An odd error

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"Teens charged with Qld arsenal 'completely despicable'", Sky News 9/11/2019.

Maybe this is a spelling-correction Cupertino, started off by spelling arson as "arsen"? Or maybe a (Freudian?) capture error, where a premier-league-obsessed unconscious mind followed "ars" by guiding the fingers through "…enal" while the conscious mind was looking forward to 'completely despicable'?

[h/t Chips Mackinolty]


  1. Andrew Usher said,

    September 24, 2019 @ 7:28 am

    Ah, I didn't need anything more than the headline to know what the 'error' was. The word 'arsenal' just can't belong there! Either or something could be possible, but right now I just can't think farther, please rather read

  2. Chiara Maqueda said,

    September 24, 2019 @ 7:34 am

    Ah! But perhaps the error–if it is one referring to an arsenal–is buried in the last quote, where the woman quoted speaks of having "really … dodged a bullet".

    Thankfully no lives were lost.

  3. Narmitaj said,

    September 24, 2019 @ 8:17 am

    As a third possibility for why "arsenal" appeared under the fingers of the writer, maybe he or she was thinking that these teens were not only being despicable but complete arses (in the UK, Australian spelling) and perhaps someone in their office had even said that out loud. "Teens charged with arsenal, dickhood and plonkage".

    I also find the contraction "Qld" a bit odd. It's not as though they needed the space; it is a digital format, and anyway there is so much space in the headline as formatted that it would look better balanced with Queensland spelt out.

    Do Australians read Qld as Queensland without stumbling, much as people read Dr, Mrs and lbs without problem, in my case mentally pronouncing "doctor" or "missus" or "pounds" (though actually, Mrs is not pronounced Missus for me, it's more like Misserz). I doubt they pronounce the letters individually as we do for "UK" or "USA" (though, being capitalised, those are not fair comparisons).

  4. Suzanne Valkemirer said,

    September 24, 2019 @ 10:44 am

    @ Narmitaj. QLD being the abbreviation recommended by Australia Post (also known as AusPost) for Queensland, it is as easily understood by Australian anglophones as NY or DC is by American anglophones. Qkd is therefore also easily understood in Australia.

  5. Suzanne Valkemirer said,

    September 24, 2019 @ 10:48 am

    @ Narmitaj. To answer your second question, QLD (o Qrld) is an abbreviation, hence pronounced identically to the full form for which it stands. It is not an acronym (as UNESCO is) or a letter-word (as FBI is).

  6. Suzanne Valkemirer said,

    September 24, 2019 @ 10:50 am

    @ Narmitaj. To answer your second question, QLD (o Qrld) is an abbreviation, hence pronounced identically to the full form for which it stands. It is not an acronym (as UNESCO is) or a letter-word (as FBI is).

    Why is the software rejecting the foregoing as a duplicate of my comment of a minute ago? Learn to read, dumb software!

  7. Suzanne Valkemirer said,

    September 24, 2019 @ 10:54 am

    @ Thank you, software, for reading my comment of 10:50 am and reversing your earlier decision to reject mine of 10:48.

  8. Trogluddite said,

    September 24, 2019 @ 2:49 pm

    The intended meaning is clear enough to me, but "…the weather is catastrophic for fire danger" seems awfully clumsy, too.

  9. WindowlessMonad said,

    September 24, 2019 @ 3:18 pm

    @Trogluddite: Catastrophic has a specific meaning in this context. Australia has a standardised system of fire danger ratings: low, moderate, very high, severe, extreme, catastrophic.

    Weather reports and road signage show what rating applies. 'Catastrophic' for an area means you should have evacuated by now.

  10. David said,

    September 24, 2019 @ 4:02 pm

    "The word 'arsenal' just can't belong there!"

    Here in the USA, if I saw "Teens charged with arsenal" in a headline, I would immediately assume that it was an awkward way of saying "Teens charged with possession of far too many guns."

  11. chris said,

    September 24, 2019 @ 5:44 pm

    Ah, I didn't need anything more than the headline to know what the 'error' was.
    I though "Qld" was obviously the error, that doesn't even resemble a word. Maybe it was supposed to be "odd arsenal", making the post title a pun?

    But as an American, I am sadly accustomed to teens with arsenals, and ignorant of Australian postal abbreviations.

  12. Jonathan D said,

    September 24, 2019 @ 6:16 pm

    As an Australian who has long been bemused at the ease with which North Americans slip state abbreviations such as MI, Fa., etc. into otherwise-comprehensible-to-me writing, it's nice to see the shoe on the other foot.

  13. J.W. Brewer said,

    September 24, 2019 @ 6:50 pm

    This did make me wonder if "arson" and "arsenal" had a common etymon, but apparently not (with "arsenal" reputedly being of ultimately Arabic origin via those cosmopolitan Venetians).

  14. Trogluddite said,

    September 24, 2019 @ 8:09 pm

    Thankyou – I see now that I hadn't fully understood the intended meaning, either.

  15. Andrew Usher said,

    September 25, 2019 @ 6:48 am

    Yes, 'teens charged with arsenal' might at a stretch have that meaning (though I'm pretty sure there's no such crime as 'too many guns') but the interposition of Queensland (Qld) prevented it for me.

    Seeing the abbrevation Qld in the headline was surprising to me at first, but, yes, Americans also see our states abbreviated in headlines. With electronic publishing, though, these abbreviations should not be necessary – as you can see in the picture there was more than enough room to spell it out, and no one (I think) would find that strange.

    That's not a sufficient explanation. '(The) fire danger is catastrophic' would then be normal, but 'the weather is catastrophic for fire danger' still seems clunky if not a blunder.

  16. AG said,

    September 25, 2019 @ 8:08 pm

    I just happened to read this sentence this morning, where the exact same thing seems to have happened to two out of the three letters in a similar word (yes, I'm reading a book about Godzilla):

    “Oda, inexplicably credited as “Motoyoshi Qdq” in the American print (how is that supposed to be pronounced?), was a colleague and contemporary of Honda’s.”

    Excerpt From: David Kalat. “A Critical History and Filmography of Toho’s Godzilla Series, 2d Ed.” iBooks.

  17. AG said,

    September 25, 2019 @ 8:13 pm

    (oops, my mind wandered while writing the above – I didn't mean the "exact same thing happened" as the "arsenal" issue which was the original point of the post at all, but rather that something completely different happened, which was: a similarly odd three-letter word beginning with "Q" popped up in my reading today)

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