Embrace the typo
As a writer, not only of fiction and essays, but of text messages and emails also, there is one thing I’m plagued by beyond anything else. The typographical error, or typo. In my own experience, my typos usually come in the form of repeated letters such as the ever wonderful, ‘a a’ or ‘how how’ when tired writing. Usually, and I’ve noticed this more in emails and text messages, they come in the form of word omissions, where my brain moves faster than my hands and I’ll swear black is blue and blue is black and that those words were in there.
The typo, named so after the manner in which typesetting could go wrong, has a fantastic and colourful presence in the world. The typo demon, Titivillus, was said to work on behalf of Satan and first appeared in name in 1285 (in Johannes Galensis’ work Tractatus de Penitentia). Titivillus soon became the scape goat for scribes, who would inevitably make mistakes in their manuscripts.
Titivillus is more or less the first personification, if you will, of typos. Since, there have been many, many more. From Typo fairies (who wikipedia charmingly describes as small, winged and luminous or invisible and sporting a mischievous mindset), to typo demons (who unlike the fairy are usually exist more in the realms of gaming). The typo, as universal as it is, also has different names all across Europe. The Swedes call it ‘Tryckfelsnisse’, the Norwegians call it ‘Trykkleif’ or ‘Tyrkkleif’ and the Finnish call their typo demon ‘Painovirhepaholainen’. Nowadays, the typo demon or fairy is said to live within the keyboard and more than ever, is playing its tricks on us all.
There is a such a thing called ‘Gaiman’s Law’, thought of by Neil Gaiman, it says that when a writer opens a copy of their published book, they are bound to find at least one typo. I’ve read my fair share of books, and while my manuscript remains unpublished, the law seems to ring true. Marilyn Manson’s The Long Hard Road Out Of Hell had more than it’s fair share of repeated words ‘pants pants’ was only one of them. While Vince Flynn’s American Assassin was, at times, rife, the most memorable were the misspellings of a character’s name, ‘Ohlmeyer’ became ‘Ohimeyer’ and then switched back to the former. No doubt, I won’t find all the typos in this, and I’ve been told I didn’t find them all in On The Fault In Our Stars either.
It seems as though, typos exist for a reason, they are everywhere, the American Constitution has one (article one, section 10 states “…shall without the consent of congress lay any impose or duties on imports or exports except what may be absolutely necessary for executing it’s [sic] inspection laws”) ‘it’s’ and ‘its’, as you would have noticed have been used incorrectly. Titivillus has also struck the bibe ( one example, known as the ‘Judas bible’, appeared in 1613. The print read ‘Judas’ instead of ‘Jesus’). The list of the books, let alone publications that have typos is seemingly endless, and yet in a world where we’re surrounded by the idea of perfection, the typo is persistent in reminding us that mistakes are naturally human.
We should embrace the typo. As writers, text-ers, email-ers, playwrights and even travel log writers, the typo truly is, a fact of life. I’m by no means encouraging its deliberate or even accidental use, there are few things less vexing than discovering a mistake in a sentence you’ve read a hundred times. But! They are part of the process, they are part of the mark that reminds us that newspapers, publishing industries, and word processors are written or run by people. And even on the best of days a publisher’s most accomplished proof reader may let one through. Whether they be demons, fairies or an unfortunate case of fat fingering, our typos should be embraced as one of the few imperfections that still remains in what we create. As a signifier that we are human and there are still times where our brains will work faster than our hands.
Discuss, comment, and share some typographical errors, if you find yourself so inclined. All are welcome.