, the blogger made a mistake and assigned the wrong brand to the wrong manufacturer. What the blogger did was roughly the equivalent of talking about General Mills' Froot Loops, or Hewlett Packard's iPhone. Now when several people pointed the error out, the blogger promptly corrected it and acknowledged the error. (And it should be noted that the blogger noted that the topic in question was not within the blogger's area of expertise.)

People who wear glasses probably shouldn't throw stones. Yes, the preceding sentence was an intentional mistake, but I've certainly made enough unintentional mistakes of my own in my last five-plus years of blogging. Within the last day or so, I had to correct a post in which I had put the beginning tag "strong" and the ending tag "strong"...framing the word STRONG. Oops.

But my favorite mistake that I ever made was in a process document that I wrote for work. Bear in mind that process documents are intended to improve quality of work products, so it was somewhat embarrassing when I discovered that my contribution to the process document release notes included the so-called word "qualtiy."

Once upon a time, you could count on certain journalistic publications to be free from errors, either grammatical or spelling errors, or errors of fact. But those days are long gone. Perhaps they never existed; I'd better double-check that. Speaking of journalists, my favorite "error" was one committed by the New York Times in response to Robert Goddard:

The Times lambasted his research because "everybody knows" rockets won't travel in the vacuum of space, where there's nothing to push against. Goddard, the article claimed, "seems to lack the knowledge ladled out daily in high schools."

Some time later - actually, in July 1969 - a retraction was printed. In fairness to the Times, however, no one had actually demonstrated a rocket moving in space at the time of the original editorial, so that wasn't an error in the "Hewlett Packard iPhone" sense. (And who knows? If Hewlett Packard ever buys Apple, you could have a Hewlett Packard iPhone. Could anyone have imagined "Oracle WebLogic" a couple of years ago?)

In my case, partially because of my own errors, and possibly because of the errors of those surrounding me, I've grown accustomed to errors occuring, and perform an inner translation in my head to correct the information. So when someone that I know calls me "Lola," I respond without comment. This is a maturity that has come with age; in my younger years I used to delight in correcting the mistakes of others, sometimes harming myself in doing so.

So perhaps the old saying "Do as I say, not as I do" should be updated:

Do as I should have said, not as I actually said.
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