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The Cupertino effect

Posted by Christopher Shea  December 17, 2008 03:01 PM

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World Wide Words (scroll down to entry #5) has a discussion of the "Cupertino effect," an affliction experienced by anyone who makes use of spell-checking software, though you may not have heard the term. Cupertino, a California city, is best known as the headquarters of Apple, but that has nothing to do with this phenomenon (except insofar as computer programmers in the Pacific Northwest have Cupertino on the brain).

Rather, it derives from a "correction" that Microsoft Word '97 would prompt users of program to make, if they were in British-English mode. When those users typed "cooperation" instead of "co-operation" (the latter being the standard spelling in Britain), Word would urge them to change it to "Cupertino." (Co-operation" was the second-choice for a fix.)

As a result of the quirk, "Cupertino" started to make all sorts of unwarranted appearances in texts: A 1999 paper from NATO referred to the "Organization for Security and Cupertino in Europe." An EU paper from 2003 spoke hopefully of the "scope for Cupertino" on a certain project.

World Wide Words rounds up other instances of spell-check gone amok:

an article in the Denver Post that turned the Harry Potter villain Voldemort into Voltmeter, one in the New York Times that gave the first name of American footballer DeMeco Ryans as Demerol, and a Reuters story which changed the name of the Muttahida Quami movement of Pakistan into the Muttonhead Quail movement.

This item hit home, because I finished an article last week that included a quote from a source named Schnittker. Only seconds before hitting "send" did I realize Word had turned him into a foodstuff: Professor Schnitzel.

Via Boing Boing

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1 comments so far...
  1. This isn't a problem limited to MS Word, or even to spellchecking.

    For example, this has been a running joke in some bioinformatics circles for several years.

    Posted by son1 December 17, 08 04:36 PM
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