Monday, July 28, 2008

another Jay Leno headline

Another humorous "headline" from the Tonight Show recently was the misspelling "hors devours" instead of "hors d'oeuvres". This is what is referred to as Cupertino (another linguistic term generated by Language Log), or a computer generated incorrection. Many people use spell checkers on their work, and some have automated spell checkers to replace misspelled words. Problems arise when the words are not actually misspelled, but rather unknown to the spell checking dictionary. If this were a human based error, we'd expect something closer to the original. Certainly no one, no matter how confused by spelling, would think "hors devours" is the correct spelling, especially since the got "hors" right despite its two silent graphemes. And let's be honest, who can remember how to spell "hors d'oeuvre"? The only reason I can manage to do so is because I'm aware of the French grapheme "oe", which keeps me from mixing up the order of the vowels, and because the metathesis (switching of segment order) of v and r in French loans is not uncommon (cf. Brett Favre).

(I'll refrain from discussing the addition of English plural morphology on a word that is already plural in the original language.)

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