"Still advent received emails from her"

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That's part of a message from one of my students.  I knew right away what he meant, but — as always — I'm curious about what causes such off-the-wall typos.  It can't be because of a spellchecker gone awry.  So I asked the student, "What type of input system do you use?  I'm trying to think about how that was produced."

He replied, "I use the bog-standard* American English input that Apple has. I think I missed the 'h' and it grabbed it from there? Maybe an additional incorrect letter?

[*This was the first time I encountered this expression, and I didn't know what it meant.]

I followed up:

just regular keyboard?

not on iPhone?

no shortcuts?     swypes?

speech recognition input?

He replied:

Regular keyboard! Not on iPhone and no shortcuts. 

Perhaps just tired brain?

Fair enough, maybe he was just tired, half asleep.  But I still find it fascinating to speculate why it came out that way rather than some other way.

Perhaps he's a Christian waiting for the end of this miserable semester.


Suggested readings


  1. Ross Presser said,

    September 17, 2020 @ 5:32 pm

    I just verified that typing "asvent" on an iOS 14 iPhone produces "advent". S is right next to A, so it could have been hit by the finger accidentally after missing the h.

  2. Ross Presser said,

    September 17, 2020 @ 5:33 pm

    Whoops, I completely misread that he said "NOT on iPhone". Ignore me.

  3. Jim Breen said,

    September 17, 2020 @ 6:10 pm

    I'm amazed you hadn't encountered "bog-stan.ard" before. I gather it's more BrE but I'm sure I've seen/heard it used fairly widely over many years.

  4. Victor Mair said,

    September 17, 2020 @ 7:00 pm

    "bog-standard" is buried somewhere deep in the recesses of my mind, but my understanding of it is so vague as to be virtually non-existent.

    Well, now that I looked it up, I know exactly what it means.

  5. Duncan said,

    September 17, 2020 @ 7:31 pm

    With Jim here; I honestly thought "bog standard" was "bog standard".

    Now I'm wondering where I learned it. Some Kenyan "BrE" from back in the 70s when it was only about a decade independent and current "IT-boffin UK slang" influence from reading UK-based The Register, but I'd have sworn "bog standard" was "bog standard" en_US, if regional, possibly northwestern/mountain-western/southwestern as that's where I've spent most of my life.

  6. Deborah Pickett said,

    September 17, 2020 @ 8:00 pm

    Mac OS does have a "correct spelling as you type" option (it can be found under System Preferences > Keyboard > Text). I turned it on but it doenst seem to have any effect on the deliberate tyops that I'm putting into this sentence. Maybe it only works in the built-in Apple apps; I'm typing this on Firefox.

    ObBogStandard: When the Australian remake of Top Gear screened, they replaced the "Star in a Reasonably-Priced Car" segment with "Star in a Bog-Standard Car".

  7. Michael Watts said,

    September 17, 2020 @ 10:09 pm

    I also wouldn't consider "bog standard" unusual. However, I did encounter an extension of the form once which stuck with me.

    An Irish friend of mine, one Patrick, was telling someone else how to remember his name: "think of the most bog-Irish name you can think of!"

  8. Marisa Connell said,

    September 17, 2020 @ 10:29 pm

    Never heard "bog-standard" before. From northwestern U.S.

  9. Jim Breen said,

    September 18, 2020 @ 12:34 am

    I know "bog-Irish" too – it's quite a different term. An AmE equivalent might be "corn pone" and an AusE one "ocker".

  10. Andreas Johansson said,

    September 18, 2020 @ 12:42 am

    I too thought that bog standard was bog standard. A lot of the English I see/hear is British, so maybe that's why.

  11. Philip said,

    September 18, 2020 @ 12:44 am

    I grew up BrE, and 'bog standard' meaning run-of-the-mill was everyday vocabulary. I'm tempted to chime in with another 'bog standard' is 'bog standard', but the second set of apostrophes irks me, because 'bog standard' is being used in line with its conventional meaning. Any takers?

  12. Keith said,

    September 18, 2020 @ 12:56 am

    From the information provided by the student (bog-standard American English input, Apple, regular keyboard, Not iPhone, no shortcuts), I'd conclude that he was typing on a MacBook with a qwerty layout keyboard, and he's probably British.

    As Ross Presser pointed out, A is right next to S (physical keyboard layout is much the same as a virtual, on-screen keyboard, as far as letters go). Although Ross did the test on an iPhone, I think it's still relevant.

    I'm using an azerty keyboard to type this (bog standard for France), with a British English spell checker, in Firefox. If I type "asvent" the first in the list of proposed corrections is "advent". If I type "avent", then "advent" is the second in the list, after "vent". If I type "ahvent" (a common typing error is to transpose two letters), then "advent" is, again, the first proposed correction.

  13. Barbara Phillips Long said,

    September 18, 2020 @ 1:11 am

    Spellcheckers of various types seem to be very dependent on the input including the first letter. Even on a keyboard, sometimes a key sticks, does not respond, or otherwise misses — it isn’t surprising that [h]aven’t would be corrected to advent. The spellcheck algorithm does not seem to look at the back end of the word at all, and seems to be based more on dictionary spellings than patterns.

    One of the two huge improvements that could be made in spellcheckers is recognizing words that might be lacking the initial letter and offering those possibly correct words in addition to coming up with a selection of words beginning with the letter that was input.

    The other big improvement would identify homophones and offer a one- or two-word gloss so the writer could select from among rain/reign/rein, for example, or the almost homophones cache/cachet. Further flagging might help with lost -ed endings, such as cliche/cliched or bias/biased.

  14. Philip Taylor said,

    September 18, 2020 @ 1:52 am

    I've been aware of "bog-standard" as a normal part of British engineering jargon for nearly sixty years, but my auto-correct for others' typos is clearly lacking because I had to read most of the comments here before finally understanding what word was intended where "advent" had been substituted.

    But in response to Barbara Phillips Long, I am more than a little confused — in which topoloect(s) are "cache" and "cachet" near homophones, and in which topolect(s) does "clichéd" have a "lost -ed ending" ?

  15. Victor Mair said,

    September 18, 2020 @ 5:38 am

    I agree with Philip about what he calls the two sets of "apostrophes", though I would call them "single quotes", and would write them with double quotes, as I have just done.

    All things considered — both from the ample flow of diverse comments in this thread and from my own background knowledge — I would conclude that "bog-standard", to the extent that it is "bog-standard", is dependent upon regional and occupational factors.

  16. Bathrobe said,

    September 18, 2020 @ 7:04 am

    For some reason, I always associate "bog-standard" with "the bog", a slang word for the toilet (restroom, or whatever you call it).

  17. Mark P said,

    September 18, 2020 @ 7:36 am

    I’m pretty sure I became familiar with “bog standard” from reading automobile magazines many years ago. I suspect it was in “Road&Track” rather than “Car&Driver”. British cars were still British and around in those days.

  18. Terry K. said,

    September 18, 2020 @ 9:28 am

    @Phillip Taylor
    I don't think cache and cachet being homonyms or near-so is a matter of topolect. That is, I don't think the variation is regional. However, the main point, in context, was that someone might type cache when they mean cachet, since the t is silent, and that a standard spell check won't catch that. Which could happen regardless of how one pronounces "cache".

    I also don't think clichéd vs cliché as an adjective is a topolect thing. A check of a couple dictionaries shows clichéd to be the standard form for use as an adjective, so writing cliché for an adjective could be seen as a lost -(e)d. Though one could also argue clichéd as an adjective derives direct from the noun cliché, so no lost -(e)d.

  19. Alexander Pruss said,

    September 18, 2020 @ 10:40 am

    The joke that maybe the student is a Christian got me rather worried about autocorrect and autocomplete as a potential privacy problem, which is something I never thought about before, though maybe it was obvious to others. I can now easily see a secret member of a persecuted group (dissidents, religious minorities, etc.) getting caught because their autocorrect put in some word they normally use in correspondence to fellow group members when they're writing to someone not in the group. Even good encryption may not help, since the keyboard may train itself while one is in the encrypted communication app and then use that training elsewhere. Eek!

  20. Terry K. said,

    September 18, 2020 @ 10:57 am

    Oops… in my above comment, that last sentence should read:

    Though one could also argue cliché as an adjective derives direct from the noun cliché, so no lost -(e)d.

    I used cut and paste and forgot to delete the d there. (Forgot to lose the -d, you could say.)

  21. Jennifer Sheffield said,

    September 18, 2020 @ 11:11 am

    In relation to what Barbara Phillips Long said about initial letters, I have often found that spell-checkers don't quite know what to do when the second or third letter is incorrect or switched. I'm wondering whether the student may have typed "ahven't" or "ahvent" (if tired brain would miss the apostrophe).

    I also find that many of my weird spell-check issues these days come from misplaced spaces, wherein the spell-check adjusts the word that now has the new letter without considering the other word that lost the letter — though Google is getting quite good at this in gmail and docs. So initially I thought this might be the issue, before I thought of the switched letter version.

  22. Bloix said,

    September 18, 2020 @ 12:19 pm

    So it turns out that bog standard is of recent origin (50 or 60 years ago) and no one knows what the bog is supposed to be. Is it a misheard "box" or is it British slang for toilet?
    I personally find it odd to use expressions that appear to be metaphors when I don't know what the literal meaning is. I don't say "the whole nine yards," for example.

  23. SlideSF said,

    September 18, 2020 @ 4:43 pm

    I cannot find any evidence to support my supposed etymology of "bog-standard". Perhaps I just made it up, and it stuck with me. It means run-of-the mill or quotidian, as has been mentioned. I supposed it came from the kind of loo-paper you would find in a public bathroom. Bog-standard, rather than that fancy stuff you would use at home.

  24. Viseguy said,

    September 18, 2020 @ 7:23 pm

    With 12 years of Catholic education, my first reaction was, "Must be a typo for 'Still lent received emails from her'."

  25. Julian said,

    September 18, 2020 @ 7:33 pm

    Bloix – Australia has been metric since 1974. You will still hear children say, 'Missed by a mile!' I wonder whether they know what a 'mile' is.

  26. Philip Taylor said,

    September 19, 2020 @ 4:07 am

    The earliest attested record that I can locate for the phrase "bog standard" is in a 1968 issue of Motor Sport — "I know Porsche make a hot 911S and a hotter 911R , but my Jaguar is bog-standard […] so I'm comparing it with other bog-standard cars".

    As far as use of non-native idioms, I'm with Bloix — I would no more dream of "going the whole nine yards" than I would of "touching base", but I am more than happy to assert that something's "just not cricket, old man" when that is clearly the case !

  27. Duncan said,

    September 19, 2020 @ 10:54 am

    @ Philip T: Does "bog standard" is _bog_ _standard_ sit any better with you? Or second /bog/ /standard/?

    For me the second set of quotes was more lazy-emphasis than proper quotes, my fingers finding '"' far easier to type than '_' and I suppose about the same as '/', which is reasonably common use here as well, but having just used '"' that's what came naturally. However, now that you mention it I can definitely see and mildly agree with the objection to the second set as typed.

    Something else for my personal 'be aware' list. =:^)

  28. Joyce Melton said,

    September 19, 2020 @ 12:31 pm

    Bog standard always struck me as sideways wordplay, since Standard is one of the trademarks one often sees on the porcelain in the bog.

  29. Philip Taylor said,

    September 19, 2020 @ 2:42 pm

    Duncan, I think your question was actually intended for Philip <no surname>, not for myself. He and I are two distinct people.

  30. Barbara Phillips Long said,

    September 19, 2020 @ 7:35 pm

    This is a common typo. I don’t know if it appears in speech. I do know that while I was working as a newspaper editor, I ended up complaining to an Associated Press features editor and ito a fashion writer about the repeated appearance of “cache” in articles where “cachet” was clearly the meaning.

    I have seen the phrase “that is so cliche” or similar variations often in social media and online comments on articles. I don’t know if it is formed to parallel “that is such a cliche” or if it is because the writer did not hear the final -d in a conversation where “cliched” was used.

    Recently I have seen a number of Facebook posts where allegations of bias are made, often with a statement such as “You are so bias.” I do not know if this is a spellcheck issue or if the posters are hearing “bias” instead of “biased” in conversation.

    Because these are online, I don’t know what the writers’ topolects are, although I believe most are in the U.S. I have no evidence for that, though.

    One issue worthy of discussion is, I think, whether U.S. English speakers value standardized spellings enough to insist on good spellchecking software to improve casual writing online. A lot of the reason I know the difference between “cache” and “cachet” is that I saw them properly used in books, magazines, and newspapers when I was growing up. Now a lot of the reading people do is online and informal. I do think an improved spellchecker could make online reading easier.

  31. Fred Bennett said,

    September 20, 2020 @ 12:00 pm

    I first heard "bog-standard" while working at Armstrong Whitworth's. I left there in 1963

  32. Chas Belov said,

    September 20, 2020 @ 6:41 pm

    Haven't personally encountered "bog standard" or "box standard" before this post. Google ngrams of both phrases shows "box standard" as being around since the 1820's but never majorly catching on, with "bog standard" showing up around 1970 and taking off, at least compared to "box standard" around 1980.

    My totally uneducated guess would be that "bog standard" is an eggcorn of "box standard."

  33. Josh Reyer said,

    September 21, 2020 @ 1:56 am

    Interestingly, I am an American born and raised in the Midwest (with 18 of my 26 adult years spent in Japan), and bog standard has been part of my lexicon for so long, I have no recollection of when I first came across it, nor any cognizance that it was largely a British expression.

    I suspect that I must have come across it in my reading of some British material during my formative years (the Paddington Bear books, and later Agatha Christie, the Ian Fleming James Bond books, and some of the Dick Francis horse-racing mysteries). I distinctly remember noting "tyres" on the first page of "Dr. No," but I can only imagine that when coming across "bog standard" somewhere, I just registered the "bog" as some kind of intensifier (i.e. that the thing in question was not just standard, but utterly unremarkable in all respects) and just added it to my word-hoard without realizing it was a British expression.

  34. Corinne Bridgeman said,

    September 23, 2020 @ 12:18 pm

    I rely on whatever program is defaulted on my devices. I never thought much about whether there were other spellchecking programs to use. I have been intrigued from time to time on the words that do pop up if I hit a wrong stroke on the keyboard. When it comes to cellphone typing, spell check always changes my husband's name even though I typed it in correctly. The word it most often changes it to was Smile, which I am sure you know, would then put a smile on my face.

  35. Nicole said,

    September 29, 2020 @ 1:35 pm

    Funny; I am in my 40s, American, and learned the phrase "bog standard" just yesterday, reading an article (written by a speaker of BrE) from The Atlantic. ("Bog-standard misogynists" was the phrase used.)

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