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When the White House issued a statement that finally condemned white supremacists for the violence in Charlottesville this weekend, the version that was originally released had an unusual typo: "nephew-nazi" for "neo-Nazi":

The president said very strongly in his statement yesterday that he condemns all forms of violence, bigotry, and hatred and of course that includes white supremacists, KKK, nephew-nazi and all extremist groups. He called for national unity and bringing all Americans together.

Brian Stelter noted the typo on CNN.

"Nephew-nazi" has, in fact, appeared as a typo for "neo-Nazi" online in the past. (Thanks to Sally J. on Twitter for pointing this out.) A few examples:

If you can call me a neo-Marxist, then it only seems fair that I call you a nephew-Nazi. (Amber Lisa, Medium, Dec. 13, 2016)

If they're talking about Richard Spencer, he actually is a nephew-nazi. He still didn't deserve to be punched, but he IS an actual, self-identified Neo-Nazi. (Mark Jennings, comment on "Chicks on the Right" blog post, Jan. 25, 2017)

Unless it is intentional for this President and his chief strategist, nephew-Nazi Steve Bannon, to rewrite our history!! (Susan Ashe, Facebook comment on "Women on 20s" post, May 12, 2017)

The second commenter, Mark Jennings, realized his error and subsequently wrote, "For the record, I meant neo-nazi, not nephew-nazi. Damn autocorrect…" This does seem to be an autocorrect miscorrection of the type we have been calling "cupertinos" since my 2006 post on "the Cupertino effect." My best guess is that it's the result of a fat-finger error rendering neo-nazi as nep-nazi (since and p are close together on the keyboard), which then got changed to nephew by a spellchecker, since nephew is the most frequently occurring word beginning with nep-. I haven't been able to replicate this miscorrection on any program equipped with spellchecking/autocorrect, but perhaps Language Log readers can figure out exactly how this might have transpired.

Update: The nep theory seems the most likely, given autocomplete options like those below, though it's still a bit mind-boggling that the announcement could have been sent out to the news media with no one noticing this major error.


  1. Philip Taylor said,

    August 13, 2017 @ 2:59 pm

    Just checking to see what happens if I type nep-Nazi here. Seamonkey offers to correct it to "neo-Nazi" as one might hope.

  2. Vance Maverick said,

    August 13, 2017 @ 3:00 pm

    Typo: "which then got changed to nep by a spellchecker" should itself get changed to "nephew".

    [(bgz) Thanks, fixed! Muphry's Law strikes again…]

  3. Guy said,

    August 13, 2017 @ 4:24 pm

    I got "bro-Nazi" when I typed "nep-Nazi" without overriding autocorrect.

  4. Marc Artzrouni said,

    August 13, 2017 @ 4:27 pm

    I think the desperate attempts to view this "nephew-nazi" fiasco as a typo is misguided and naive. The truth may be more sinister – namely that the person who wrote this was completely ignorant of history and illiterate – I agree a scary prospect even if it was a summer intern "on call" at the White House during Trump's "working vacation". He/she has never seen the word "neo" spelt, has no understanding of what it means and thought it vaguely sounded like "nephew" – hence the "nephew" spelling.

    Furthermore, let's try for a minute the charitable explanation of "neo" typed as "nep" and auto-corrected to "nephew". It stands to reason that if the writer did know it was supposed to be "neo" then the most superficial, cursory check of the text before pressing the send button would have made the mistake glaringly obvious, and it would have been corrected – but it wasn't. A typo it was not: I'm convinced whoever wrote this saw nothing wrong with "nephew" instead of "neo".

  5. Sean Richardson said,

    August 13, 2017 @ 5:01 pm

    Using the stock keyboard on a two-year-old Samsung tablet, "nep-nazi[spacebar]" gets changed to "Ne-Yo", "nep[spacebar]" to "neo", and "nazi[spacebar]" to "Nazionale".

    I think it is safe to say that what a spellchecker changes words to depends greatly on both what is in the dictionaries and on design considerations like whether auto-autocomplete-like functionality is included, and whether the algorithm even looks to qwerty-adjacent replacements to find replacement words. This keyboard's autocorrect, even though it got "nep" on its own right, makes suggestion lists at times that do not include words that are in the dictionary and are one character off qwerty-wise, e.g., "the" does not appear on the list for "thr".

    So it is an open question whether querty-aware algorithms are built into any appreciable portion of the installed base of soft keyboards.

  6. AntC said,

    August 13, 2017 @ 11:11 pm

    I agree with @Marc A there's something deeper than a spelling correction going on.

    Remember Gen. Kelly/Jeff Sessions are clamping down on leakers. It's getting more difficult to get the real news out about what's going on inside the Administration.

    The intended word is nepotism. We already have sons, a daughter, a son-in-law undermining democracy. How many nephews or other close relatives does Trump have? They are apparently to be co-opted, we are being warned.

  7. Ed Rorie said,

    August 14, 2017 @ 8:28 am

    I think the appropriate autocorrect response to a nephew-nazi should be to detain him and send him away for re-grooving.

  8. Marc Foster said,

    August 14, 2017 @ 9:27 am

    I think it is probably an auto-complete problem rather than an auto-correct problem. Try typing "nep" then space with auto-complete on.

  9. Marnanel said,

    August 14, 2017 @ 9:29 am

    My first thought was that Trump had some kind of fascist version of a cardinal-nephew.


  10. DaveK said,

    August 14, 2017 @ 10:54 am

    "Nephew-nazi" actually isn't a bad description of a lot of the groups who went to Charlottesville: not lineal descendants of the National Socialists but certainly in the same family and looking back to them for guidance.

  11. ajay said,

    August 15, 2017 @ 4:53 am

    Using the stock keyboard on a two-year-old Samsung tablet, "nep-nazi[spacebar]" gets changed to "Ne-Yo",

    That would have been appalling and also hilarious.

  12. Andrew Usher said,

    August 15, 2017 @ 7:24 am

    I hope that Marc Artzrouni was not being serious in his claim that this error was intentional, that would be unbelievable and if true, one would expect to find other Google hits for it but the only ones are references to this incident. If he really believes it political bias dominates his mind way too much.

    On the other hand, if he doesn't, he was either trolling or trying to be funny.

    As others have mentioned, auto-correct now adapts itself to the user so presumably this was someone that used the word 'nephew' frequently for 'nep' to be so corrected.

  13. Philip Taylor said,

    August 15, 2017 @ 7:33 am

    I think that I tend to agree with Marc Artzrouni's hypothesis that this is not an artefact of a spelling-correction sub-system, but rather what (in other contexts) is often termed a 'mondegreen'. It seems by no means impossible to me that the person transcribing the speech was young (perhaps even an intern), was not familiar with the term "neo-Nazi", and simply transcribed what he (or she) thought he/she heard.

  14. Andrew Usher said,

    August 15, 2017 @ 6:10 pm

    I still can't believe that. Everyone in America has heard the phrase 'neo-Nazi', even if without understanding it. It is not plausible to mistake 'neo' for 'nephew' without semantic motivation, as the first vowel is too different – if 'nephew' were pronounced with a long E the case would be different, of course. And 'nephew-Nazi' has no semantic motivation: we do not use 'nephew' as a prefix like that.

    k_over_hbarc at yahoo.com

  15. Marc Artzrouni said,

    August 16, 2017 @ 10:46 am

    I agree that transcribing "neo" as "nephew" is far-fetched – which still leaves us with only two unappetizing explanations: either an illiterate intern who did write "nephew" instead of "neo" or an incredibly sloppy one who pressed "send" so hastily that he/she didn't notice the "nephew" autocorrection. Another important question is that of the "anonymity" of the statement – even though I realize that aspect may not be of interest to the language buffs on this forum. No doubt more political rather than language blogs/forums will have beaten that one to a pulp – in the same way we've beaten the nephew to a pulp here.

  16. Andrew Usher said,

    August 17, 2017 @ 7:34 am

    The second is not implausible at all – that's now autocorrect errors normally get out. In the age of instant communication, people seldom proofread their messages before sending.

    From this post I see that 'nephew-Nazi' has appeared before, though quire rarely. The explanation seems the same.

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