My cousin Jennifer gave me this book for my birthday because she said it was something she could see me doing (actually, full disclosure, she said it was something she could see me and Tina doing, and it definitely is the sort of thing you’d want a buddy along for). Jeff Deck enticed a few of his friends (including Benjamin Herson, who got into the idea enough to score a co-writing credit on the book) to join him on a trip across the United States, finding and correcting typos and other errata on signs.
Needless to say, they had no trouble finding mistakes. Correcting them wasn’t always as easy. They did some stealth corrections (one of which eventually landed them in trouble with the law, when they unwittingly “defaced” a sign that the U.S. National Parks deemed to have historic value, errors and all), but more often they informed employees about errors in a store’s sign. Their polite requests to be allowed to correct the sign were met with everything from happy acquiescence to bald-faced denial that the error was even an error. And then there was the memorable occasion when they were told that correcting the sign would make it look tacky, and incorrect is better than tacky.
Deck, who is the narrator of the story, intersperses his adventures with reflections on the fluidity of the English language and the nature of typographical and grammatical mistakes. It’s an amusing little romp through territory all us grammar Nazis have contemplated at times. Seriously, who hasn’t wanted to white-out a mispaced apostrophe? Though I am personally saving my rage for all those places that unnecessarily use the letter K as a replacement for C, just to look … kute? Yes, Kountry Kravin’s and Krafts, I’m looking at you. Someday I will sweep across North America with vengeance, korrecting all of you!! And I will stay, of course, as I always do when travelling, at the Kampgrounds of America … but I will turn them all to Campgrounds!!! and since I don’t want to pack a tent I will sleep in Camping Cabins, not Kamping Kabins!!!! And I …
Sorry, got carried away there for a minute planning my own crusade (krusade? At leats I’m glad Kampus Krusade for Krist never succumbed to that particular advertising horror). That’s really the best thing about The Great Typo Hunt — you can have some fun with it, imagining what you’d do on a similar trip. Jeff Deck is a great editor and proofreader, but I didn’t find him to be a sparkling writer: there were times I just bogged down in his narrative. Apparently it takes more than an absence of typos to make a highly readable book. In spite of that, I salute his efforts to clean up the poor, abused English language, and I’m almost ready to get out there with my own bottle of White-Out and do my part. Almost.