Last Monday the New York Times reported what a CT scan revealed about the insides of "Demetrios," a 2000-year-old Egyptian mummy owned by the Brooklyn Museum:
Dr. Boxt also spotted a tiny mass in the mummy's abdominal captivity measuring about 1.2 inches across. Curators and conservators suggested that it was a scarab.
That same day, the Times's corrections box confessed to having misspelled Alberto Gonzales's name at least 14 times and the name of the law firm Willkie Farr & Gallagher at least 50 times (since 1958). But a week later, there has been no mention of the "abdominal captivity" malapropism.
It might be a spellcheck-induced mistake, but I haven't found a plausible misspelling of cavity that makes Word suggest subtituting captivity. (Nexis, which is smarter than Word -- not that that's saying much -- asks if I mean to search "abdominal CAPACITY.")
So maybe it's just a slip. A rare one -- Google turns up only three other examples of "abdominal captivity" -- and apparently one that doesn't punch readers in the eye (or the gut). And unlike the attorney general, Demetrios is in no position to complain.
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Joshua Rothman is a graduate student and Teaching Fellow in the Harvard English department, and an Instructor in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. He teaches novels and political writing.