Thursday, June 01, 2006

Casting spells

I write this column using some software called Blogger, which is fairly simple to use but is rather limited in some ways, so I am probably going to switch to a more flexible blog editor soon. However one cause of constant entertainment is the Blogger spell check function, which almost makes the thing worthwhile. My typing is erratic at best, so I frequently encounter the Blogger spell checker. At first I found its eccentric suggestions annoying, or even inept, but now I find that they have a certain charm of their own. It takes me back to the early days of word processing, when spell checkers were crude, and their alternative suggestions for one's typographical errors were sometimes wildly inappropriate. Blogger's spell checker recalls that era, as it presents sometimes surreal suggestions for what to a human eye is a pretty easy mistake to spot. For example, if you misspell:

"management" as "managemnet"

then you are presented with two alternatives. Its best guess is "mincemeat", which is somehow appropriate in a couple of cases of managers I can recall, but not really a very likely error. Its only other attempt is "mankind". This is not an isolated case. If you write about federated databases then it is endearing to see the typo:

"federaion" have the two alternatives: "bedroom" or "veteran"

proposed by the beastie. "Bedroom"? I would love to understand the algorithm that came up with that one. I was also impressed by:

"peformance"

Instead of the pretty obvious "performance" it rather sweetly suggests "peppermints".

However my favorite is that if you type "Blogger" as a phrase then not only does it not recognize it. The term "blog" also sadly is a complete mystery to it, which might seem an omission given that it is intended as a spell checker for, er, blogs, or perhaps "blocs" as the spell checker so helpfully proposes. For "blogger"then it suggests the wonderfully ironic:

"blocker"

How true, how true. I would be interested to hear of your worst spell check horror, or indeed of a spell checker whose ineptness rival Blogger's. Any offers?

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