This type of error is called the Cupertino effect because an old version of spell-check (in Word 97) used to offer Cupertino—the name of a northern California city that is home to Apple—as the first suggestion to replace the word cooperation, which in British English is supposed to have a hyphen. That strange replacement produced bizarre phrases that can still be found in places like the United Nations website, which features intriguing phrases (“…teaching and learning methods that stress participation, Cupertino, problem-solving and respect for differences…”) and lofty goals (“…the strengthening of international peace and Cupertino, should emanate from adults and be instilled in children…”). These words would inspire us all if they didn’t sound so batty.
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Speaking of names, they are particularly vulnerable to being Cupertino’d. According to some errors that popped up last year, Barack Obama did not defeat John McCain, but John Moccasin did lose to Barack Boatman. Ron Paul, Mike Huckabee, and Sam Brownback occasionally were transformed into Rot Paul, Mike Hoecake, and Sam Blowback, names more appropriate for movie stars in various genres. Visual Thesaurus Executive Producer Ben Zimmer has been a prime Cupertino collector, bringing many whacked-out examples to light. My favorites are Lord Voltmeter (Harry Potter’s Lord Voldemort) and Muttonhead Quail Movement (Pakistan’s Muttahida Quami Movement).
I’ve mentioned one of my favorite examples of this before (the spellchecker turned Rodney King into Rodent King), but here’s another that was spotted in a recommendation: A candidate’s rare ability was turned into her rear ability. Oh my.
Got any favorites? Please share.