We’ve all run across them – typographical errors in books that unintentionally alter, sometimes comically, the significance of a sentence. As a book reviewer, I read mostly advanced reading copies (also called "uncorrected proofs" for a reason!) and most of those have at least a few typos – some may even have dozens or hundreds. The ARC I’m reading now (which will remain unidentified) had a pretty funny typo. In the story, a psychologist is talking to his patient, a disturbed middle-aged woman, about her females needs. Except the sentence reads: “Women have certain seeds…” That one wayward letter changes the conversation dramatically – instead of exploring sexual repression, we’re suddenly talking about farming.


Last summer when Cherie Priest was finishing up the revisions to her stellar steampunk novel Boneshaker – the first installment in her Clockwork Century saga – she accidentally described the eponymous drill engine as Bonershake numerous times. It may have been a simple Freudian slip but I laughed out loud when I heard about it…. and I’m still laughing today!


And, if that wasn’t bad enough, after the novel was released in the fall, the bookstore at the University of Washington printed several rounds of placards promoting it as Bonkshaker.


I make typing errors all the time while writing reviews, most of which I catch later in the edits. I graduated with honors from the illustrious One Finger Typing School of New York so, over the last 15 years, I’ve come up with some classic oopsies:


• Frank Herbert’s Dune was the first novel to win both the Hugo and Nebula Award. It is to science fiction what The Lord of the Rings is to fantasy. It’s the beginning of a saga that has sold more copies than any other science fiction series in history. Here’s what I wrote when I reviewed it in 2000: “Originally published in novel form in 1965, Dung is arguably the most famous science fiction novel ever written.”


• When Kat Richardson released her fourth Greywalker novel, Vanished, last year, I loved it, and wrote this: “But here’s why I love Kat Richardson’s Greywalker series: every new novel is better than the last. Her latest, Varnished, is simply a genre-transcendent masterpiece.” Varnished? There was no woodworking whatsoever in that novel!


• In 2006, Jim Grimsley released The Last Green Tree, a “science fantasy” about a planetary struggle between insectoid predators, human revolutionaries and a race of sentient trees that enlist and genetically alter humans to serve as symbionts. It was an interesting read – except that I originally called it The Last Green Tea.


• Ian Caldwell and Dustin Thomason’s riveting debut thriller, The Rule of Four – a masterfully complicated mystery, a powerfully touching romance and a cultural account of the Renaissance as well as a bittersweet coming-of-story about Ivy League seniors coming to grips with their imminent place in the “adult” world – would’ve been irrevocably flawed had its title been The Rule of Fur. 


So, the next time you run across a typographical error in a novel, try to stem your irritation – the typo may be more entertaining than the original content!


What's the funniest typo you've found (or typed!)?

by on ‎01-25-2010 09:24 AM

I had a book that the printer had somehow managed to replace every Q with a G. Why no one before it got to stores noticed that the queen (it was a fantasy novel with lots of royal titles) was a gueen, was very surprising. The gueen's royal guard were... Look at the gueen's lovely dress.... And we won't mention the guestion that was asked. (chuckle)

by sifu-hotman on ‎01-25-2010 11:20 AM

This was in a Harry Potter book, don't know which one, but one that came out after the movies; it had "Rupert" written on one of the pages instead of Ron. Rupert, is the actor who plays the character Ron in the movies. 

by IBIS on ‎01-25-2010 03:09 PM

In a news article about Australia's overcrowded rabbit population... the countryside was literally overrun by rabbits. The writer of the article was driving, and saw 20 rabbis hopping across the highway.

by Jules934 on ‎01-25-2010 04:06 PM

To sifu-hotman --- We Potterphiles like to keep the record straight.  Many folks have pointed this error out. 

 actually, J,K, Rowling said that was deliberate.  The speaker, a professor who was not impressed with Ron, constantly mispronounced his name.  "Rupert" was one of the misnomers she used, in honor of Rupert Grint. 



by Jules934 on ‎01-25-2010 04:13 PM

A colleague of mine, in an e-mail to dozens of people in a large company, made a typo in announcing the scheduling of an event.  Much confusion followed.  He then sent a second e-mail, giving the correct schedule and apologizing for making a pubic nuisance of himself.  He will never live it down.

by sifu-hotman on ‎01-26-2010 04:47 AM

 To Jules934 - That's pretty cool! I knew it couldn't have been just a simple mistake.

by Erudite on ‎01-26-2010 01:11 PM

I have noticed recently that ebooks sometimes have the most intriguing errors.  In a Fantasy novel I have just read that was discussing the harvest of the first crop and planting of the second the text read, "they were each raping and sewing and hoped to do so again before the weather went sour."

by Jules934 on ‎01-26-2010 04:02 PM

Spell Check can only take you so far.

by TristamBeow on ‎01-26-2010 06:27 PM

i've got a winesburg ohio first edition, hiding somewhere in my garage.  if i check page 80 and find a typo, that means it's a first run of less than 100 and worth up to $200,000.  arrgh!  can't find the little sucker!

by Blogger Ellen_Scordato on ‎01-26-2010 10:20 PM

Don't leave the "o" out of "country." I've seen it misprinted that way more than once and am always dumbstruck  that such a thing got through the proofreaders. Then I laugh like Beavis and Butthead.

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