Book Report: Misspellings are thorns in the sides of many
Fifty years ago in Bowling Green, Ohio, a fellow named Charlie Perkins made the best goldarned bologna outside of Bologna, Italy. Business was so good, Perkins put a new neon sign out of his little butcher shop at the edge of town.
The sign simply said "PERKIN'S MEAT'S." The sign bothered the dickens out of the English Department at the university I attended, but it didn't bother the locals, who kept buying Charlie's bologna and braunschweiger and Dutch loaf despite his problems with the apostrophe.
Charlie Perkins is gone now, but the problem with sign language lives on. No one seems to care if sign makers from those wielding neon tubes to Magic Markers mangle the King's English.
Except for two young fellows named Jeff Deck and Benjamin D. Henson, an editor and bookstore employee who set out to "change the world, one correction at a time. Their efforts have been collected in a book, "The Great Typo Hunt" (Crown Publishing, $23.99), which is garnering accolades from language mavens like Richard Lederer, author of "Anguished English" and other tomes about the butchery of our language.
The young guys set out in an old Nissan Sentra, and discovered hundreds of typos on signs around the United States. Actually, these are not typos, but just plain errors committed by folks advertising their wares.
Why would they do that?
Deck explains: "Everyone has the capacity to change the world in some way; it's just that some people have slightly more useful specialties than others. I wanted to make a difference, but I was no scientist or politician or celebrity chef, just an editor with a pretty good eye for spotting typos. I decided to leave the cancer-curing and endangered species-savings to someone else and decided to concentrate on what I did best."
Deck and his pal discovered all manner of errors and list the top 10 types of errors, in order of importance:
The subject-verb disagreement as in, "Lemons sure is tasty."
The place where you go to eat, as in "restaaunt" or "restauraunt."
The double-letter fumble as in, "They're shiping dinning room furniture."
The "a" for "e" sabotage, as in. "America defininately loves its independence."
The confusion of tasty treats and arid sands, as in, "Try our homemade deserts."
The misplaced apostrophe, as in, "womens' secret society."
The wrong your or you're, as in, "You're the best at you're job."
The wrong its or it's as in, "Its in a class of it's own."
The missing apostrophe, as in "Mens fashions"
And finally, Charlie's mistake, the unnecessary apostrophe: "We sell hundred's of rings of bologna."
There's one common error the boys missed, but maybe that's because they never got to Minneapolis, where one of the common errors committed by restauraunt, er, restaurant, owners who invert the "o" and the "i"
As in "Try our juicy sirlion steak." And they're not talking about a cut from the M-G-M's famous feline, Leo.
There's been a revival of the Jacob Wetterling case in recent years and so "Bringing Jon Home," (Beaver's Pond Press, $22), a new book about Jon Francis, the Stillwater, Minn., man who was killed in an Idaho mountain climbing accident in 2006.
Jon's father David, a businessman and former nuclear sub officer, describes how his family felt when they were informed of his disappearance in the Sawtooth Mountain Range. And how frustrated they were when the sheriff's department gave up on the project.
He adds that his church community in Stillwater and how people from all over the country pitched in and reaccelerated the search.
That search seem to prove futile until David Francis decided to make the best of it by beginning the Jon Francis Foundation to help other who are distraught and overwhelmed while coping with the disappearance of a loved one.
This a heart-rending book, but with an upbeat note.
Foreword by Patty Wetterling.
Dave Wood is a past vice president of the National Book Critics circle and former book review editor of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Phone him at 715-426-9554.