Seen any funny typos in the paper lately? Sure, sloppy spelling and fractured syntax occasionally elude the overworked copy editors of 2011. But the real howlers, the kind that can land a hapless editor in the boss's office, are rare. After poring over thousands of old newspaper pages dating back to the 1860s, I've concluded that amusing typos were more common in the days of handset type and a minimalist approach to proofreading.
From the New York Graphic, via the Minneapolis Tribune:
|I doubt the Albert Lea Enterprise published any amusing typos in the late 1800s under the sober leadership of Clint L. Luce, who also served as the Freeborn County coroner. (Photo courtesy mnhs.org)|
Funny Typographical Errors.
Some typographical errors are very funny. In a New York paper recently the words “This Port Said is” was rendered “This,” Pat said, “is,” and “Put out the flag” appeared as “Pat cut the hog.”
When B.F. Taylor’s poem on Burns’ Centennial was telegraphed from Chicago a few years ago, the first line, “Heart of leal! Can this be dying?” appeared in the papers coupled with the operator’s warning, “Robert Burns is passing by heart of lead can this be lying?”
Horace Greeley wrote at the head of an editorial, “William H. Seward,” and it came out “Richard the Third!” A New Haven editor wrote, “Is there balm in Gilead?” and was surprised at table next morning to read, “Is there a barn in Guilford?” The sentence, “Americans are generous and forgiving,” was recently transformed into “Americans are Germans and foreigners.”
But the worst, perhaps, is that quotation made by a distinguished literary review, 'Tis true, 'tis pity, pity, 'tis, 'tis true,” which came out in proof, “ 'Tis two, 'tis fifty, 'tis fifty, 'tis fifty-two.”
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Read it in the voice of Garrison Keillor for the full effect.
A musically inclined vagrant known as Banjo Ben walked the streets of Minneapolis in the city's early days. His weakness for alcohol and penchant for strong language landed him in court with some frequency. In February 1876, for example, he was sentenced to 20 days in jail for spewing obscenities at the St. Paul and Pacific depot. Later that year, he walked into the Tribune newsroom and issued an invitation to witness a spectacular feat at the new suspension bridge under construction nearby.
Mabel Herbert Urner's serialized accounts of a fictional New York couple began appearing in the Minneapolis Tribune in July 1910.
Did Drew Pearson push off Nate Wright before snaring the winning touchdown pass in the Vikings' heartbreaking loss to Dallas in a 1975 divisional playoff game at Met Stadium? A Minneapolis Tribune account published the next day is clear: We wuz robbed.