Don't Trussed That Spell Checker

By

I DON'T look for these things, they just leap out at me from the pages of respected journals:

Reporters visiting the Nicole Brown Simpson crime scene were ''forced to stand on fenders and peak over hedges to see anything.''

The American Civil Liberties Union's ''defense of the right of the American Nazi Party to march in Skokie, Ill., ouched off angry demonstrations.''

Recommended: Think you can spell? Take our Spelling Bee quiz!

John Osborne ''wrote 'A Letter of Hate' in the Tribune magazine in which he dammed England and his countrymen.''

In works like ''The Stony Heart'' (1956), ''no one could better effect the voice of a homely 19th-century storyteller than [Arno] Schmidt.''

Everybody knows what the writers meant to say. Everybody but the computer spell checker. No sentient human being would have mixed up ''peak'' and ''peek,'' ''ouched'' and ''touched,'' ''dammed'' and ''damned,'' or ''effect'' and ''affect.'' But to the electronic spell checker a word is a word, and meaning has nothing to do with it.

All the examples above happen to have come from prestigious national newspapers. But they're not the only ones that have gone software. A top literary magazine recently had someone growing up in Sidney (as in Poitier) instead of Sydney (as in Australia).

And a local paper left us to puzzle over this: ''Hillary Clinton told Democrats that she had enjoyed Gingrich's intensely personal and somewhat defensive speech Friday [Jan. 20], saying after enduring her own share of approbation 'I love watching the Republicans squirm as the tables are turned.' ''

Should that have been ''opprobrium''? Or should the ''enduring'' have been ''enjoying''?

You'll never know from the computer. As my own humble spell chicken might say, ''I've peeked too soon. Stop me before I spill again.''

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