bizarre typos

victor steinbok aardvark66 at GMAIL.COM
Wed Nov 25 05:49:20 UTC 2009

Through a friend's post on Facebook (actually, another friend's
comment on a post), I picked up the combination "through think and
thin". Given the authors penchant for typos, I had assumed it to be a
simple typo. But it also bugged me enough to do a search for the
phrase--it got 18K raw hits. While a handful of hits were incidental
(e.g., including "..., I think, and thin ..."), the majority do look
like "You're suppose to support your side through think and thin."
Another handful (quite literally--about half-dozen) of hits are
references to the lyrics of a particular song that includes the phrase
as a play on words. But that hardly accounts for 18000 hits.

Whatever one may think, I would not argue that this either a 1)
eggcorn or 2) cupertino effect. Rather, it belongs to a different
class of errors that creep up on us while we type *without* automatic
correction. It is a classic word substitution based on frequency--a
sort of "chunking" that makes us type a word without much thought,
only to realize later that the word was completely irrelevant, even
though it shares a few initial literals with the desired gloss. I
catch myself doing this kind of "automatic pilot" typing with some
non-trivial frequency (and may be responsible for a substantial
fraction of the instances of the common word choice errors, such as
their/there). Your mileage may vary, of course--just because I don't
think it has a plausible eggcornish derivation or the cupertino
selection might be too complicated does not mean that everyone has to
agree with me. But I thought it was worth mentioning at least once.
Next time you are typing and catch yourself slipping in an incorrect
word "on automatic pilot" you'll know what I am trying to say here.


The American Dialect Society -

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