Transmutation of species: the three c(r)ows

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Stephen H writes:

I was shuffling French Impressionists in Art Authority on my iPad and came across this:

After blinking several times, I thought it must have been a mistake in building the app, a mistranslation, a typo autocorrected wrong or something, though I can’t see how that would work exactly. (vaches, corbeaux Cpws, Ciws?) Then I found this:

In emailing my son (Linguistics, Swarthmore) from my iPad, my “Corbies??” got “corrected” into "Cronies??” adding another layer.He responded "Did auto-correct strike in the first place, too, and these are supposed to be three cows? Or are they crows that have been magically transformed into cows? Or maybe it's just a very impressionistic rendering of crows? ;)”

Finally, I found this:

So it was certainly supposed to be “Three Cows.” Just as our eyes should have told us.

My son responded: "I’m just waiting for the long discursive essay in an art history journal: “Transformative imaginings in French Impressionism: The Three C(r)ows of Paul Sérusier” “

I still don’t understand how the mistake was made and perpetuated in the first place.

My theory is that the caption was entered by someone with a Macbook, which (like mine) doubles or triples a substantial proportion of letters. Then autocorrrect took offf ffrom ccows or coows. Then again, maybe I'm just bittter.



13 Comments »

  1. David Morris said,

    July 24, 2020 @ 7:28 am

    Some years ago there was a book called Lost Consonants, in which one word in a sentence was missing a consonant, drastically changing the meaning of that word and the whole sentence, accompanied by an artwork of the changed sentence. One of the sentences I remember, which is relevant here, was "Police say the demonstration attracted an unusually large crow".

  2. Francois Lang said,

    July 24, 2020 @ 7:46 am

    The Google tally is

    Crows 657, Cows 252.

    They must really be crows.

  3. D.O. said,

    July 24, 2020 @ 9:12 am

    Maybe it's the case of intrusive r.

  4. Ross Presser said,

    July 24, 2020 @ 9:42 am

    Does it matter if I have a rhotic accent or not?

  5. Ross Presser said,

    July 24, 2020 @ 9:47 am

    A bit of work with Google's time-restricted search makes it seem that this mistake appeared around 2001.
    regular Google search
    Google Books search

  6. Robert Coren said,

    July 24, 2020 @ 10:03 am

    Somewhat tangentially, I am reminded of an entry in the "Index" of Vladimir Nabokov's Pale Fire in which it is noted that the Russian words for crown, crow, and cow are, respectively, korona, korova, and vorona.

  7. Bloix said,

    July 24, 2020 @ 2:45 pm

    Three craw sat upon a wa'
    Sat upon a wa'
    Sat upon a wa'
    Three craw sat upon a wa'
    On a cowd an frosty mornin'

    The first craw couldna find his ma
    Couldna find his ma
    Couldna find his ma
    The first craw couldna find his ma
    On a cowd and frosty mornin'

    The second craw couldna find his pa
    Couldna find his pa
    Couldna find his pa
    The second craw couldna find his pa
    On a cowd and frosty mornin'

    The third craw et the other twa
    et the other twa
    et the other twa
    The third craw ate the other twa
    On a cowd and frosty mornin'

    The fourth craw warna there at a'
    Warna there at a'
    Warna there at a'
    The fourth craw warna there at a'
    On a cowd and frosty mornin'

    And that's a' I know about the craw
    Know about the craw
    Know about the craw
    And that's a' I know about the craw
    On a cowd and frosty mornin'

  8. Stephen Hart said,

    July 24, 2020 @ 6:06 pm

    David Morris, Thanks for the tip on Lost Consonants:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lost_Consonants

  9. Thomas Rees said,

    July 24, 2020 @ 7:42 pm

    Take a look at the New York Times crossword for Thursday 23 July 2020

  10. Andrew Usher said,

    July 24, 2020 @ 8:13 pm

    In the second image of search results, one sees three different versions of the French title. Surely, paintings by important artists have one official title? I suppose that could be called the same kind of carelessness with titles that allowed the absurd 'crows' to spread.

    k_over_hbarc at yahoo.com

  11. TonyK said,

    July 25, 2020 @ 4:40 am

    Isn't that thing standing behind them a pheasant?

  12. Jason M said,

    July 25, 2020 @ 8:03 am

    The peasant is with a murder of cows…..or a herd of crows?

  13. Breffni said,

    July 26, 2020 @ 9:06 am

    A newspaper typo once turned the Irish TV programme As The Crow Flies into As The Cow Flies.

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