The year in cutnpaste errors

From John L. Allen Jr., “The Pope’s Real Message for Obama”, NYT op-ed piece of 12/19/08:

Ninety-four percent of the Catholics in the world are not Americans, which may help explain why the pope and his lieutenants are not always think American thoughts when they get out of bed in the morning.

A classic cutnpaste error, in which the writer starts one version (probably “do not always think American thoughts” in this case) and then the writer, or an editor, thinks of an improvement (“are not always thinking American thoughts”) but changes only part of the first version, so producing a combination of the two versions. (The on-line version has the error corrected, to “are not always thinking”.) I have a small collection of these things, and they’ve come up every so often on Language Log, most recently in a posting by Geoff Pullum, here. Here’s the summary for 2008.

(I see that on different occasions I’ve referred to these things as cut ‘n’ paste errors, cut’n’paste errors, and cutnpaste errors. Here I’m opting for the third, simplest, label.)

Back on 12 January, in “Weather Report” in the NYT:

Unlike the whirlwinds that can ravage the Plains in the spring and summer, twisters in the West Coast States, which occur infrequently, are weak, with wind speeds generally between 40 and 110 miles per hour.  In contrast a strong tornadoes can have winds up to 300 miles per hour.

“A strong tornado” was probably the original, but then the writer (or an editor) shifted to the plural, making things parallel to “the whirlwinds” and “twisters” earlier in the passage, but leaving the singular “a” untouched.

Then on 30 January, in a homework assignment from a student in my undergrad morphology course:

Even in English, which is very rigid in word ordering compared to most languages allows some variation in the ordering of words within a sentence.

The result is a combo of “Even in English … there is some variation” and “Even English … allows some variation”.

On 21 February, from Ron Butters on ADS-L:

Perhaps this is just a typo the both the author and editor missed …

(ending up with a combo of “a typo that both the author and editor missed” and “a typo the author and editor both missed”).

On to Geoff Pullum’s piece (of 23 February) on will need never + V:

I think it is just a word processing error, not an anomalous occurrence of a double modal in written Standard English. I think the writer wrote need never happen again (which is fine; need is a modal verb, so the negative adverb never comes after it), and then decided it didn’t sound future-oriented enough, and considered saying will never need to happen again (which would be grammatical, with never following the modal verb will and the lexical verb need taking a to-infinitival complement, because it is not a modal verb). Perhaps the writer got as far as putting in the will, but then the phone rang or something, and things were left in that state. From then on it was the responsibility of the editors to notice the slip, but they failed to spot it.

(Later, Geoff added that it occurs with some frequency and might now be on its way to becoming a new double-modal construction.)

Next, on 7 March, Victor Steinbok wrote me about the following passage from the ABA Journal:

A leading critic is plaintiffs lawyer Dorothy Clay Sims in Ocala, Fla., who has written guides on how to challenge the results and is seeking to get the test removed from the MMPI. Another is retired psychologist James Butcher, whose found that more than 45 percent of psychiatric patients he studied had Fake Bad Scale scores of 20 or more, and that women had higher scores than men.

Presumably, “whose found that” combines parts of two different formulations: “whose research/study found that” and “who found that”.

There follows a gap in my collection, and then on to 24 November in the NYT, in Robert F. Allen’s “As Taboos Ease, Saudi Girl Group Dares to Rock”:

Mr. Hatrash, who has graying shoulder-length hair, recalled how the religious police used to harass young men who advertised their interest in rock and roll.He once had his head was shaved by the police.

Pieces of “He once had his head shaved by the police” and “His head was once shaved by the police”. This one has not been corrected on-line.

And that brings us back to the pope and his lieutenants, who “are not always think American thoughts”.

One Response to “The year in cutnpaste errors”

  1. Today’s presumable cutnpaste « Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    [...] a 2008 posting of mine: A classic cutnpaste error, in which the writer starts one version … and then the writer, or [...]

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