When I was interviewed for Spiegel Online earlier this week about the dastardly Cupertino effect, I was asked if I thought spellchecker-enabled miscorrections would eventually vanish as spellchecking technology becomes more accurate in predicting potential errors. I said I thought Cupertinos would continue to be with us in one form or another, in large part because of the proper name problem: a reasonably restrictive spellchecker dictionary can never encompass all the proper names that might appear in a given text, particularly unusual foreign names. Consider the old Obama/Osama tangle: after 9/11, Osama was added to Microsoft's spellchecker dictionary, but at the time no one could have predicted that Obama would also be an important name to include. Thus they had to scramble to add Obama when he rose to prominence and spellcheckers were giving Osama as the first suggestion.
Now, as if on cue, the District of Columbia Republican Committee kindly illustrates my point in a new press release.
Wonkette reports that the DC GOP sent out the following release:
Friday the 13th Brings Horrors to the District
Washington, DC: The DC Republican Committee made the following statement in regard to yesterday’s news that the FBI raided the DC’s Chief Technology Office and arrested one District employee and a well known contractor.
“It’s ironic that as the FBI was raiding Vive Kendra’s former District office, when Kendra was giving a speech at FOSE about changing the way the government procurement should be handled. Kendra made national news last night because of his mismanagement of the District’s Procurement Office. He should step down immediately from his position in the Obama administration,” stated DC Republican Committee Chairman Robert J. Kabel.
Who's this Vive Kendra character? Turns out it's actually Vivek Kundra. Kundra was born in New Delhi and moved to Tanzania (where he learned Swahili) before coming to the U.S. Unless he becomes much more famous, we wouldn't expect either his first or last name to be included in a spellchecker dictionary, as opposed to Vive (the French interjection) or the common girl's name Kendra. Thus Vive and Kendra are the first suggestions given by the Microsoft Word spellchecker for his two names. Perhaps, as Barrack Bema's chief information officer, he can do something about the insidious national disease of Cupertino Creep.