Archive for the ‘Misreadings’ Category

Today’s misreading: life behind piano bars

May 24, 2018

The header on the e-mail appeared to promise:

Prison Gay Nite Every Friday in San Mateo – Piano Bar this week

A piano bar behind bars, gayfolk mingle with the incarcerated at the San Mateo Jail. Not really my thing, but I know people it might appeal to. And San Mateo is about 16 miles from where I live, so it would take some effort.

The message appeared in really tiny type on my computer screen, and its actual first word was entirely unpredictable in context, so it’s not entirely a surprise that I misread it. An announcement for the actual event [called Prism]:


A hopeful misreading

March 24, 2018

Glanced at yesterday’s NYT when it arrived at 6 a.m., and read the headline for the top story:

[REDACTED] Chooses Hawke
For 3rd Security Adviser
As Shake-Up Continues

Ooh, I thought, a bold appointment: accomplished actor, director, and writer Ethan Hawke, a sturdy Democrat, feminist, and activist for gay rights.

Then I looked carefully at the headline and saw that it said Hawk (referring to a hawk, someone who supports a warlike policy in foreign affairs). not Hawke (referring to Ethan Hawke).  The appointment was of überhawk John Bolton.


Six months of misreadings

January 25, 2016

Since my 7/2/15 posting on misreadings (with “Calamities” misread as “Catamites”), I’ve collected six more, summarized below. And there is now a Page on “Misreading postings”.


Thursday’s misreading

September 13, 2014

On the front page of the NYT on 9/11, a headline that I read as

From Kurdistan
To Texas, Scots
Spurn Separatists

This was deeply puzzling: I didn’t think that either Kurdistan or Texas had sizable numbers of Scots, much less ones passionately engaged in the question of Scottish separatism. But then I looked more carefully at the head, and saw that it had Spur, not Spurn. The Scottish issue has inspired separatist advocates in Flanders, Catalonia, Kurdistan, Quebec, the Basque Country of northern Spain, the Veneto region in northern Italy, Brittany, Friesland, Corsica, the South Tirol, Bavaria, the Swedish-speaking sections of Finland, and yes, Texas.

Sometimes I think I understand where my misreadings come from, but in this case I have no idea.

Briefly noted: misreading a head

June 3, 2014

Occasionally I post some observation about language only to Facebook rather than to this blog (with a link from Facebook), when I think the observation is inconsequential. But it usually turns out that readers find more to say on the topic.

So on the 31st, I noted (in “Annals of headline reading”) that I read what I took to be:

(1) A Plan for Less Trash: Turn New Yorkers Into Composers

(a peculiar idea, but the pull of the familiar word composer overrode the oddness of the thought) for the actual headline:

(2) A Plan for Less Trash: Turn New Yorkers Into Composters

(which makes a great deal more sense).

This encouraged readers to play with the morphological resources of English. (more…)

Penis from Heaven

July 1, 2013

(Penis imagery alert!)

Stumbled across yesterday afternoon, someone reporting having repeatedly misread Pennies from Heaven as Penis from Heaven — something I’ve done myself on occasion (but then I can fairly be said to have penises on my mind more than most people).


More misreading

March 29, 2013

I recently posted on the misreading of abutilon as ablution, an entirely explicable mistake. But some misreadings are baffling.

In my booklet Mistakes (p. 120) I reported that

I read the headline Kin of Slain Nuns Denounce Haig for “Smear Campaign,” first as Kin of Slain Nuts …, then as King of Slain Nuns

Lord knows where that came from. Or where my misreading of Cairo between Bill Burns as Carol Burnett (reported on this blog, here) came from.

Now, a few days ago, I thought I read

three mint pork sandwiches

on the menu at Gordon Biersch. Well, it was actually three mini pork sandwiches. The words are visually similar, but mint is preposterous in the context. And I’d seen the menu many times before. So: more bafflement.