Thursday, November 25, 2010

Proof-reading and diminishing returns

When I worked at the Open University many years ago I remember hearing of a statistics textbook that was published with numerous errors, throwing students into panic as sums did not work. When the second edition was published errors continued to be found, and also in the third. However, the canny boffins turned the situation to their advantage by showing that the diminishing number of errors still found in each edition followed a neat curve. They challenged students to use that data to calculate how many errors might be predicted to be still present in edition four, five and six.

I was reminded of this by a recent post on Paul Luna's blog which includes a nice non-apology for numerous errors by a seventeenth century printer (the point being that the book took so long to print that facts that had been true when a particular page was printed, were no longer true when the book actually went on sale).

Dirty Work or Daily Mail?

I've been reading Rob Hillier's interesting PhD thesis on typeface design for people with dyslexia. A dyslexic person himself, he kept a diary of misreadings that he made between 2002 and 2005. He doesn't say if this is the entire collection, or edited highlights. I reproduce it here in the deadpan manner known to readers of Harper's Magazine:

“Special Events” misread as “Special Effects” (5th August 2002)
“CLASS WAR” misread as “GLASS WAR” (7th August 2002)
“Amnesiac” misread as “Asthmatic” (11th August 2002)
“Village of Parkside” misread as “Village of Paradise” (16th August 2002)
“MAR” misread as “WAR” (18th August 2002)
“Boating” misread as “Botanic” (18th August 2002)
“Felt-tip pens” misread as “penis” (28th August 2002)
“deaf signers” misread as “deaf singers” (26th October 2002)
“Win an incredible boarding holiday” misread as “Win an incredible boring holiday” (5th November 2002)
“Emily Bearn” misread as “Emily Beam” (24th November 2002)
Scudamore bullish over TV rights” misread as “Scudamore bull shit over TV rights” (26th November 2002)
“Bug Buster” misread as “Bag Burster” (22nd January 2003)
“Fiat father dies” misread as “Flat father dies” (25th January 2003)
“The Liberty” misread as “The Library” (24th February 2003)
“Phil Spencer” misread as “Phil Spector” (25th February 2003)
“WILLARD BEOPPLE” misread as “WILLARD PEOPLE” (15th March 2003)
“SHADY LITES” misread as “LADY SHITES” (9th April 2003)
“Handy Andy” misread as “Hardy Andy” (18th June 2003)
“Catalonia bans children from bullfights” misread as “Cantona bans children from bullfights” (27th June 2003)
“Split trust mis-selling probe is extended” misread as “Split trust mis-spelling probe is extended” (18th July 2003)
“SUPPORTING ACTS” misread as “SPORTING ACTS” (18th August 2003)
“Norwich Bravery Awards” misread as “Norwich Brewery Awards” (26th August 2003)
“HERO OF THE NORTH” misread as “NERD OF THE NORTH” (3rd September 2003)
“Sasakawa” misread as “Swastika” (19th September 2003)
“FACULTIES” misread as “F.A. CUP TIES” (13th September 2003)
“Mobiles ‘make you senile’” misread as “Mobiles ‘make you smile’” (14th September 2003)
“genteel London” misread as “rented London” (7th October 2003)
“Friea” misread as “Frida” (11th February 2004)
“How fair do you consider the unit assessment?” misread as “How far do you consider the unit assessment?” (11th March 2004)
“Travelling Around” misread as “Travelling Abroad” (19th March 2004)
“Dirty Work” misread as “Daily Mail” (19th March 2004)
“cocaine” misread as “codine” (20th March 2004)
“Spring city breaks” misread as “Sporting City breaks” (22nd March 2004)
“BBC will wreck quality title” misread as “BBC will wreck quality of life” (29th March 2004)
“resentful” misread as “restful” (31st March 2004)
“green” misread as “queen” (2nd April 2004)
“READJUSTMENT” misread as “READ JUSTMENT” (16th June 2004)
“‘new sister product’” misread as “‘new sinister product’” (20th July 2004)
“Heath art auction” misread as “Health art auction” (9th August 2004)
“Finding Mick Jagger” misread as “Featuring Mick Jagger” (20th August 2004)
“the less elegant” misread as “the less legal” (15th September 2004)
“CLONEX ROOTING HORMONE” misread as “CLONEX ROTTING COMPOST” (29th September 2004)
“tipster” misread as “lipster” (10th January 2005)
“Pakistani” misread as “Parkinson” (5th March 2005)
“The Art of Learning” misread as “The Art of Lettering” (14th March 2005)
“soft” misread as “80 ft” (21st March 2005)
“During the war” misread as “Doing the War” (28th May 2005)
“Windsor Chase” misread as “Windsor Cheese” (31st May 2005)
“Beaulieu Jazz Festival” misread as “Blackpool Jazz Festival” (19th June 2005)
“Buckfast” misread as “Breakfast” (20th June 2005)
“patients” misread as “parents” (25th June 2005)
“Carluccio’s hampers” misread as “Cappuchino hamper” (26th June 2005)
“Macmillan Cancer charity” misread as “Manchester Cemetery” (12th July 2005)
“dormant” misread as “dormouse” (21st July 2005).

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Sans everything

I've been writing some notes on the choice between seriffed and sans serif type. Or should that be sanserif type, one colleague asked?

On checking a few dictionaries within two minutes radius of my desk, there are votes for both:

Oxford English Dictionary, 1933 (sans serif not given as an alternative)
Oxford English Dictionary, 1989 (sans serif given as alternative)
Chambers Twentieth Century Dictionary, 1952
Collins Online Scrabble Checker allows it

Sans serif
Pitman's Dictionary of Advertising & Printing, 1930
Longmans Dictionary of Contemporary English (online 2010)
Merriam-Webster (online 2010)

Seeking refuge in usage statistics, the British National Corpus has few mentions of either, with the vote tipped toward sans serif (14, with sanserif clocking up 8, but no mention of sans-serif). The Corpus of Contemporary American English has just 32 mentions of sans serif, with no mentions of sanserif, and 15 of sans-serif.

I'm concluding from this brief escape from my to-do list that: sanserif, sans serif and sans-serif are all valid usages; that sanserif is British, and not found in the USA.

The OED also has a variant 'surryph' which I take to be the New Zealand usage.

And finally, older readers will recall the famous Guardian supplement on the Republic of San Serriffe, published on 1 April 1977.

Monday, November 01, 2010

News just in: Quavers now one calory more

Judy Delin's eagle eye spotted this odd couple in the uni cafeteria the other day. The sell-by dates are different, showing that the higher number is the newer.

I know it's a stretch, but could we think it ironic that this supposedly low calory snack now carries a picture of the bingo ball traditionally known as 'two fat ladies'.

Not very politically correct, that term, as the Daily Mail (who else?) pointed out in one of their regular 'PC gone mad' stories last year.
"A council which has banned the bingo phrases ‘two fat ladies’ and ‘legs eleven’ in case players are offended and take legal action was criticised for being politically correct yesterday.
Sudbury Town Council in Suffolk fears it could be sued by overweight players or women who find the terms sexist.
It has advised bingo caller John Sayers, 75, to revert to using the number ‘88’ instead of ‘two fat ladies’ and 11 for ‘legs eleven’."

Affordances evidence file

Exhibit A: a toilet door in a government office.

Exhibit B: Can't help feeling there's a story behind this one.

Exhibit C: this Lufthansa check-in machine had two of us foxed for a while. The problem is that the Reservation Code is a list of numbers, but there are no number keys shown. It turned out that the number keys appear once you place the cursor in the right box. But we didn't get that far before bothering the airline helper.