A Perfect Typo.

As an editor by profession, I can’t help noticing typos, and of course the local paper is full of them (like all local newspapers, it’s barely hanging on, so I can’t really blame them for not keeping a proofreading staff, but it’s irritating nonetheless). Today, though, there was one that should hang in a museum. In a story about how just a year ago the UMass basketball team had its season called off just as they were looking around the Barclays Center to prepare for their game, the following sentence occurs:

They watched Fordham and George Washington tangle in an opening round game in a largely empty arena, a site that would become commonplace over the next year.

The typo “site” for “sight” is extremely common, but I think this is the first time I’ve seen it directly following a phrase denoting an actual site (“a largely empty arena”). It would be an excellent test of reading ability, either for human or AI.


  1. Is it a typo or a thinko? If a typist or typesetter physically reaches for the wrong keys/slugs in the wrong order then it’s definitely a typo; is it the same thing when a writer reaches for the wrong homophone? I would like a distinct term but can’t offer any. Related authorial mistakes, which are certainly thinkos rather than typos, are the malapropism and the misspelling. Maybe I’m overthinking it, and overtyping it.

  2. I agree that a more refined, um, typology of errors is helpful. I find that in my own writing homophone errors are the hardest to avoid.

    (And I have to bring up a recent entry, the swipo. I suppose spello exists too, but I haven’t seen it in the wild.)

  3. David Marjanović says

    I wouldn’t call that a typo either. Blockuqote is a typo.


    Is that what a spellchequer does? Autoincorrection?

  4. If I were in a bad mood I would call it a barbarism. I suppose “homophone error” would be more accurate, but that’s not a term that trips off the tip of the tongue.

  5. Interesting, I thought that the mistake was with “commonplace” – How can a site be commonplace?

    But then i’m not a copy editor.

  6. I’ve recently come across 美鬱品 (biutsuhin), a typo for 美術品 (bijutsuhin ‘objet d’art’). An objet d’art that makes you depressed?

  7. Stu Clayton says

    Depressing trivia:

    has, at 29 strokes, the most strokes of any kanji in the jōyō kanji list or kanji kentei level pre-1.

  8. I heard a talk years ago about Japanese kanji misreads. There there are many many homonyms among Sino-Japanese readings of each kanji, making Japanese a wonderful language for puns. The researchers introduced typos and tracked eye movements to test which ones readers “stumbled” over. They found that readers rarely stumbled when the kanji had the wrong radical (semantic clue), but the right rhyme (phonetic clue), but stumbled much more when the kanji had the correct radical but the wrong rhyme. They concluded that even when reading kanji, people are reading sounds that convey meanings, not just just meanings.

    Biutsuhin for bijutsuhin looks like it was an romaji input & conversion error.

  9. It’s especially nice because an arena is literally a “common place.”

  10. Ha, so it is!

  11. John Cowan says

    WIkt says it’s properly harena ‘sand(y place)’, probably from Etruscan.

  12. I often think of how cruel it is to students that “sight your sources” and “site your sources” both sound pretty much equally as plausible as “cite your sources”.

  13. And free reign sounds much more exciting than plain free rein.

    Jennifer Garner & Edgar Ramírez on giving the kids free reign in Netflix’s Yes Day


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