Floundering

San Francisco, CA

Last dispatch from the city in which TEAL spends its second-longest sojourn. Today, like yesterday, was unusually warm for San Francisco, which apparently does not normally deviate from a very strict fifty-to-seventy-degree temperature spread. Josh and I met up with Julie, a friend from Dartmouth days. She had been following my adventures and was eager to join in on a little typo-hunting action. I mean, who wouldn’t be, really? So we had a Vietnamese lunch and then headed for the upper part of town, where we’d explore a cartoon museum that Josh had unearthed while poring over tomes of San Franciscan lore. As we walked along Mission Street toward the bus stop, I spotted a sign, and then hesitated. Around here it could be hard to tell whether a shop was run by people speaking English as their second language. Ultimately I decided to bring it to their attention.

It turned out the place was being run by very sweet twins who did speak excellent English. One of them came outside with me and looked at the sign, and she professed that she had never noticed the error. She said I could fix it if I liked. Julie was watching this exchange in delight: real live typo correction in action! Except there was a snag: the typo was ten or twelve feet off the ground, and I confess that despite the righteousness of my quest, the pantheon of spelling-related deities has not yet seen fit to grant me superhuman height. My new friend loaned me a stepladder, but it was only junior-size and would not do the trick. All I could do was shake my fist at the typo from below. As we were leaving, the other twin remarked dryly to Julie, “See that sign over there, ‘We Love Our Customers’? That is another typo.”

When we got up to the neighborhood of the museum, we passed a sign advertising the goods available at a local cafe. Josh and Julie kept walking, but I stopped. This had been a foe back in Austin, and I was concerned to see that it had popped up again on this dreaming western shore.

I went inside and a girl behind the counter asked how she could help me. So I said, “Could I get a Sahara, please?”

“Uh… I’m sorry?”

“A Sahara, please, that’s what I’d like.”

“Sahara,” she said, uncomprehending.

“Or is the Gobi better here?” I said.

The poor girl had no clue what I was talking about, so I relented and mentioned that their sign out front promised DESERTS rather than DESSERTS. She laughed and granted my permission to fix the sign after I told her that I already had the red marker appropriate for the job. Julie was amazed that the girl had allowed me to mark the sign. I, on the other hand, had seen often enough on this trip what a little charm and assertiveness could accomplish. Now I just have to figure out how to summon them in non-typo-hunting situations.

Well, by now Julie was itching to score a typo find of her own. She and Josh split off from me for a couple of minutes to grab a coffee while I went to pull some more cash from my now somewhat ailing bank account. When I saw her again, she was excited. “Come on! I have to show you something.”

“What is it?”

“I found a typo at Starbucks.”

She spoke the name of the titan that she had felled with the proper amount of gravity, and indeed, I was impressed. Normally I can’t find much in the way of error at large-chain shops and cafes, since the signs are handed down from the corporate level (unless we’re talking about a Filene’s-Basement-style typo such as MENS, present in all stores). But I saw when I accompanied her in that this Starbucks, at least, had allowed some space for handwritten descriptions of products. This one will be hard to see unless you make it bigger. I’ll wait.

I got the attention of a girl at the counter. “Hi there. I noticed that elegant was spelled wrong on your sign.”

She checked it out. “No, that’s right. E-L-E-G-E-N-T.”

“A-N-T,” said a couple of nearby customers at the same time Julie said it.

“Oh, really,” said the girl.

“Yeah,” I said. “Would it be possible for you to fix it?”

A couple of her male co-workers had been hovering nearby during this exchange, and now one of them stepped forward aggressively. “Are you actually here to buy anything, man?”

“Just some peace of mind,” I said.

“You won’t find that at Starbucks,” he muttered, and backed off.

“I can fix it,” she said, “but I’d need to take the sign down and get the right marker for the correction.”

“That’s okay, I’ll wait,” I said. “I’m going around the country fixing typos. I really appreciate that you’re helping out.”

So she climbed up and took that part of the sign down, and got her special marker, and wiped out the whole section to redo it. As she worked, I hung out at the counter and people kept queuing up behind me, not realizing that my purposes here went beyond a mere double-tall latte. The other dude behind the counter decided to take his shot at me. “Does such a little thing really matter?”

“Yes,” I said. I felt bad that my helpful accomplice, currently scrawling laboriously with her goldenrod marker, had to work alongside such callous folk. Yes, friend, little things matter. In aggregate, they become a big thing. I have molded all of these little things into a great typo-ball that I drag around with me, and the weight of carelessness and undereducation is heavy indeed. Others will dismiss you. I am trying to help you. Everyone deserves a fair shake at being taken seriously.

The finished work was fine indeed, though strangely the content had been altered just a little. I suppose that “great depth” and “well-balanced” are equally meaningless as coffee descriptors anyway. I am grateful to the girl who fixed this for me in the face of grating indifference from her colleagues.

We went on to the cartoon museum and discovered that something called “Sex and Sensibility” was among its current exhibitions. It highlighted the work of ten female cartoonists and included detailed biographies for all of them. And the museum had somehow managed to make a few fuckups in just about all of the bios. The first and second typos I found just amused me, but by the sixth or seventh or eighth, I had become genuinely angry on behalf of these cartoonists. This was supposed to be their big moment of recognition. But the museum had shat out its signage rather than taking the time to present it properly.

I’ll walk you through this gallery of garbage. Some of the pictures didn’t come out that great, so I’ll clarify when needed. Also, I must credit Julie for finding some of these.

“Carolita realized that … artistic talent was nothing without and left home in search of the latter.” Artistic talent was nothing without what? A vital word has been omitted from this sentence. What did Carolita leave home in search of?

“I admit I became kind of a bif fishas flounder of Kirshenbaum…” What? What the hell does that mean? Bif? Fishas? Flounder? Also: “I felt Kirshenbaum and went on…” Perhaps “I left Kirshenbaum and went on…”? You think?

“…because living in each ha made me the cartoonist that I am.” Ha? Did she laugh in the middle of a serious statement about her influences as an artist? Or did somebody screw this up?

“…raised in one of he lesser parts of the greater Chicago area”; “Her father often said in is jovial way…”. More letters capriciously stolen from words that could not afford to lose them.

“…where she broke the gender barrier bys…”

Schulz or Schultz? You can’t have it both ways.

Two here. The missing period, but also “self-charactures”.

“I always loved to draw and really loved in a cartoony way.” How exactly would one love in a cartoony way? Maybe hitting somebody over the head with a large hammer and saying KER-POW! could be a means of expressing affection?

“I though they were boring.”

“…and I live suburbia.” Hunh?

The worst one. “Interestingly, while she did not have a favorite Beatle, she did have a minute-and-a-half and then went on to work at numerous jobs…” Absolutely no sense. All reason has fled from this sentence.

I confronted the woman at the front desk of the place and asked to speak with the curator of the Sex and Sensibility exhibit. I explained that the biographies were riddled with typos. At first her reaction was defensive. She said that they’d had a high-school intern type up most of the signs, as if it were acceptable to lay the blame on that poor kid. Then she came along to have a look at the errors. I pointed out the bif/fishas/flounder one as an example. Before I could go on to catalogue the other mistakes, the woman changed tactics and said that all the biography signs had been copied from the bios in the book that had inspired the exhibit. She said she’d done a couple of the signs herself and had noticed errors. I said, “So you faithfully copied the errors over into the exhibit signs?”

She didn’t respond to this. Instead, she directed my attention to the book, in the museum gift shop. I leafed through until I found the biographies. To my utter lack of surprise, the book version of the biographies, the source material, was error-free. Only by reading them could I actually understand what the exhibit versions had been trying to say. Bif-fishas-flounder? It should have said, “I admit I became kind of a big fish as founder of Kirshenbaum…” That makes a lot more sense, doesn’t it? (Though I suppose being a flounder of Kirshenbaum would qualify as big-fish status, too.) And here, “I always loved to draw and really loved drawing in a cartoony way.” (Emphasis mine.) And the one about the favorite Beatle and the minute-and-a-half? Turned out a whole line had been omitted from that artist’s biography. No wonder it hadn’t made any sense.

I went back to the woman and explained how the book actually had the biographies right, and that it seemed the errors had been introduced by the museum. Was there a way that they could fix the signs? The woman sighed. “You’re the first person who’s ever said anything about the mistakes. Here’s the name of the curator. I really doubt that they’d get fixed even if you tell him about them.”

That sort of pessimism has no place in the Typo Eradication Advancement League. Together, I believe we can rectify the shameful treatment of the cartoonists featured in the exhibit. So drop Andrew Farago a line at [redacted] and let him know how great it would be if the Cartoon Art Museum cleaned up its signs in the Sex and Sensibility exhibition. Or call [redacted]. Perhaps hearing from a farrago of concerned citizens would help him to make the right decision.

Totals
Typos Found: 182
Typos Corrected: 102

[Edit 4/16: I’ve removed the contact information.  Andrew Farago apparently fixed the signs at the museum thanks to the persistence of TEAL readers, so no need to e-mail him anymore!]

Back to TEAL home

40 Responses to “Floundering”

  1. cindy Says:

    I actually sent an email. I hope there aren’t any errors in my email.

    **

    Dear Andrew Farago,

    It would be wonderful if the Cartoon Art Museum cleaned up the signs in the Sex and Sensibility exhibition. The biographies of the women cartoonists are riddled with typos, incomplete phrases, and missing sentences. I think that these pioneering women deserve much better.

    For proof of the errors, please scroll to the second half of the blog entry here: http://www.jeffdeck.com/teal/blog/?p=56

    Sincerely,
    Cindy

  2. cindy Says:

    Weren’t

  3. Nic Says:

    I come from a long line of teachers, and I always correct people’s typos when I see them. I’ve embarassed my husband many times! I don’t agree with “as long as they know what I mean it’s OK”. It has to be correct!

  4. Lauren Cohen Says:

    Jeff–

    I was driving down 1-15 in Utah, listening to NPR the other day, and heard a story about the TEAL. I said to my husband, “Funny–I knew a guy named Jeff Deck once. We worked together at Heldref.” Then the story said something about graduating from Dartmouth. “Funny,” I said, “I think he went to Dartmouth.”

    Then I Googled it, and there you were! What a small world. If you ever come up through Salt Lake City, send me an e-mail (cohenlam@gmail.com). I’m a mean cook, and I abhor typos :-)

    Lauren

  5. Leah Says:

    hmm…you seem a little self righteous. Especially for someone with a typo in their own post (”She laughed and granted my permission…”) .

  6. Tracey S. Rosenberg Says:

    OH NOES! There’s a single typo in your entry! Therefore you must be a COMPLETE HYPOCRITE!

    *yawn*

    Oh, and Leah (if that IS your real name): the first rule of pointing out someone’s error is not to make any errors yourself. Otherwise you leave yourself open to mockery. I’d suggest adding a capital H and a hyphen, making agreement between ’someone’ and ‘their’ and deducting a space.

  7. Marc Gagnon Says:

    If that’s the first rule, Tracey, and the poster himself made an error, doesn’t this entire post violate that rule?

  8. kelly Says:

    You’re whereing me out!! :)

  9. Tracey S. Rosenberg Says:

    Marc:

    *thinks frantically*

    I like to think that Jeff made that typo deliberately, for one of two reasons:

    1. It’s a low-cost interactive function. We at home are encouraged to hone our typo-spotting skills, and by this point we can all go into a parking lot and spot a missing apostrophe with our eyes closed, so we need a real challenge. Where better to seek typos than the last place we’d expect them? If this is the case, then I should not have been exposing Leah to ridicule, but rather congratulating her. Sorry, Leah. In fact, you deserve a TEAL t-shirt.

    2. Sometimes an artist will make a deliberate mistake in a work he or she is carving, on the grounds that only God is perfect. Perhaps Jeff and his running crew are tapping into this theological maelstrom, or making a general observation about the need for constant vigilance, for our work will never be done.

    (Or maybe I made a snappy remark without thinking about the full ramifications. But that’s much less amusing!)

  10. Pollyvousfrancais Says:

    I know it’s a cheap shot to correct typos in a foreign country, but I had to tell you about this, in a grand museum in Paris. It made my blood boil.

    http://pollyvousfrancais.blogspot.com/2007/04/imparfait.html

    I figure if someone’s spending time and money to write in English, why not have it be spelled properly?

    And by the way, I forgive almost all typos in blogs, where we poor saps are writing quickly and unpaid. Commercial signage, on the other hand, or any official sign — well, that’s another story!

  11. Rebecca Says:

    I enjoy the blog and thoroughly approve of your mission. That said, after reading this entry, I dropped a line to cartoonist Shaenon Garrity, who is married to Andrew Farrago. She says that someone has already, somewhat rudely, brought the typos to Mr. Farrago’s attention, and that the board is currently debating whether or not they have the budget to replace the wall text. So perhaps the readers here, instead of telling Mr. Farrago things he already knows, could make contributions to the museum so that they will be able to afford to replace it with corrected texts.

  12. Ann Says:

    I love the idea of this. I have often wished I had the nerve to go around covering up all of the inappropriately placed apostrophes I see. I work for Starbucks and our rules about the name drive me crazy. In writing we are not allowed to use an apostrophe with the word Starbucks even when saying something like “Starbucks new roasting plant…” Seriously, who are we to make up our own grammar rules?

  13. Marc Gagnon Says:

    Very nice, Tracey! I would never want to debate with you… ;)

  14. Raisha Says:

    Go Team TEAL!!! I am finally getting a chance to leave a post! I am proud of you! Keep up the good work and keep us posted!

    :-)

    -R

  15. Beth Rummler Says:

    Jeff,
    I’m so impressed! You’ve done great work so far! I’ve been reading your blog every day; Keith tells me that I’m obsessed with it. Maybe I am, but it’s an entertaining way to start the day. We’ll have to meet up in Davis Sq. when you return so I can get the uncensored version of your trip. Cheap burgers and beer at the Rosebud sound good?
    Beth

  16. Diane Says:

    Rebecca - great idea! Let’s find out how much it will cost and how much the board can cover. Then maybe the TEAL followers can come up with the rest and provide a happy ending to this typo disaster.

  17. Lori Ann Says:

    Hi there :)

    Glad to know I’m not the only one out there, fixing signs in public! I love to assault message boards outside restaurants. One of my faves: Cream of Ass Paragus soup. Had a good laugh over that one! Also, in Seattle, near the aquarium, spotted a sign that said “No parking. Violators will be oited.” There were no spaces indicating some letters had been scraped off. It is a mystery! A friend took a photo of me pointing at it with a “Huh?” expression. Wonder if “oiting” is some for of Pacific Northwest punishment?!? Be careful!

    Keep fighting the good fight!!!!

    Lori Ann in Connecticut

  18. Lori Ann Says:

    P.S.

    HAHA! some FORM of punishment! oi veh. :)

  19. Megan Says:

    I love what you are doing…it is amazing! How about all of those “point 99 cent” signs? I always want to ask people how they make change from a penny. Keep up the good work!

  20. Tracy Says:

    Megan…I hate those .99 cent signs. It drives me absolutely batty. I, also, always ask them how they can charge less than a penny for something…none of them ever get it.

  21. Typos in the Museum » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] TEAL group was not pleased. (Scroll down past the part about Starbucks.) It highlighted the work of ten female cartoonists […]

  22. ccr in MA Says:

    I saw an error on a Starbucks sign once myself. The “marbel” cake looked like marble cake to me.

    Love your quest!

  23. Amy Says:

    I found your blog after seeing a news report on what you’re been doing. I must say, you’re doing what I have always wanted to! I would love to walk up to folks and correct their bad grammar! LOL! So great! I see so many signs like those you’ve encountered. I’m certainly not perfect, but as an editor, it still amazes me how many things go to print the way they do! Keep up the good work!

  24. Pollyvousfrancais Says:

    I thought the proofreaders at Le Monde would be interested in what you’re up to — they write a really funny blog, which I’m addicted to.

    So I emailed them the ABC news clip, and they posted it on their blog. (It’s all in French.) Started some interesting reactions in the comments!

    http://correcteurs.blog.lemonde.fr/2008/04/13/un-correcteur-on-the-road/

  25. Bethany Says:

    Wow. That museum is ridiculous, although their mistakes were pretty funny to me as a spectator. Hehe.

    P.S. I finally located online one of the news stories about you and the TEAL mission. Has anyone ever told you that you sound a lot like Ray Romano? It’s kind of freaky.
    P.P.S. LOVE the fedora (in the ABC piece). Guys should wear hats more these days.

  26. Macaroo42 Says:

    Wonderful work, Jeff! But if you’re going to tell people their signs are wonky, perhaps using the word “incorrect” would be more, well, correct. Grammatically speaking, one can’t say, “Hi there. I noticed that elegant was spelled wrong on your sign.” It would be, “I noticed that elegant was spelled incorrectly on your sign.”
    Just a thought. :-)

  27. Andrew Farago Says:

    Dear Mr. Deck,

    The typographical errors in question were brought to my attention yesterday, and have been corrected. Unfortunately, due to simple human oversight, we provided our local copy shop with an uncorrected version of our exhibition text, and until our patrons pointed out this mistake, we were, for obvious reasons, unable to take actions to correct it. I am sorry if this in any way affected your enjoyment of our museum.

    Please rest assured that we strive to be as professional as possible here at the Cartoon Art Museum, and we will be all the more diligent with our future exhibitions.

    I assume that you will provide equal coverage in your blog detailing our swift and immediate actions to correct these errors, and will, perhaps, consider deleting this entry in its entirety.

    We take suggestions from our patrons very seriously, and had you simply taken the time to send a polite email alerting me to this issue, I would have addressed it this morning as I would any other suggestion or recommendation. Taking your concerns to a public forum with no guarantee that I would ever be alerted to these issues benefits no one.

    Best regards,

    Andrew Farago

    Gallery Manager/Curator
    Cartoon Art Museum

  28. Julie Says:

    Bravo, Cartoon Art Museum! I was a witness to Jeff’s discoveries and fixing them would have involved re-doing about eight different signs. We, fans of TEAL, appreciate your commitment to the cause.

    Best regards,

    Julie S.

  29. Andrew Farago Says:

    Thanks, Julie. I’m glad to see that someone from your organization appreciates our work.

  30. Jennifer de Guzman Says:

    I think it’s great that the curator of the Cartoon Art Museum corrected the mistake, but I find it sort of fishy that he would ask that this post be deleted.

  31. Andrew Farago Says:

    There’s nothing “fishy” about it.

    Mr. Deck had a complaint, he made his complaint, his complaint was resolved, and I’d rather not have to deal with the vitriolic and speculative emails that are still trickling into my inbox from people who aren’t aware that the situation has been resolved. The more time I spend dealing with dead issues, the less time I have to spend on other, more important work.

  32. sophe Says:

    After sending my own email about the typos to Mr. Farago, I received a personal response that the information had already been corrected. I’m impressed by his quick resolution - which I’m sure you don’t see much from this soapbox. So I say let’s applaud his efforts rather than beat this horse any longer.

    Many thanks, Mr. Farago, I think your efforts today speak volumes about your commitment to your work, and to the artists and communities you serve.

  33. sophe Says:

    I’m responding to Pollyvousfrancais’ post — honey, don’t get me started on the whole French to English thang* — I just started working for the US subsidiary of a company that’s headquartered in France and you should see the English section of our website; it’ll take me years to get it all cleaned up!

    (*yes, that’s a real word and its real spelling - it’s urban vernacular for “thing” with a whole lot of attitude, snap!)

  34. John Says:

    Man, now I feel bad about emailing that guy to have the typos fixed. He doesn’t seem very happy about it…I wonder how many of these he had to send out…

    John,

    The typographical errors in question were brought to my attention yesterday, and have been corrected. Unfortunately, due to simple human oversight, we provided our local copy shop with an uncorrected version of our exhibition text, and until our patrons pointed out this mistake, we were, for obvious reasons, unable to take actions to correct it.

    I am sorry if this in any way affected your museum-going experience, but rest assured, we will be all the more diligent with our future exhibitions.

    Best regards,

    Andrew Farago

    Gallery Manager/Curator
    Cartoon Art Museum
    655 Mission Street
    San Francisco, CA 94105
    (415) CAR-TOON, ext. 314
    http://www.cartoonart.org

  35. Mark S Says:

    ‘Well balanced’ is actually a very important phrase in coffee tasting!

  36. Jennifer dG Says:

    Well, Andrew, that would mean deleting only the part of the post that calls on people to email you and replacing it with a notice that the issue has been resolved, not “deleting this entry in its entirety,” as you suggested.

    But I am in agreement with other posters that the Cartoon Art Museum does good work and you’ve done a great job in resolving the problem.

  37. Elmer Says:

    The problem with being a prescriptive grammarian is that the mistakes you are correcting, whether typos or anything else, are only mistakes if the author is committed to the same standards as you are. The conventional ending for plurals could have just as easily been apostrophe-s, and the spelling of many words could have been different. If you’ve ever read texts in the history of English, you will see that the benefits of a standard is clear, but trying to get people to adhere to it 100% of the time is unreasonable. Why not go around correcting everyone that says ‘who’ instead of ‘whom’? I would suggest that, like typos and misspellings, these ‘mistakes’ rarely impede our understanding of the sentence.

  38. alison Says:

    ahhhh.. i live in seattle, and often notice the same errors. i’ve been known to fix a few, but now i’m ready to go full force after reading about you guys! alas… you guys missed this one down by the wharf!! i told the owner about it a year ago (almost to the date) — he was puzzled by my concern, but grateful in the end. who knows if anything was done. perhaps you can check up on it when you’re down there next time?

  39. alison Says:

    rats, the ‘href’ didn’t work!

    http://www.indospectrum.com/photo/cd022_cigar_store_fishermans_wharf

  40. creditcardnegotiationinfo.com Says:

    Consumer Credit…

    hey cool site….

Comments are Closed