Today is Festivus, the holiday for the rest of us made famous and beloved by “Seinfeld.” This year, a Florida man named Chad Stevens designed a rainbow-hued Festivus pole that he hopes to display –according to a story in Slate – “in Republican-dominated states—Arkansas, Oklahoma, Florida, Georgia, Michigan—as a protest against what he views as their support for laws respecting an establishment of religion.” Three cheers for Chad!
The Festivus tradition closest to my own heart is, of course, the Airing of Grievances. This is the seventh year of my public kvetchings about preventable errors committed in the name of commerce and journalism. Read ’em and weep.
“NASA Craft Flys [sic] By Pluto”
The original caption in a July Wall Street Journal story about the Pluto fly-by (corrected in later editions).
Grievance the Second.
To understand this one you need an elementary knowledge of Hebrew. But people with an elementary (or better) knowledge of Hebrew are the ad’s target audience.
Lord & Taylor ad on Page 2 of the Sunday New York Times, December 6 (first night of Hanukkah).
The greeting is supposed to say Chag Chanukah sameach: happy Hanukkah holiday. Instead, it reads Tag Tanukah shamet. That’s because instead of the letter chet, which is pronounced like the guttural /ch/ in German ach or Scottish loch, Lord & Taylor substituted the similar-looking but entirely different taf, which is pronounced like /t/.
This is how Hanukkah (or Chanukah, which is phonetically closer) is actually spelled:
The first letter of this – remember, Hebrew is read right to left – is instead this:
What’s more, the error appears two more times in the ad. As Tablet, which covers Jewish news and culture, put it:
Each word used the Hebrew letter ת (taf) instead of a ח (chet), which completely changed the intended meaning of what was supposed to be “Happy Hanukkah,” in Hebrew. But the way it is spelled, it means: “The tag of her earlobe that died.”
No proofreaders capable of reading Hebrew in New York City? I’m very disappointed in you, Lord & Taylor!
Grievance the Third.
It was already a bad year for Volkswagen. Then this:
Via Pat Myers of the Washington Post.
Grievance the Fourth.
From my in-box:
Note the time stamps: It took Filene’s Basement, the discount retailer whose roots go back to 1908, six and a half hours to correct the spelling error.
Grievance the Fifth.
It took the San Francisco Chronicle four days to correct the spelling of calendar … in the calendar section.
Grievance the Sixth.
On Facebook, Terri Nelson posted this photo of a window in the Macy’s in downtown Portland, Oregon. “Now I can’t stop saying SKWEER,” she commented.
Not to mention the unnecessary apostrophe in possessive its. And the Random Capitalization. And the annoyingly bad meter.
Grievance the Seventh.
Some proofreading errors are more publicly embarrassing than others.
“Wait – I thought you were in charge of the comma!”
Happy Festivus, Merry Christmas, happy Boxing Day! I’ll be back in this space next week.