Spell that again?

Sign on cupboard in the laundry

We’ve all had a good giggle when we come across misspelled words in signboards and brochures. But it can be most embarrassing, writes PEGGY LOH

JUST one missing letter makes a world of difference.  Like this signboard spotted at a laundry. It reads “DRY CLENING.”

With all the clothes hanging in the window, it’s obvious what kind of service the shop provides so one tends not to spot the spelling error in the sign.  It is also unlikely that the missing “A” in DRY CLEANING has affected business or the spelling error would have been corrected a long time ago.
The error is a result of poor proofreading, carelessness or pure ignorance. Mistakes are often made when words are simply spelled just as they sound or are pronounced.

The most commonly misspelled word in travel brochures and advertisements must be “accommodation” because it sounds right even when it is short of an “m” as in “ACCOMODATION.”
The menu is another treasure trove of misspelled words. I don’t know about you but I’m always tickled to read that a restaurant offers “LAMP CHOPS” under its list of western food. Maybe this is a novelty dish served “lighted up” like some fancy ice-cream concoction but personally, I prefer juicy slices of LAMB.
Some restaurants offer oriental favourites and a variety of “NODDLES” instead of “noodles.” When I read “noddles” in the menu, I wonder if it’s safer to order something else or risk getting a dish of lumpy flour, probably shaped in nodules.
The menu in a posh Indian restaurant gives a brief description of a type of bread it served, describing it as a “HANKERCHIEF.” Maybe after they’ve had a taste, diners will “hanker” for it.  As for me, I’m glad it turned out to be a lovely type of bread that’s as light and thin as a “handkerchief”.

I will always remember a sign in a Thai restaurant that offers catering services.  A poster with a list of items included in the catering package had “FOLK and SPON.” Now, everytime I ask for a set of fork and spoon, this unforgettable phrase “folk and spon” just comes to mind!
I recently picked up a special promotion brochure for a spa designed with details and photos of recommended therapies. When I turned to the reverse page, the headline announced an “UNRESISTABLE OFFER.” I guess any offer would be more convincing if it was “irresistible”.
Whether it’s poor English, carelessness or merely a typoerror, everyone knows that misspelled words in print are a source of great embarrassment. When in doubt, just consult a good dictionary or check with relevant English references.
Always check and re-check because without careful proofreading, even credible publications can be red-faced if a phrase like “public relations” came out in print as “pubic relations.”

This article was first published in The New Straits Times, Travel Times on 11 August 2009

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