A movement too far

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From the Guardian's Books Blog ("Shift dropped on author after typo in her romantic novel"):

Bounty hunter Sam McKade is the new breed of hero. Tall? Undoubtedly. Handsome and chiselled? For sure. Incontinent? Erm – possibly. Author Susan Andersen was horrified to discover an unfortunate typo in the ebook edition of her new novel Baby, I'm Yours, which takes the novel out of the romance category and into something rather darker.

"I apologise to anyone who bought my on-sale ebook of Baby, I'm Yours and read on pg 293: 'He stiffened for a moment but then she felt his muscles loosen as he shitted on the ground'," says Andersen. "Shifted – he SHIFTED!

The epic typo is still in place, as this screenshot from a Kindle version bought a few minutes ago shows:

There is a fair amount of other shit in the novel — on 45 pages, according to the Kindle search function — but all of the other instances are metaphorical:

How could Cat wear this shit?

Brain spinning, she thought back. Oh, shit. It was the voice.

That means we're in deep shit, Jimmy, real deep shit.

And so on. No actual feces anywhere to be found, except (by mistake) behind Sam and Catherine's embrace. There's a fair amount of literal stiffening, loosening, and shifting, however.

Ms. Andersen, though no doubt an innocent victim in this case, has a taste for humorous re-spellings — she recently shared this (probably fake but funny) eggcorn-ridden note on her Facebook wall:


  1. Rodger C said,

    September 14, 2011 @ 1:30 pm

    I'll be the first to invoke the Great Bowel Shift.

  2. Peter said,

    September 14, 2011 @ 1:38 pm

    On a side note, is shitted grammatical for other readers? In my idiolect, the past tense and past participle of shit are both usually shat, or optionally shit.

  3. Stan said,

    September 14, 2011 @ 1:39 pm

    The context – all that stiffening, muscles loosening, and warm hands – makes the inadvertent image all the more vivid. This is rapidly becoming the month of typos to beat all typos. Here's another unforgettable slip.

  4. Chandra said,

    September 14, 2011 @ 1:42 pm

    Oh well – at least "his warm hands rearranged her infinitesimally to fit the new configuration", presumably so that she wouldn't step in it.

  5. Rubrick said,

    September 14, 2011 @ 1:51 pm

    A pity she didn't continue with "his warm hands rearranged her intestinally…"

  6. Aaron Binns said,

    September 14, 2011 @ 2:08 pm

    Ol' Dirty Bastard was fond of the insult, "you've been shitted on". In the context of his rhymes, it flows better than "shat on", "shat upon" or "upon whom was shat".

  7. Janice Byer said,

    September 14, 2011 @ 2:21 pm

    Rubrick, yes, even without the typo, "intestinally" makes more sense.

  8. GeorgeW said,

    September 14, 2011 @ 2:48 pm

    Maybe I shouldn't ask, but what is she doing with the Pabst beer?

    [(myl) Maybe I shouldn't tell, since you may be making some secondary or tertiary-level joke that I'm missing, but on the theory that you've missed the first-level joke, I'll explain that it's supposed to be a misunderstanding by the note-taker of the message "Someone from the gynecologist's called. They said the pap smear was normal".]

  9. GeorgeW said,

    September 14, 2011 @ 3:53 pm

    myl: I got the gynecologist joke, but wondered about the beer thing. A gynecologist (misspelled) called and said that the beer is normal? If that is a joke, I am still in the dark. Something to do with yeast?

    [(myl) I think the idea is that someone from the Gyna Colleges called about the beer. Plans for a kegger, perhaps.]

  10. Dan Lufkin said,

    September 14, 2011 @ 4:00 pm

    In my mind (what there is left of it), the Kindle's search function is worth the price of admission alone. When someone named, say, Cyril shows up in Chapter VI of a mystery and you can't figure out where Cyril came from, a quick search takes you to his vegetable stand in Chapter II.

    I was worried that this remark would be purged as off-topic, but something tells me that this thread will range widely before it peters out.

  11. I.D. Mercer said,

    September 14, 2011 @ 4:08 pm

    Here's one of my favorite typos:


  12. Tom said,

    September 14, 2011 @ 4:33 pm


    . . .called and said the Pabst beer was normal (sounds like "pap smear").

  13. Rubrick said,

    September 14, 2011 @ 4:37 pm

    GeorgeW: Re-read myl's reply. "Pap smear" –> "Pabst beer".

    I was going to comment that that was an unlikely mishearing, but actually "Pap smear" spoken with a head cold is impressively close to "Pabst beer".

  14. Sniffnoy said,

    September 14, 2011 @ 4:59 pm

    Oh, I just thought "gyna colleges" meant her gynecologist was a student…

  15. RichardSS said,

    September 14, 2011 @ 5:02 pm


    If it makes you feel any better, I'd never heard of Pabst Beers either…

    And gyna colleges are even further outside my realm of expertise!

  16. Janice Byer said,

    September 14, 2011 @ 5:49 pm

    Pap smears screen for endocervical cell abnormalities indicative of cancer or precancerous conditions, not for STIs. No yeast jokes allowed :)

  17. Ted said,

    September 14, 2011 @ 7:16 pm

    At least she didn't write '…as he shifted his weight on the ground behind her.'

  18. GeorgeW said,

    September 14, 2011 @ 7:17 pm

    Tom & Rubrick: Yes, yes, that is it! Good job.

  19. WillSteed said,

    September 14, 2011 @ 10:58 pm

    'Shat' is definitely the past tense of 'shit' for me. (It also was a slip of the tongue when I was once reading Poe's The Raven aloud: "Perched and shat and nothing more."

  20. Ross Presser said,

    September 15, 2011 @ 1:26 am

    The word "furloughs" at the end of the screenshot brings to mind another word misuse joke:

    The young Swedish girl had been working for the Schmitts for a year. While hardworking, she still struggles with English. One day, she told Mrs. Schmitt that her boyfriend will be visiting her from the army the coming week.

    “That’s wonderful,” Mrs. Schmitt said, “How long is his furlough?”

    “Oh,” the young girl replied, blushing, “About as long as Mr. Schmitt’s. Just a little thicker.”

  21. Alon Lischinsky said,

    September 15, 2011 @ 2:41 am

    @Peter: the form shat for the past tense and participle of shit is, according to the OED, a 19th-century development by analogy with sit, sat.

    The verb was actually strong in Old English (where it's attested in compounds only), with a *scāt past tense, but its reflex in ME had experienced vowel rounding and become schoot. Early Modern English preferred shit in all tenses.

    I myself have never been taught anything but the weak regular shit/shitted/shitted paradigm. Shat sounds definitely jocular to my ear (but then again, so does snuck).

  22. J Lee said,

    September 15, 2011 @ 3:36 am

    i dont know how plausible it is to hit T twice on accident. more likely trash fiction sabotage

  23. J Jones said,

    September 15, 2011 @ 5:17 am

    I think we've found a joke that only women, married men who take an interest in their wife's health and doctors can understand!


    Ah, Americans. A TRUE Englishman would know that it would obviously be "Gynae College"

  24. Robert said,

    September 15, 2011 @ 5:23 am

    J Lee, for comparison, Google gets about 780,000 hits for "weight lifter" but only 10,000 for "Weight litter", and many of the latter don't seem to be misspellings, but rather references to birth weight in litters. This suggests ft->tt isn't a particularly likely typing error.

    In a similar vein, one Doctor Who book had the hero peeing over a bookcase (should have been peering), which seems a more plausible typo. Missing a letter out completely is easy enough, but hitting one key twice rather than two different ones is the kind of thing I'd expect people to notice doing. That is, I'd expect ft->fr to be more common than ft->tt, and about as common as *ft->*t

  25. Laura said,

    September 15, 2011 @ 5:43 am

    Regarding how this 'typo' came about, it won't have actually been a mistyping. Ebooks are often created by digitally scanning the text (god knows why, it's a terrible way of doing it – cheaper, I suppose). This means it's a simple mis-reading by the computer of t for the similar character f. I'm always seeing mistakes of this type – 1 for l is particularly common and annoying – surely someone can tell the computer that it's incredibly unlikely that there'll be numbers in the middle of words?

    And for me too, 'shitted' is not quite grammatical, although it's way better than 'shit' as the past tense. But I know it's a variable regular/irregular verb. I sort of had the idea it was a UK/US thing, but perhaps not. (I'm UK, and 'shit' as the past tense sounds very American to me.)

    [(myl) I've seen other errors in e-books that suggested involvement of OCR along the way — which as you say is very odd, since for any modern text there was without doubt a symbolic digital representation just behind the printed (paper) version. In this case, an OCR error might be due not only to the similarity of 'f' and 't', but also to the likely use of an 'ft' typographical ligature.]

  26. Ellen K. said,

    September 15, 2011 @ 8:59 am

    Just to weigh in with a different point of view, I found "shitted" unremarkable. On that other hand "shat" is not part of my vocabulary and not sure I'd even understand it without strong contextual clues.

  27. Ginger Yellow said,

    September 15, 2011 @ 9:13 am

    It's possible she wrote the manuscript by hand.

  28. Army1987 said,

    September 15, 2011 @ 10:10 am

    Choosing between the forms of shit has always bothered me, but FWIW… http://ngrams.googlelabs.com/graph?content=shat%2Cshitted%2Cshitten&year_start=1800&year_end=2011&corpus=0&smoothing=3 http://ngrams.googlelabs.com/graph?content=shat%2Cshitted%2Cshitten&year_start=1800&year_end=2008&corpus=5&smoothing=3 http://ngrams.googlelabs.com/graph?content=shat%2Cshitted%2Cshitten&year_start=1800&year_end=2008&corpus=6&smoothing=3 (No obvious way to tell the past from the past participle though — I'm not including shit because there'd be no way to tell it from the present etc. and the noun. Also, why the hell was shat so common in the early 19th century? I think that must be an artefact of something, but I can't tell what.)

  29. Theodore said,

    September 15, 2011 @ 10:55 am

    Another thought on shitted vs. shat: Is it possible that [at least in some dialects] shitted is transitive while shat is intransitive? This would make the book typo ungrammatical in such dialects, along with "he shat bricks."

    Back in the days of the OJ trial, Christopher Darden's infamous "The gloves appear to have shrank somewhat." made me wonder whether a similar distinction was present for shrink: shrank is intransitive ("the gloves shrank"); shrunk is transitive ("honey, I shrunk the kids"). In olden times, you didn't need a transitive form, since there weren't shrinking rays (or clothes dryers) to shrink your [direct] objects.

  30. Ray Dillinger said,

    September 15, 2011 @ 12:27 pm

    FWIW, all I ever heard in person growing up in the midwestern US was 'shit' for both present and past tense. Because I read a lot, I knew about 'shat' and 'shitted' but the latter sounds like an error if someone says it aloud, and the former like a self-conscious affectation.

  31. Miss Picky said,

    September 15, 2011 @ 12:54 pm

    Speaking as a copy editor, I think publishers should hire copy editors. As we always don't say, the penis mightier than the sword.

  32. Jim said,

    September 15, 2011 @ 1:34 pm

    Please tell me that someone somewhere said "Well thank God it's an ebook. Fix it and republish now." Please tell me that they haven't found the problem and left the digital file in the pipeline.

    [(myl) Well, Ms. Andersen announced the typo on Sept. 6, explaining that "I've contacted the editor and pray this will be promptly fixed".

    I bought and downloaded the Kindle edition from amazon on Sept. 14, eight days later, and the typo was still there. ]

  33. » This Is Better Than That Book Cover With the Woman With Three Hands The Blue Candle Society said,

    September 15, 2011 @ 8:51 pm

    […] that one of the advantages of e-books was that one could swiftly fix really amusing typos like this one, but from the sound of it that didn't happen.  On the other hand, a big disadvantage of […]

  34. Tom S. Fox said,

    September 15, 2011 @ 10:37 pm

    GeorgeW, as somebody who didn’t get the joke you have no right to act condescendingly towards those who did get it and explained it to you!

  35. GeorgeW said,

    September 16, 2011 @ 5:37 am

    Tom S. Fox: You are dead wrong that I was being condescending to those who did get the joke and explain it. I was trying to be appreciative and recognize that they did when I did not.

    If somehow Tom & Rubrick got this impression, my sincerest apologies to them.

  36. Andrew said,

    September 22, 2011 @ 1:22 pm

    To quote Mr. Language Person:

    Q. Did alert reader Johnny G. Stewart send you an amusing automotive review from the March 12, 1997, Lewiston, Idaho Morning Tribune?

    A. Yes. It states: "A short-throw six-speed Borg-Warner transmission means classic Pontiac excitement and the fun of a well-timed shift."

    Q. What's so amusing about that?

    A. There was a letter missing from "shift."

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