The 7 Most Disastrous Typos Of All Time
We've all experienced the sting of the typo. Whether it's spelling your boss Ted's name with an A and two S's in a company wide email or listing "jail" as your previous residence on a job application, they can happen to anyone, and often at the most unfortunate times.
Luckily, most of our typos don't wind up changing world history. Not everyone is so lucky.
The Source of Spinach's Power
Popeye the Sailor Man: you gotta love him. He talks like he's been using his head to hammer nails for the past eight decades, likes his girls anorexic, starts more fights than Joe Biden on a month-long speech bender and sports enormous forearms that Mark McGwire can only whack off to. The source of his powers: spinach.
Back when steroids came in a can.
Unfortunately, it turns out that spinach's claim to fame can be attributed to a typo from the 19th century, followed by one of the greatest conspiracies in the history of agriculture.
A 1870 German study that served as the basis for Popeye's spinach-fueled 'roid rage accidentally printed the decimal place for spinach's iron content one spot too far to the right. For our non-mathematically inclined readers, that means the report claimed the vegetable had 10 times its actual amount of iron, which ended up equaling out to almost as much as red meat.
"No thanks, I'll have the compost."
As a result, entire generations of children, adults and doctors grew up thinking that eating spinach would turn you into freaking Wolverine.
Unfortunately, it appears that all the E. Coli scares on the planet won't erase one 140-year-old typo. You thought we were kidding about the spinach industry having a propaganda wing? To this day, the Kids edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica informs children that spinach is "loaded" with iron in the first sentence of its spinach entry, and the abridged version of the Encyclopedia uses three of its 79 word definition to tell us that "spinach is rich in iron." Oddly, Britanica's watermelon entry says nothing about its iron content, even though the fruit has just as much iron as spinach while managing to taste far less like shit.
That is a conspiracy.
The NASA Mariner 1 Mishap
Let's face it: When the scale of your scientific failures are so grand that even Arthur C. Clarke starts cracking wise about them, it's probably time to think seriously about switching to a more fitting career.
"Yeah, I didn't realize rocket science had so much math."
Such was the case for NASA in 1962 with the ill-fated launch of America's first inter-planetary probe Mariner 1. The probe was supposed to fly close enough to Venus to fondle her for a bit.
But instead it spazzed out due to a software-related guidance system failure not unlike those of video games unceremoniously rushed through production. In short, control of the craft reverted from the dead-accuracy of GoldenEye to the notorious Superman 64 faster than a speeding bullet crashing towards Earth at a thousand miles an hour.
Seriously, fuck this game.
This little bugger:
Some jackass forgot to write either the overbar or the period (or worse, both) over the R, which is apparently a big freaking deal due to rocket science being such a harsh mistress. Treat her right and she'll send you soaring off to strange new worlds, but screw up once and she'll slam a car door on your balls until they explode across eight states (in a bad way).
Ms. Rocket Science.
Once it became clear that this software error had rendered Mariner 1 little more than an enormous Scud missile, NASA had no choice but to detonate the $80 million craft less than five minutes after launch.
Legend has it that Michael Bay was born at that exact moment.
Arthur C. Clarke famously described the missing overbar as "the most expensive hyphen in history," which was made all the more costly due to it being $80 million back when a movie ticket cost less than a dollar.
Mizuho Securities Drops the Ball. Twice.
While suicide may seem a ready prescription in Japan for everything from bad test scores to sheer boredom, this begs the question as to what is considered excessive by Japanese standards. Like, say... what does the average Tokyo businessman do after costing his company almost as much money as it cost to make Titanic? In 24 hours?
Any good gambler knows you don't quit while you're losing. You let that bastard ride!
"Sorry son of a bitch" just doesn't come close to describing the financial judgment day Mizuho Securities experienced on December 15, 2005. It all started when they debuted the now hilariously legendary job recruitment company J-Com Co. with the intention of offering it at 610,000 yen per share ($5,041). A typo pegged it significantly below that. At one yen per share.
While this was a disastrous enough move on its own to warrant seppuku, the shit-meter spiked to Battlefield Earth-levels once it was revealed that Mizuho Securities had also offered 41 times the number of J-Com Co. shares actually in existence. It'd be like you selling more than 40 times the number of copies of The Amazing Spider-Man #1 that were printed for less than a penny apiece on eBay... and being forced to back up your offer in yen for any dissatisfied customers.
A thousand nerds just passed out from that analogy.
Since do-overs are not allowed in the Tokyo Stock Exchange, Mizuho Securities was forced to watch in horror (and likely with a gun on the table) as their company hemorrhaged millions over what for all we know was just a poorly-placed coffee cup. By the time this 24-hour snuff film was over, these twin typos cost Mizuho Securities $225 million.
Cheer up, guy who lost the new iPhone; it could have been worse.
The Real Bruce Wayne Sentenced to Death... Due to a Typo
Regardless of what you think about the death penalty, we are probably all in universal agreement that you really need to dot your I's and cross your T's when it comes to executions, especially when the dude they're killing is named Bruce Wayne.
More or less, this happened.
In 1985, an extremely un-Batmanlike Bruce Wayne Morris was convicted of robbing and killing a man with a non-proverbial but deeply ironic stick and stone.
The time came for sentencing, and the jury had to decide between execution, or sticking the guy behind bars forever without any chance of going free. Seems pretty simple.
Well, it was, until the judge issued written instructions to the jury that an imprisoned Bruce Wayne would not have the possibility of making parole... and accidentally left the "not" part out. The jury, now mistakenly thinking that they had to pick between death and letting the dude maybe roam the streets again in a few years, picked death.
It took more than 10 years and a freaking federal appeals court to reverse the decision on the grounds that the state of California was on the verge of executing Bruce Wayne due to a typo.
Not cool, California.
Of course, by then the trial had already gobbled up hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of tax-payer dollars that California could have been using to avoid going bankrupt with.
Bullshit Word Added to the English Language
Because English is a bit of an all-sorts language, you'll find that it includes words from all sorts of crazy places (such as the now-treasured f-word). However, every now and then you will come across a word in the English dictionary whose etymology is not Greek or Latin, but freaking Typo. "Dord", introduced to the world in 1931, is one of those words.
dord, n. [Typo.] Example: "Dord!"
This delightful word first surfaced in the Webster's Third New International Dictionary as a noun in physics and chemistry meaning density. Since then, "dord" enjoyed a happy run throughout the cheerful years known as the 1930s until some editor noticed on February 28, 1939 (yes, we know the exact date) that the word lacked etymology (i.e. a back-story).
After an extensive investigation by whom we can only assume were the Grammar Police, it was revealed that "dord" was originally submitted on July 31, 1931 by Austin M. Patterson, Webster's chemistry editor (yes, we know all this information as well), to read "D or d," an abbreviated form of density. But if the letters are squeezed a little too close together...
For those of you keeping score, you may be surprised by the vast amount of information we have surrounding this typo right down to the day, month and year. How do we know all this? Simple: Do not screw with the Grammar Police, particularly the English ones.
Grammar Police. Coming soon from the makers of Snatch and Masterpiece Theater.
As for the pronunciation, they clearly pulled that out of their ass.
The Chilean Ex-Change
When the managing director at the Chilean Mint accidentally allowed a misprinted series of coins to enter circulation, it wasn't something lame nobody would notice, like with the microscopic direction of the corn husks on the flawed Wisconsin state quarter. Similarly, it wasn't something awesome that anybody would have bought him a beer with, like misprinted paper money .
No. In this case, engraver Pedro Urzua Lizana made a mistake in December of 2008 that slipped under the radar of all his superiors, including boss and head of the Chilean Mint Gregorio Iniguez. Under the approval of Lizana, Iniguez, and "several other employees," the Chilean Mint misspelled the name of their own freaking country.
And not in the way you might think.
No, that's not a lowercase L.
God only knows how many of these "Chiie" coins were pumped into circulation, since it wasn't until 10 months later that anybody noticed. The whole cabal was sacked for the humiliating oversight, and the Chilean government had no choice but to keep the coins in circulation.
In Gob We Trust.
However, those responsible may be crying all the way to the bank since the coins have since become sick collector's items. Also, when you consider that these were 50-peso pieces that got misprinted (roughly 10 cents each), just a sock-full of these slugs on eBay would be worth more than a dump truck full of pennies.
Pictured: a dump truck full of pennies.
The Wicked Bible
While it's no secret that the Bible has been subjected to more alterations than Star Wars, one needs look no further than the 1631 reprint of the King James Bible--better known as the Wicked Bible--for all the proof you need that God exists, and that He appears to have a decent sense of humor.
To reprint the King James Bible, royal printers Robert Barker and Martin Lucas had to arrange an exact duplicate of the original book and all its 1,189 chapters, 31,101 verses and 783,137 words like Mahershalalhashbaz just begging to be misspelled.
However, since book printing was on par with individually carving all the parts for an Oldsmobile out of walnut wood, they amazingly eked out only one major typo: a missing word in Exodus 20:14. Unfortunately, that one missing word out of the 783,137 others turned out to be kind of an important one.
"Eh. Close enough."
Yup. "Thou shalt commit adultery."
Historians have yet to reach a consensus as to whether the typo is the reason for England's larger than average population of complete bastards. What we do know is that King Charles I ordered the printers be stripped of their business license and fined 300 pounds for their hilarious oversight, or roughly all the money a person back then could make in a freaking lifetime. The King then ordered every existing copy of the offending book to be burned; an order carried out so thoroughly that today only 11 of the books exist.
Making it just slightly rarer than the original, grittier cut of Hop on Pop.
Karma comes around, however, and Charles I eventually became the first sitting king in English history to be put on trial for treason, and subsequently executed. Surprisingly this was not for taking away the country's blank check to commit adultery.
It's amazing they didn't chop his head off three times just for this portrait.
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For more costly slip ups, check out 5 Tiny Mistakes That Led To Huge Catastrophes and The 5 Worst Decisions Ever Made by TV Executives (Twice) .
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