Author Topic: “Mrs. Tipton went over to him and put her anus around his neck.” OCR errors ;-)  (Read 866 times)

Offline Gyppo

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I subscribe to a free newsletter called Worldwide Words.  It is, quite frankly, fascinating and sometimes amazing.  It's surprising how many words have completely reversed their meaning over the years.  If you love playing with words, or poking inside them to discover their etymology as opposed to just using them in a strictly utilitarian fashion, then visit the website at the link below.  Expect to get gleefully lost in the linguistic labyrinth created by the author, Michael Quinion.

The link will also allow you subscribe to the newsletter.

Here's a couple of recent samples to whet your appetite.  The first of which shows one danger of OCR scanning of older books.


Arse versus elbow

At the end of April Sarah Wendell, who edits the romance blog Smart Bitches, Trashy Books, raised a small storm of media attention. The process by which printed books are scanned into digital text can suffer problems with recognising characters. OCR (optical character recognition) software is rarely 100% accurate and can fail really badly with older books whose printing isn’t up to modern standards. She discovered that in one horrifyingly hilarious error, arms often turns into anus. This is one out of many that she dug up, in a digitised story by Thomas Lansing Masson from Life magazine in 1900: “Mrs. Tipton went over to him and put her anus around his neck.” Another Twitter user wrote “People think OCR is a cheap way to get old books into ebook format. But to do it right means thorough proof reading is needed.”

I was reminded of this when Francesca Davis emailed me, having found a puzzling word while reading Louisa May Alcott’s 1873 novel Work: A Story of Experience on her Kindle: “You are only a woman, and in tilings of this sort we are so blind and silly.” She couldn’t find any reference to tiling other than in connection with roofing or related matters and wondered if it were some old-fashioned term. It isn’t rare in digitised books archives: “They may do all the right tilings, but they can’t sense the feelings of others”, “There are many tilings which will retard the elevation of woman in Greece” and “She gets so bored, she does all kinds of silly tilings.” My hunt online found a facsimile of the book. It should have read “You are only a woman, and in things of this sort we are so blind and silly.”


Niall McLaren found this in the Hindustan Times of 16 May: “The official was not authorised to give his name to the press without authorisation, which he didn’t have.”



My website is currently having a holiday, but will return like the $6,000,000 man.  Bigger, stronger, etc.

In the meantime, why not take pity on a starving author and visit my book sales page at

Offline Alice, a Country Gal

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I agree with Gyppo about World Wide Words.

For anyone fascinated by words, it is a treasure trove.  ;D
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Offline Andrewf

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I have to say, I read the title as "arms"  :D
"If it can't be expressed in figures, it is not science; it is opinion." - L. Long.

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