JWR Schticks and groans

Jewish World Review Dec. 13 1999/ 4 Teves, 5760

The Secret Messages of "Spell Check"

By Rabbi Bob Alper

LET THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY dawn. I'm ready. Got a megagigabite computer, CD with speakers, a color printer, a scanner, Internet connection and even a web site. Most important, I have a magic number, 362-2921, taped just below my screen. With that last piece of information, I can do anything. It's the phone number of a nine-year-old neighbor who shows me how to use all this stuff.

One of the neatest features actually corrects my spelling. In various computers the program is called either "AutoSpell," or "Spell Check," or "How Did They Let You Out of Elementary School?" and it works by underlining the offending word in green as you type or by doing a once-over after you've finished the document. Sort of like a censorious mentor looking over your shoulder.

EconophoneProblem is, the developers of these programs were not Jewish.

Those invisible coaches are right on target when they remind me that "psychosis" has a silent h in it. But what happens when I type a perfectly good and accurately spelled word from my Hebrew/Yiddish heritage? I get an electronic smack on the wrist.

"Purim," I typed, and the screen disagreed, suggesting that what I probably meant to type was "purred," "primped," or "peril." Well, "peril" was pretty close, when you think about the story of that holiday, but it's Purim that I wanted to write.

The word "shul" didn't strike their fancy either. Naaah. You must mean "shell," "shill," "shuffle," or "shuttle." That last suggestion's not bad, given the fact that, for many families, shul membership is predicated on car-pool availability.

Trakdata At least with "latke" the correction remained within the food realm. "Latte," was the sole suggestion. "Shabbat" was referred to "sherbet." (A clever rabbi will make a good sermon out of that some day, comparing the sweetness of sherbet to the delight of Shabbat.).

The first suggestion for correcting "Kippur" was, believe it or not, "chipper." There's a contrast. "Kippur" evoked a slew of additional terms, including "copier," "caper," "skipper," "nipper," "dipper," "ripper," "sipper," "tipper," "zipper," and, my favorite, "keeper," which, I imagine, is a Maine pronunciation of kipa.

Of course, how could I not try the word "tuchis"? Not surprisingly, the system didn't recognize it. Instead, I was directed to "touch-ups," which, I suppose, has something to do with liposuction.

Finally, in exasperation, I typed "Oy." Nope. No such word. I was referred to "Oyo," which I couldn't find, even in my old-fashioned paper dictionary. The only thing I could figure is that it's a variant spelling of Ed McMahon's famous yell.

My computer also has a program called "Grammar Check." But I ain't no way going into that.

JWR contributor Bob Alper, the world's only practicing clergyman doing stand-up comedy ... intentionally, is the author of Life Doesn't Get Any Better Than This : The Holiness of Little Daily Dramas and A rabbi confesses. To visit his web site, click here. To send your comments click here.


11/19/99: Name that Jew
12/31/98: Toward rabbinic survival
12/07/98: Naming names
11/23/98:The Wedding Announcement
11/10/98: What the mail-man brought

©1999, Bob Alper