Tuesday, April 21, 2009


Mischievous Imps Everywhere

I have a friend who does absolutely beautiful calligraphy and she clued me in about the imp who causes problems with scribes: Titivillus. This creature is referred to as "the patron demon of scribes."

The best modern study of Titivillus is a scholarly one: Margaret Jennings's article "Tutivillus: The Literary Career of the Recording Demon," in Studies in Philology 74, no. 5 (December 1977).
Note: "Tutivillus: The Literary . . ." is not a typo.

Titivillus was a demon said to work on behalf of Belphegor, Lucifer or Satan to introduce errors into the work of a scribe. The first reference to Titivillus by name occurred in Tractatus de Penitentia, c. 1285, by John of Wales. Titivillus has also been described as collecting idle chat that occurs during church service, and mispronounced, mumbled or skipped words of the service itself, to take to Hell to be counted against the offender.

This goes beyond mischief, I think. Although perhaps Titivillus foreshadows Shakespeare characters such as Puck and Petrucio.

Teaser Tuesdays

The Chinese, who seem to have spent thousands of years sitting around thinking up sage proverbs, have one that says, sagely, "If you would be happy for a week, take a wife; if you would be happy for a month, kill your pig, but if you would be happy all your life, plant a garden."
[page 74]


Read my own post yesterday about Kate Puzey, Peace Corps volunteer and the mis-spelled CORE jumped out at me.

Sometimes the brain and the fingers don't seem to connect. In newspaper lingo, we always knew these glaring errors were caused by the ever-present Gremlins.

GREMLINS! present in the composing room. The typesetter besieged with gremlins. Of course, the errors were not caught until the presses ran, the newspapers were delivered and at the news stands. Then a disgusted reporter would shudder to see his story not at all as he wrote it - or sometimes it was his mistake.

However, I am the writer as well as the typesetter and proofreader - so I am thrice to blame for such a glaring error.

Examples from newspapers: when Robert, a foreign correspondent at the time, was in Denmark covering the funeral of Dag Hammarskjöld, his carefully crafted story showed up in the Toronto Star, saying two-headed children lined the streets. He knew immediately he should have written blond children, instead of tow-headed. [extracted from article by Wilhelmine Estabrook]

One writer blew his stack when a story came out in the paper, under his byline, saying "The queen and her entourage pissed over the Firth of Forth." And another while covering the funeral of a self-important bigwig, was aghast to see that "mournful crows lined the sidewalk," when his copy could prove he'd written crowds.

  • IMPORTANT NOTICE: If you are one of hundreds of parachuting enthusiasts who bought our Easy Sky Diving book, please make the following correction: on page 8, line 7, the words "state zip code" should have read "pull rip cord."

  • It was incorrectly reported last Friday that today is T-shirt Appreciation Day. In fact, it is actually Teacher Appreciation Day.

  • From a California bar association's newsletter: Correction -- the following typo appeared in our last bulletin: "Lunch will be gin at 12:15 p.m." Please orrect to read "12 noon."

  • Just to keep the record straight, it was the famous Whistler's Mother, not Hitler's, that was exhibited. There is nothing to be gained in trying to explain how this error occurred.

  • Apology: I originally wrote, "Woodrow Wilson's wife grazed sheep on front lawn of the White House." I'm sorry that typesetting inadvertently left out the word "sheep."

In a cookbook - should have been: You will need larger bowls if you double the recipe. Instead: You will need larger bowels if you double the recipe.

On a restaurant menu: "fired rice"

Advertisements in newspaper:

Our experienced mother will care for your child. Fenced yards, meals and smacks included.

For Rent: 6-room hated apartment. Man, honest. Will take anything.

And now, the Superstore-unequaled in size, unmatched in variety, unrivaled inconvenience.


Once in awhile an e-mail chain letter will be circulated with Church Bulletin typos (which you now know are caused by gremlins) and provide some laughs.

Brigham Young U.'s Student Newspaper Is Pulled After Embarrassing Typo

On and on it goes . . .