Two dozen, two thousand, whatever

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For Times Insider, David W. Dunlap has an article about some of the more entertaining errors and corrections that have graced the pages of The New York Times: "The Times Regrets the Error. Readers Don't."

Among the goofs is this one from a Q&A with Ivana Trump that appeared in the Oct. 15, 2000 New York Times Magazine:

The correction ran the following week:

An article in The Times Magazine last Sunday about Ivana Trump and her spending habits misstated the number of bras she buys. It is two dozen black, two dozen beige and two dozen white, not two thousand of each.

The likely problem here was Ivana's Czech accent (as heard here, here, and here), which made it difficult for the interviewer to distinguish between her pronunciations of the words dozen and thousand.

It's reminiscent of another delicious newspaper error we've discussed here. In 2011, Australia's Rockhampton Morning Bulletin quoted a farmer saying there were "thirty thousand pigs" floating down a river. What the farmer actually said was "thirty sows and pigs."

While the image of thirty thousand pigs in a river should have set off alarm bells for the Morning Bulletin, perhaps the notion that Ivana would waltz into Bloomingdale's and buy six thousand bras seemed vaguely plausible to the Times editors.


  1. EndlessWaves said,

    May 14, 2016 @ 5:30 am

    I just parsed it as 2000 dollars worth of bras. Given the question sets us up to expect expensive items, that makes perfect sense if they're one to two hundred dollars each.

    Although I don't recognise the store name, so if the intended audience does and that store isn't an expensive one then the mistake is stranger.

  2. Michael P said,

    May 14, 2016 @ 5:59 am

    What did they think she was doing, such that six thousand brass would only last six months? That's something like 33 a day!

  3. Ben Zimmer said,

    May 14, 2016 @ 9:00 am

    Well, if she had to divide her bra supply among her various homes and boats…

  4. Uly said,

    May 14, 2016 @ 10:11 am

    From where I'm sitting, six dozen bras is not much more plausible than six thousand bras, but if you have the money to spend, why not?

  5. bratschegirl said,

    May 14, 2016 @ 11:13 am

    @Uly: I recall reading that Ivana Trump refused to walk into a room whose carpet had visibly been walked upon since it was last vacuumed (i.e. had footprints in the pile), so perhaps she'd only wear a bra that was fresh from the laundry, and if she changed clothes during the course of the day that would probably mean a new clean one every time.

    If she has clothes stored in 6 locations, that's a dozen of each color at each location, and if she's wearing a lot of the same color in a given week, a dozen might only last 5 or 6 days depending on how many outfit changes she did in a day. So this would be insurance against running out if her laundress wasn't doing the wash every other day.

    Granted, this is ridiculously OCD and a First World Problem for the 1%, and I certainly don't live that way, nor do I know anyone who does, but viewed through that lens it's kinda sorta plausible. Almost.

  6. AntC said,

    May 14, 2016 @ 6:24 pm

    @bratschegirl laundress wash you mean, like, put on underwear that's been worn before!?? Gross!

    Once worn, straight to the garbage, surely!

    (What was that advert about "machine washed 65 times"? Euww.)

  7. Ray said,

    May 15, 2016 @ 7:30 am

    when I was a kid, my dad used to pose countless riddles for us to solve. one of them was: “thirty-six sheep are in a meadow. three died. how many were left?” of course, “thirty-three” was the wrong answer! the correct answer was “twenty-seven” sheep remained, of the thirty sick sheep.

  8. David P said,

    May 15, 2016 @ 8:34 am

    This reminds me of St. Ursula's 11,000 virgins. From Wikipedia:

    While there was a tradition of virgin martyrs in Cologne by the fifth century, this was limited to a small number between two and eleven according to different sources. The 11,000 were first mentioned in the ninth century; suggestions as to where this came from have included reading the name "Undecimillia" or "Ximillia" as a number, or reading the abbreviation "XI. M. V." as eleven thousand (in Roman numerals) virgins rather than eleven martyred virgins. One scholar has written that in the eighth century, the relics of virgin martyrs were found, among which were included those of a girl named Ursula, who was eleven years old-–in Latin, undecimilia. Undecimilia was subsequently misread or misinterpreted as undicimila (11,000), thus producing the legend of the 11,000 virgins. Another theory is that there was only one virgin martyr, named Undecimilla, "which by some blundering monk was changed into eleven thousand." It has also been suggested that cum […] militibus "with […] soldiers" was misread as cum […] millibus "with […] thousands".


  9. Jen said,

    May 15, 2016 @ 9:02 am

    Ray: It doesn't say the dead sheep have been taken out of the field, either!

  10. Ray said,

    May 15, 2016 @ 10:05 am

    @Jen — haha, now I'm remembering that I used that same argument with my dad! (but when I said the answer was therefore thirty-six, he said I was still wrong!)

  11. Sandy Nicholson said,

    May 16, 2016 @ 7:39 am

    @David P – the 11,000 virgins stories all sound a bit far-fetched, but surely the one about misreading the abbreviation ‘XI M V’ is a particular stretch, since 11,000 would be X̅M, wouldn’t it?

  12. Anne said,

    May 16, 2016 @ 8:17 am

    I misheard "dozen" as "thousand" myself just the other day at a Greek bakery–even though the context should have made it obvious to me that the baker was not asking if I wanted to buy a thousand cookies.

  13. Eneri Rose said,

    May 19, 2016 @ 8:32 am

    Why would Mrs. Trump count bras by dozens? Why does anybody count anything by dozens?

  14. Phil Bowler said,

    May 19, 2016 @ 10:23 pm

    @Eneri Rose
    In Britain the word 'dozen' is common enough. Eggs are sold in boxes holding a dozen or half dozen. I vaguely remember coming across references to the élite buying their shirts by the dozen from high-class shirt makers. And dozens is regularly used for non-specific quantities smaller than hundreds. It sounded reasonable to me that Mrs Trump would buy her underwear by the dozen!

  15. Julian said,

    May 21, 2016 @ 2:11 pm

    U.S. textile quotas are (or at least used to be) expressed in thousand dozens, e.g., Macedonia will be allowed to export 80,000 dozen overcoats to the United States in year X.

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