So Long Suntype

September 14, 2005

Tofurky meets Tobruk in the twitchy little slice of technology known as Suntype.

A funny thing — a veritable Bakst full of them — happened on our way to a new word processing system.

Suntype, the blue-screened behemoth upon which Hood River News writers have composed stories for years, is about to be retired and replaced by Word.

But stodgy Suntype produced its share of surprises during standard copy editing procedures. Like any word processing system, Suntype includes a Spell-check that, in case of a typo, provides a list of preferred words. The way it works is that the first in the list, presumably, is the one you really wanted. Except not always.

For example:

I once typed in “cosntant,” intending constant, and Spell-check provided me with: cosecant (trigonometry term — I had to look up) and cotenant.

You can’t teach a computer context, so cosecant makes as much sense to the machine as constant. The odds of my using “cosecant” are astronomically — if not trigonometrically — lower than that of a common word such as constant.

However, the surprises were often not from typos but from actual words for which Spell-check urged an alternative.

Case in point: when you typed in Tofurky, a local soy product made by Turtle Island Foods, Suntype wants you to change it to “Tobruk,” a Libyan port made famous during World War II.

This column is possibly the first time the North African battle site has ever been mentioned in the same sentence with Hood River’s own tofu creations.

In our business, we hope for a little realism for guidance through the lexicon.

But in Suntype, be careful or You Heep for a little rawlins for guineans through the lesion.

Those are first-choice words when Spell-check was faced with hoep, ralism, guidnance, and lesicon.

To demonstrate, I want to do a real-time experiment with the first-ever intentional (brace yourself) typo of my career.

Take a randomly selected word such as percent.

I hurriedly type the word, and come up with: percnent.

And “pendent” is the first word that Suntype provides in the preferred-list. Second is “penitent.”

Percnent contains only an extra “n,” a stowaway. (I typed “sotoway,” by mistake, and the preferred list gave me one word: “someway.” This is, of course, not even a real word. Somehow, we will make it, somewhere, some way, but not “someway”.)

For the constnant flow of typos we always “hoeped” to avoid in Suntype, I cannot blame Spell-check, but nor will I miss the skewed world view of this purportedly helpful function.

Getting back to pendent and penitent, perhaps it was the system’s way of holding me accountable for my errors — to keep me “suspended” while “feeling sorry for one’s sins.”

Some would say that in our Suntype epoch we should be, well, overhanging with guilt over typos. Perhaps I should be feeling that way rather than gloating over the oddities that emerged on my computer over the five years I have worked with Suntype, but here goes a parting list of my favorites, annotated as need be.

The typo is first, followed in parenthesis by the intended, and then — by the Spell-check preferences.

Aerican (American) — Erica’s, Eroica

Activites (activities) — activates, activist, activists, Activision

Allerties (allergies) — allergist, Allerest, Allerest’s

Avuse (abuse) — aves (the only entry: Latin for welcome greeting)

Bakset (basket) — Bakst, Bakst’s (Bakst’s?)

Compter (computer) — compeer, compete, commuter, commute — but no “computer”

Couirts (courts) — cohorts, coitus

Deocorating (decorating) — descanting, desecrates, discord

Forerst (forest) — footers, forbears

Formerl (formerly) — forager, foramen, forbear (but not formerly)

Feruit (fruit) — ferrite

Howrd (Howard) — How’d, Howard, Howdy, Horde (but no How’s, which is more logical than “How’d”)

Ostetrics (obstetrics) — ostrich’s; hosteleries (obstetrics a far more common word than either)

Peronal (Personal) — perineal (an, ahem, personal part of the anatomy), persona, pergonal, perinea, pergolen, person, Pernod.

Poulations (populations) — pulsation, pulsation’s, potations, potation’s

Presdient (prescient) — present, presents, present’s

Prsident (president) — provident, prurient

Prublishes (publishes) — brushlike (brushlike?)

Prze (prize) — prev, pray, prue

Repeates (repeats) — relates, repaints, repairs, repartee, repast, repasts, repeals

Reponse (response) — reopens, repose, repines (but no response)

SCouts (Scouts) — Scoots, Scots, Scotts, Scotus, Scot’s Scott’s, Scours, Scoot’s, Scotus’, Scour’s

Shistory (history) — shyster

Thaht (that) — Thant (United Nations General Secretary, c. 1960s, U Thant of Burma, now Myanmar), Thanh, that

Tixins (toxins) — tiepins, timings, tidings

Understnad (understand) — underlined, undersexed

Whre (where) — whore

There were other correctly typed words that Suntype would not recognize. My favorite: Allende, as in Chilean dicatator Salvador, yielded the word choice “alienee.” (When and where have you ever heard the word alienee?)

Japans/Japanese for Japan’s. Yes, there two Koreas and maybe even two Chinas, but in what wierd context would anyone ever use the word “Japans”?

All told, it’s just nonsensical: whoever heard of Activision? And only someone who drank too much Pernod would put perineal ahead of persona.

But in some ways I’ll miss Suntype.

I once typed tried to type students, got “sutdent’s” and it yielded Sudeten’s: I’m in favor of remembering all the crimes of the Nazi era.

And blitzel (blitz) gave me “blintz.”

I like any system that puts a sour-cream-filled pastry before war.

Hood River News editor Kirby Neumann-Rea would love to have a nikkel for every typo he’s ever made ...

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Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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