i i i!

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From Robert Rummel-Hudson's blog Fighting Monsters with Rubber Swords, under the heading "What could I possibly add to this?":

(Hat tip to Elizabeth Daingerfield Zwicky.)


  1. Oskar said,

    May 6, 2008 @ 5:56 pm

    That's the best picture I've seen all week. I love the fact that the error is underlined (twice!), as if to draw our eyes to it if we wouldn't have been able to spot it instantly anyway. It's just… genius!

  2. rootlesscosmo said,

    May 6, 2008 @ 6:02 pm

    Maybe the underlining is a proofreader's mark?

  3. Ryan Denzer-King said,

    May 6, 2008 @ 6:21 pm

    Indeed, this is pretty fantastic. Though it isn't good for my blood pressure to think about the ideology behind the misspelled message. At the CELCNA conference last month Erich Fox Tree proposed we should have a day where we refuse to speak our native languages for a day. I think that's a great idea, even though it'd be hard for someone like me who speaks his second languages very poorly.

  4. Bill Poser said,

    May 6, 2008 @ 6:23 pm

    I have an alternative hypothesis. The writer is dyslexic and "offical" was intended to be "offalic" = "of or pertaining to offal". It's really an anti-English protest. :)

  5. Jonathon said,

    May 6, 2008 @ 6:36 pm

    rootlesscosmo: In my experience, a double underline means that the text should be set in small caps. Unfortunately, that fails to improve the sign.

  6. Josh Millard said,

    May 6, 2008 @ 7:37 pm

    A jaunt to the side, but this reminds me of another classic ironic-gaffe political placard shot:


  7. Willie Lee said,

    May 6, 2008 @ 7:46 pm

    Indeed, what could "i" possibly add to that?

  8. Sili said,

    May 6, 2008 @ 9:38 pm

    I'm reminded of that infamous "Fags are Gay" plackard. Sadly, I can't seem find it at the moment.

  9. john riemann soong said,

    May 7, 2008 @ 12:40 am

    Did anyone not catch the error the first time?

    I saw an i and c and my brain automatically assembled the i and the c together — forgetting that the same i couldn't possibly be on both sides of the letter.

    Of course when writing it you might should be able to spot it better, but still, I do wonder.

  10. c. said,

    May 7, 2008 @ 1:26 am

    others have also pointed out the history-challenged statement which is apparently on a sign in the background: "Texas is not a Mexican colony".

  11. Amy Vaughan said,

    May 7, 2008 @ 3:31 am

    Aw man… what do I see but 'Houston Chronicle' in the corner of the picture. I wish my home city would quit being embarrassing. I feel like I should apologize.

    It's so sad. I feel like this is just another incarnation of racism, and that people have to stomp all over language to get their bigotry jollies is genuinely a tragedy (not that it's less of a tragedy when they pick other fights).

    And see the 'Texas: NOT A (Mexican I'm guessing) COLONY' sign behind her? Looks like someone didn't pay enough attention in Texas History class.

  12. Martyn Cornell said,

    May 7, 2008 @ 7:59 am

    Reminds me of a cartoon I once saw showing a man holding a placard that says: "Please help with daily sex", and his wife is saying: "You'd better let me spell 'dyslexia', dear …"

  13. Adam said,

    May 7, 2008 @ 12:02 pm

    It's hard to tell from the image, but it appears that the apostrophe in "America's" may have been added (in black, not blue) as an afterthought. Or perhaps it's also an error, and the protester wants to make English the official language of all the "America's".

  14. John O'Toole said,

    May 7, 2008 @ 12:09 pm

    Hats off to the cartoonist who found a great way to use an anagram of dyslexia! A stroke of genius!

    But really, the sign only shows a slight problem of punctuation, spacing and spelling. What the writer clearly meant was "Make English America's. O fickle language." It's obvious.

  15. Jeremy Hawker said,

    May 7, 2008 @ 12:25 pm

    At the risk of sounding ultra-pc, having a very bright dyslexic daughter has made me less tolerant of those who make fun of people who make spelling mistakes. It's a small-minded obsession of the semi-educated.

    Dyslexics expend enormous energy trying to control their spelling. We don't laugh at deaf people or people in wheelchairs for the similar reasons: ridicule destroys people's self-confidence and sense of self-worth.

    By the way, there is no irony here: this person feels bad that he/she doesn't speak Spanish and that is quite compatible with not being able to spell. Maybe Houston should teach more people Spanish.

    I'm no expert, but I doubt that poor spelling has much to do with linguistics either.

  16. Richard Friedman said,

    May 7, 2008 @ 1:28 pm

    Reminds me of a great graffito that I saw a long time ago on the men's room wall at the Caffe Espresso in Berkeley (now long gone) that read:

    "Dyslexics of the world, Untie! "

  17. Peter Howard said,

    May 7, 2008 @ 3:13 pm

    @Jeremy Hawker – I don't think Arnold's motivation for posting the photograph was to make fun of people who make spelling mistakes. And I don't think most of the comments were doing that, either. (One of them was, obviously.) It's rather that, if someone is going to demand the imposition of a language, they probably ought to make sure that their expression of that demand is couched correctly in that language. If they fail to do that, it's not a matter of people making a fool of them, but of their making a fool of themselves.

  18. Ed in Chicago said,

    May 7, 2008 @ 4:23 pm

    Peter – very well said. I also commend this conversation.. It is nice to find that people can still have a discussion and do it in a civil manner. Unlike the rest of the "internets".

  19. Jeremy Hawker said,

    May 7, 2008 @ 5:28 pm

    Peter Howard said, "I don’t think Arnold’s motivation for posting the photograph was to make fun of people who make spelling mistakes."

    I'm sure you're right. It's something that I myself would not have been aware of if I hadn't been around some young dyslexics.

    "And I don’t think most of the comments were doing that, either. (One of them was, obviously.)"

    More than one. One wants to find a way to mock a bigot. Dyslexia can seem quite absurd when you see it, but it's odd that people can find misspelling so threatening. This person in the photograph may not be one of them, but there have been some brilliant dyslexics: from Andy Warhol to Isaac Newton. I'm sorry if I'm sounding sanctimonious. Do think of Isaac the next time you hear anyone ridiculing someone's terrible spelling. I don't know about you, but I'd swap good spelling any day for the abiliity to devise differential calculus.

  20. Jonathon said,

    May 7, 2008 @ 5:42 pm

    Did anyone not catch the error the first time?

    I missed it at first, too. I think I was too distracted by the picketer's shirt.

  21. Karen said,

    May 7, 2008 @ 5:53 pm

    If that woman had misspelled "official" in any other capacity, I wouldn't care. (unless I were proofreading her). It's the context – as it is always the context – that makes us point at her and laugh.

    Oh, and the shirt.

  22. Ellen K. said,

    May 7, 2008 @ 6:32 pm

    I don't think appreciating the irony (and yets it's irony, at least under some definitions of irony) means we are ridiculing the person. I don't recall anyone here claiming to be above making their own mistakes.

  23. Martyn Cornell said,

    May 8, 2008 @ 5:54 am

    I thought the humour in the cartoon I quoted was compounded of the surprise at dyslexia being an anagram of daily sex plus the inappropriateness of a married man (he was drawn as middle-aged) holding up a banner asking for help with daily sex, and the need for his wife to admonish him … laughing at someone solely for their inability to spell had nothing to do with it.

  24. Jeremy Hawker said,

    May 8, 2008 @ 7:26 am

    Martyn Cornell said, " the humour in the cartoon…had nothing to do with …laughing at someone solely for their inability to spell."

    Agreed. I should have made clear that I love the dyslexia jokes quoted as much as the next person, as does my daughter. It's being laughed at herself for misspelling that is so devastating.

  25. JBL said,

    May 8, 2008 @ 2:41 pm

    Unfortunately the sign in the background is only partially visible. I think it says "Texas is not a Britian colony."

  26. Alixtii said,

    May 9, 2008 @ 6:32 am

    Strangely, I parsed the sign in the back as "Texas: Once a –an Colony" with my initial assumption being that the letter hidden by the rod was an E, not a T. In which case the history lesson would be true (assuming it's "Mexican") but unclear what the point is. (Counterprotester?)

    In retrospect, "Not a Mexican Colony" makes a lot more sense.

  27. Don Edwards said,

    May 9, 2008 @ 3:07 pm

    Texas IS not a Mexican colony.

    It WAS at one time part of Mexico – not a colony, just part of the country, back when France owned Mexico and then for a number of years after Mexico gained its independence.

    Prior to that, Texas was a Spanish possession. But not a colony, at least not in the sense that Massachusetts was a colony: a handful of Spaniards came over and took control of the native population, whereas the English came over shoved the natives off out of the way.

  28. Assistant Village Idiot said,

    May 10, 2008 @ 4:31 pm

    You guys are kidding yourselves if you think you weren't ridiculing this guy. I know irony and I know condescension. His shirt… his ideology… comparing it to a sign with foolish content… calling him a racist and a bigot. What, I have to ask, would this comment section, applauding itself for how civil it is, consider ridicule, then?

    As Don Edwards points out, some of you got the history wrong as well. Sili's spelling and Karen's proofreading – now that's irony.

  29. Assistant Village Idiot said,

    May 10, 2008 @ 4:32 pm

    Afterthought: I would rather spell poorly than lack self-honesty, thank you.

  30. DT said,

    May 12, 2008 @ 2:40 pm

    1. It is fine to mock people's clothing choices. It's not something you're born with, it's not a disability, it's plain old bad taste. If you disagree with my definition of bad taste, you are free to mock my choices in clothing (and you'll have a field day… I'm a grad student, and have been known to come to the office in pajamas).

    2. Nobody was making fun of dyslexics. If you know that you are dyslexic, or just a bad speller, you should ask someone else to make the protest sign (unless the protest has to do with dyslexia… maybe)

    3. I am a lousy speller. If you critique my spelling in a casual email, then you have too much time on your hands. If you notice a misspelling in my resume, then I didn't care enough about the job to have someone else check the resume. In that case, you probably shouldn't hire me. It's all about context.

    4. I noticed the errant apostrophe before I noticed the spelling error.

  31. Assistant Village Idiot said,

    May 17, 2008 @ 9:19 am

    Sorry to be late back.
    I never accused anyone of being mean to dyslexics. My complaint was the tone from some of the commenters – quite unmistakable – that this was not a mere teasing over a spelling error, but an opportunity to speculate on what a bad and stupid person he is. It was not universal among the posters, but there was plenty. The relation of his viewpoint to some certainty of prejudice on his part showed up in more than one comment. As to the shirt, I am claiming, though without ability to prove it, that a Hawaiian shirt or some other loud article would be less likely to excite comment. It was not merely bad taste being derided, but a particular type. People are proud of their particular brand of bad taste, because it says something about how they wish to appear, as DT reveals. Few comment on others bad taste per se – there is frequently an unsubtle other criticism attached.

    That is not usually worthy of comment; the sudden self-congratulation of how nice everyone was being pushed me over the top on that. Not all the comments were offensive, but enough were that it is clear that there is a group tolerance for sneering. I am pointing out something more subtle, which perhaps doesn't want to be heard. It is possible to have mere fun with the irony of the misspelling on the protester's sign. Some did that. Others revealed something a bit nastier about themselves, and the group did nothing to rein that in.

  32. get over it said,

    May 23, 2008 @ 12:09 pm

    Psha. I am so sick of the "disability" excuse…..re: spelling, re: anything really (but as a writer by profession, that one especially gets me). I have nothing against people with dyslexia, or any other impediment for that matter, but you know what? If you're going to send an email, or place an ad, or write xenophobic signs, you should probably proofread first. This goes for anyone, disability or no. I'm a wretched speller but you know what? I make damn sure that any document leaving my desk is spell-checked and proofed. So I don't have a lot of sympathy for people who whine about the "unfairness" of mocking spelling errors in documents shown to the public eye. If it's a personal diary, different story.

    On a broader note, lighten the f up!!! All the sanctimony is making me want to claw my eyes out. This sign is hilarious – no explanation needed. And I'll gladly continue to mock xenophobes who espouse their "America for Americans" drivel – and if they defeat their own point by showing a painful lack of comprehension of the very language whose sanctity they're trying to defend….well, I'll mock them even more. Christ, people – get a life!!

  33. The Royal Anon said,

    May 29, 2008 @ 6:37 pm

    I just wanted to second the above post. Well said. Lighten up people.

  34. S.O. said,

    June 16, 2008 @ 11:27 pm

    That's offal!

  35. Seolyk said,

    February 16, 2009 @ 11:02 pm

    it's actually photoshopped

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