m. c. de marco: To invent new life and new civilizations...

Tens of Thousands of Worker Bees Commanded by Queen Elizabeth

Ben Zimmer of Language Log documents a couple of fun “incorrections”: the one alluded to in the title of this post, and one I spotted on Universal Hub and emailed to him:

As noted on the Random Squeegee blog, a[ Boston Metro] article about the observation of Martin Luther King Day explained that “King’s birthday is Jan. 15, but the federal holiday bearing his name is observed on the third yesterday in January.”

It looks like what happened here is that the Metro, which relies heavily on wire reports for its news content, was making sure that any story mentioning “Monday” would be changed to “yesterday” for the Tuesday paper. So someone went a little too far with the search-and-replace, altering a “Monday” that was not in fact the day before that Tuesday. Thus the deictically grounded use of “yesterday” was entirely inappropriate, leading to a bit of gibberish. (“For the record, the third yesterday in January is January 2,” observes John of Random Squeegee.)

It seems to me that the traditional term “hypercorrection” (e.g., the common hypercorrection of “between you and I” of the already-correct phrase “between you and me,” often a consequence of having one’s I’s beaten into one by a nun) is more appropriate for cases like the Metro’s third yesterday and Queen Elizabeth’s drones, whereas “incorrection” more properly describes the Cupertino effect (that is, the more random depredations of overactive spellcheckers).