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Susan Ople: Art of ‘errorism’

Susan “Toots” Ople is the youngest daughter of the late Foreign Affairs Secretary Blas F. Ople. She has a Sunday column in Manila Bulletin’s Panorama Magazine and Tempo and two public service radio programs, “Bantay OFW” at DZXL RMN 558 every Monday to Friday, 12.30-2 pm and “Global Pinoy” at DWIZ 882 every Saturday from 5.30-6.30 pm.

Art of ‘errorism’
by Susan Ople
First posted in susanople.com

A world-class performer cannot help but wince when someone sings out of tune. Athletes frown at an extra slice of pizza and a chocolate bar that mere mortals devour unburdened by the thought of calorie count and body fat. Writers have their own pet peeves — the dreaded typo errors, letters missing or added, that lead readers astray and authors embarrassed.

On Facebook, a friend of mine wrote about a man who killed his wife because of a dreaded typo. The man’s neighbor and good friend texted him to say: “I am deeply sorry for using your wife without permission. Mine wasn’t available so I had to use yours, but it was only for a brief moment. It won’t happen again.”

In rage, the man confronted his wife and killed her.

A few minutes after, the same neighbor texted: “Oops, sorry for the typo! Meant wifi, not wife. Hehehe.”

Indeed, I had my share of dreadful typos, bringing me shame and horror upon publication. A common typo error is forgetting the letter “I” in public, which has its own consequences. Slips on my keyboard lead to “your” instead of “you’re” and “this” to “these”. I also loathe seeing words misspelled like “deserts” in lieu of “desserts” in a food column, confusing camels for chocolates in a reader’s mind.

They say that these dreaded typos are inevitable. It’s another thing when such typos end up in public signs and places. “Please flash after using” may encourage lewd behavior in public toilets. “Von Boyage!” was actually used by a government agency in a tarp displayed near an international airport. “Free drink with the main curse!” will keep customers away for a long, long time.

Of course, “it’s” can easily become “its” out of confusion over usage, not spelling. Grammatical errors are difficult to spot on a computer screen whre lettrs tend tolook alike. Spellcheck with its wriggly lines has its own days off, and cannot be relied on 100 percent.

For writers, turning in a perfect article in both form and substance way beyond the deadline requires extraordinary discipline. Very few would associate the word “discipline” with writing because of the notion that writers are drifters, with imaginary friends. I do have imaginary friends but I take offense at being categorized as a “drifter.” My columns do drift, but I am quite tethered to my laptop, and vice-versa when doing my work.

The art of dreaded typos brings out the meaningless genie in each of us. That genie refuses to stick to the classic English rules of Strunk and White, and fully ignores the style manuals of all the greatest news publications combined.

The genie disrupts gleefully one’s composition of words to promote linguistic follies. “Let’s get ready to ramble!” — the genie says while clapping its hands in glee.

Sometimes, that genie comes out in the oddest moments, like during videoke sessions when it supplies strange lyrics to fit the most popular melodies in the world. “And now, the end is here, and now I face the final birthday.” Uhmm, what’s final is the curtain, not the birthday.

How about the ABBA’s Dancing Queen? Have you heard someone sing it this way before? “See that girl, watch that scene, kicking the Dancing Queen!” Such violence is not allowed in discos everywhere.

We are all human beings prone to mistakes especially when English is not our first language. The journey to perfection never ends, so we might as well enjoy the missteps and detours along the way.