Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Jeff Deck's Fearless War On Typos

Mild-mannered New Englander Jeff Deck, 28, from Manchester, New Hampshire, hated typos so much that he founded the Typo Eradication Advancement League (TEAL). Then on March 5 he set out on "a crusade to edit America", an epic journey that took him to the U.S. west coast. He's now in Wisconsin on his way home.

He has stopped off at more than 100 cities, towns and villages, fearlessly using a paintbrush and marker pen to correct the thousands of typos he spots wherever he and his "cuddle partner" Jane go. His friends Benjamin and Josh accompanied him for parts of the journey.

Sadly, his well-meant help (cynics might call it nitpicking) isn't always appreciated, and has led to some tense situations. Here's an extract from Jeff's amusing blog, describing his visit to a bar in Spokane, Washington:

There were only a couple of other customers in the place, and the music was plenty loud enough to go around. A big dude manned the bar inside. I approached, and he said, "What can I do for you?"

"I... uh... I noticed that your sign outside for margaritas spelled it M-A-R-G-I instead of M-A-R-G-A."

"Yeah, and?"

"I was wondering if you had an extra A, so that the sign could be corrected."

"Does it really matter?" He had a kind of threatening joviality in his responses, like he was either amused or ready to explode or both.

"Yeah, it does. I'm actually going around the country fixing typos, and thought I could... help you out."

"Well," said the bartender, still perched on the edge of volcanic emotion, "I don't have any extra letters, or the key to open that sign. I'll let my boss know that he can't spell, though. Is this really what you came in for? You're not going to order a drink?"

"Noooo," I said, and it was time to skedaddle.

In Las Vegas, Jeff noticed posters at the Circus Circus casino (including one in lights) announcing 'Welcome to the world's Greastest Greastest Circus!' Jeff wrote in his blog:

GREASTEST! GREASTEST! An abomination against all that is right and true. We needed to inform someone in charge. It was our only hope for seeing this perversity wiped from the land. The problem was, we couldn't actually find anyone in charge... everyone in the garb of Circus Circus was trying to sell us something. We wandered around until, finally, someone directed us to a thick-necked man scowling at some register tape. His reaction to our crucial piece of intelligence?

A blank look, then: "I'll... uh... have to tell someone about this."

Which you can recognize by now, cherished readers, as a synonym for thudding indifference. We tried to help you, Circus Circus. We wanted to end the era of you looking like a fool. But it seems that era will go on into the foreseeable future.
Reading of those encounters prompted us to send an email to Jeff, asking if he had been assaulted by any unrepentant misspellers. He replied: 'No, no violence or police involved anywhere, thankfully. We did encounter someone in LA who called us a naughty word, though.'

Asked if he thought his epic trip had been worthwhile, he said: 'Certainly it's been worthwhile! There are a lot more people out there now carrying Sharpies [a brand of markers] around with them.'

Jeff's well-written blog attracts a healthy following by some of the world's many other typophobes. Here are comments from two of them:

Bless your heart for reassuring me that I am not the only spelling and punctuation nut left in North America! The print media, mainly newspapers but not excluding books, magazines, and the internet, make me crazy with their pretense of proof-reading, and the poor spelling (and general indifference to spelling) of today's generations infuriate me on a daily basis. I rant and rave about it, but have never had the guts to do what you are doing to bring it to folks' attention. Way to go, Jeff! - Ruth M. Newton.

Thanks for the laughs, and cringes too! I can barely read our local newspaper without finding typos in the first few moments of sitting down to read. It's so highly annoying, I stopped reading the local newspaper and currently get most of my news online instead. Not that there aren't typos online...- Kathleen.

Thanks to Jeff Deck for permission to publish extracts from his TEAL Web site:

To see a Good Morning America video of Jeff fixing misspelled signs, visit The Human Spell Check:

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