Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Stalking the Wild Typo

I just saw this feature interview on Salon with one of the authors of The Great Typo Hunt, a book about a couple of buddies who cross the country meeting everyday Americans and pestering them about their spelling mistakes. The book is a synthesis of the blog posts they made during their travels. I don't know--a blog documenting other people's language errors? Seems like a waste of time to me.

The interview is not exactly the deep exploration of the laws of language and the perils of pedantry that it seems to aspire to (although I like the "hawks vs. hippies" vernacular the authors have come up with to describe the age-old prescriptivist/descriptivist dichotomy), but it is, after all, a transcription of a quickie phone conversation. It looks like the book may be worth a look-see.

Now for my own pedantic observation. At one point in the discussion, after the interviewee has described an encounter with someone who is less than appreciative of an unsolicited spelling intervention, the interviewer asks:
Why do you think so many people are so defensive about correcting their language?
I'm not saying there is an error there, since the question can be read in at least a couple of ways, but just to put too fine a point on it (and in the interests of finding a reason to mention this book here), I would say that the people in question are not so much defensive about correcting their language as they are defensive about having their language corrected, or being asked to correct it.

I know this from experience. Like the time I laughingly pointed out to my wife, Kim, that she had misspelled asparagus on the shopping list, and she laughingly kneed me in the groin.