This is very silly, but I can’t resist sharing it: Ben Zimmer at the Log reports on the latest auto-replace disaster, which produced a sentence beginning “When the particitrousers of the revolutionary movement in Korea…”:
We can surmise that when the UK edition of Harden’s book came out for the Kindle, an editor felt the need to screen it for Americanisms that might not translate well across the pond. Pants, understandably, would be one such Americanism to flag, since in British usage pants more typically refers to underwear. The pants/trousers divide was evident in Samuel Butler’s 1875 poem, “A Psalm of Montreal: “Thou callest trousers ‘pants’, whereas I call them ‘trousers’, Therefore thou art in hell-fire and may the Lord pity thee!” (For more, see my 2006 post, “Pioneers of word rage.”)
Using the Google Books version of Harden’s book, we can locate six instances where American pants usage could safely be swapped out for trousers. But the search-and-replace mission went too far, finding the substring pants in the sentence beginning, “When the participants of the revolutionary movement in Korea…”
This isn’t the first time that sloppy e-book editing has led to search-and-replace follies. A few years ago, we learned of an edition of War and Peace for Barnes & Noble’s Nook e-reader in which all instances of Kindle were replaced with Nook, leading to sentences like “It was as if a light had been Nookd…”
See Ben’s post for links, discussion, and a 1904 joke involving occutrousers.