Jean Véronis

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mardi, octobre 04, 2005

Speling: Partial eclispe

It’s common knowledge that you mustn’t look directly at an eclispe, or you risk burning your eyes. So badly, in fact, that when you go back to your blog, you can’t really see what you’re writing.

That’s what happened to Marianne, one of my loyal readers, who recently treated us to a brilliant post about the "eclispe in Angers" [fr], which she osberved with her colleagues (the story makes no mention of whether or not they turned to the local speciality [fr] to warm themselves up a little during the chilly moment brought on by the eclispe ;-) I’m having a laugh, I know, but I hope she’ll take it in the spirit in which it was intended: Marianne has a lovely little blog, and she leaves some nice comments here as well. Besides, I make plenty of slip-ups like this as well, and I get the feeling that things are not improving with age. When it’s in the title, it’s a real pain: Blogger builds the URL of each post using the words in the title, and changing it breaks all the links …

In fact, I’m very grateful to Marianne for reminding me that one of the recurring themes of this blog is metathesis. I’ve had a good laugh at many an infractus, aréoport and génycologue [fr_1, fr_2]. True metathesis is phonetic in nature: people think that we really do say infractus. Here is it written metathesis – and accidental at that. I’m sure Marianne knows how to spell the word. Our poor eyes have real trouble picking up this kind of mistake. If you don’t believe me, take a look on Yahoo: 113,000 people have already made the same mistake with eclispe! Incredible. I must point out, however, that there are a staggering 55 million pages containing this word on Yahoo, so that’s only 0.2% … but still!

What’s really curious is the difference between French and English:


Proportionally, errors are 3 times more frequent in English than in French. Strange. With figures like these, this difference can’t be put down to mere coincidence. And let’s not fall back on ridiculous linguistic stereotypes either: French speakers are no better at spelling than English speakers. There must be some hidden variables that explain the difference. The French-language web, for instance, may well be different in its make-up from the English-language web: if there are more texts on the English-speaking web that are written hastily (blogs, forums, etc), that might explain the difference. There may also be other alternative hypotheses. Perhaps you’ll have a better idea than me … In any case, I’m sure it would make an interesting research topic for students looking for a subject for their master’s degree :-)

So, no hard feelings, Marianne? You said in a recent comment [fr - corresponding English post here] that your blog was referenced by seven sites; well, with this post that’ll make eight once Technorati’s robots drop by. I hope that’ll be enough for you to forgive me ...

PS: Oh, I see that since you posted your comment, you’ve been referenced by two new sites; well, it will soon be 10. Only 1963 more, and you’ll be in the Tpo 100! You’ll have to celebrate that with a nice glass of Cointreau [fr].

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1 Commentaires:

Anonymous Justin Barker a écrit...

pages in spanish with eclipse 517,000
pages in spanish with eclispe 139
% .03

06 octobre, 2005 20:16  

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