Editor Jeff Deck has been tormented by the same sign for months. It’s hanging there on the wooden fence that surrounds an empty lot, taunting him.
Blatant disregard for the rules of spelling and grammar have always irked Jeff, but what’s a guy to do? Go around the country correcting typos, of course!
Several months’ planning later, Deck’s formation of the Typo Eradication Advancement League (TEAL) is complete. He and several intrepid companions then embark on a cross-country road trip to ferret out misspellings, awkward sentence structure, and renegade apostrophes. The Great Typo Hunt: Two Friends Changing the World, One Correction at a Time chronicles their adventure.
More than just typos
The thing I like most about this book is that it became more than I thought it would be. Yes, it was interesting to read about the different reactions people had, and the way Deck and his companions often had to be sneaky about making corrections to signs. But more interesting to me was the way Deck was constantly questioning the meaning and value of what he was doing.
Many typos were found on handwritten signs for local small business (instead of large nationwide ones) — was correcting those typos somehow taking away from the local charm? Was siccing the readers of the TEAL blog on a recalcitrant museum curator the best way to get an installation’s signs corrected? Who was Deck to tell people what’s correct and incorrect? If English is ever-changing and never had solid rules to begin with, was this effort wasted?
Like with many journeys, The Great Typo Hunt turned out to be much more than some friends’ trek around the US with corrective fluid, sharpies, and chalk. It became a lesson in education and literacy, race, history, and how we as humans communicate. This is one of my favorite quotes:
“We speak, and write, in one of the most diverse, gloriously ecumenical tongues on the planet. In English, there is a word or phrase for pretty much anything we want to say, and if there isn’t, we make it up, and it is welcomed into the family. We can express ourselves as complexly or as simply as we like. We can be magniloquent didacts, or we can talk plain.” (p. 156)
In other words, English—and all language—is awesome. And that’s something with which we can all agree.