HOW TYPOS GET JOURNALISTS IN TROUBLE

MY MOST HATED computer error message is: “Warning: Keyboard not found. Press enter to continue.”

Seeing this causes me to give a visual lesson to my workmates on the true definition of the word “Hardware”: “The parts of a computer which can be kicked, thumped, screamed at and jumped on.”

But computers are EVEN MORE maddening when they dare to edit what we, their Lords and Masters, are writing.

Professional journalists still shudder at the memory of the infamous Reuters article in which a computer “corrected” a feature on Pakistan's Muttahida Qaumi Movement to be about the “Muttonhead Quail Movement.” Wars have started for less.

That same news agency's spell-check also changed “the Queen” into “Queen Elizabeth”, causing a 2006 feature on beekeeping to tell the world:

“Queen Elizabeth has 10 times the lifespan of workers and lays up to 2,000 eggs a day.”

Her Majesty fortunately chose to take it as a compliment.

In days of yore, whenever those were, that would have been a head- lopping, for sure.

***

I mention these matters in preface to sharing an important news item: A long-running Facebook puzzle has just been solved.

For years, thousands of people around the world have been getting messages signed: “Grandpa and Grandmaster Flash.”

It was a puzzle. Why were so many grandfathers sending out joint announcements with a 1980s hip-hop star?

Techies found Facebook computers were automatically “correcting” “Grandma” to “Grandmaster Flash” and disabled the function.

Of course, this is probably causing great annoyance to elderly men who DO want to send out joint messages with the aging hip-hopper.

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Regarding old music, a reader sent me a report from Foreign Policy magazine about intelligence experts who recently found a Dell laptop in a Syrian safe house used by top terrorist gang ISIS.

They found the computer contained a recipe for banana mousse and a Celine Dion song collection. This is not a joke.

Man, I thought terrorists were evil before, but now I know that they are truly subhuman. I mean, banana mousse: Who would do that to an innocent banana and a carton of whipped cream?

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What should the agents do with the laptop?

Whenever I am placed in possession of a friend's computer, I call up the auto-correct dictionary and add new commands. Change "you" to "thou," "the" to "ye oldde," "okay" to "verily," all "-n" endings to "-nst," etc.

Then I give it back.

Your friend will find himself/herself writing perfect Shakespearian English. It’s like a miracle.

I strongly recommend doing this when he or she is up against a tight deadline to produce a piece of extremely important work.

Oh, how your friend will laugh!

***

This same trick is particularly amusing of you do it on computers used for live sub-titling of TV news broadcasts.

Prime Minister: “You can rely on the promises your party makes.”

Subtitles: “Thou canst rely on ye oldde promises thy party maketh.”

***

In the meantime, be aware that autocorrect can cause you to declare that you have committed major crimes.

Such as the young lady called Lauren who was waiting for the bar to open and wrote to her friends:

“We are around the corner killing Tim.”