Spell-Checking "Obama" into "Osama":

Benjamin Zimmer (Language Log) reports on this, and a quick experiment confirmed it. (Of course, as ABC News points out, it's not that someone at Microsoft is somehow deliberately anti-Obama; it's just that Obama wasn't in the dictionary -- that makes sense -- but Osama was, so the spell-checker suggested it.)

As the ABC story puts it, "When Fast Isn't Fast Enough, Spell-Checker Isn't Always Your Friend."

My favorite is the way that Microsoft's spellcheck always tries to turn curtesy (the common law right of a husband in his wife's real property) into courtesy (politeness). As a colleague pointed out, getting the average real estate developer to mortgage his courtesy doesn't really help the lender, since the mortgagor doesn't have any. (JK!)
2.2.2008 7:42pm
Arvin (mail) (www):
On a completely non-related note, I just noticed that mortgagor appears to be the only English word (that I know of), where "go" is pronounced with a soft g. Cool.
2.2.2008 7:44pm
Wondering Willy:

What about Superman's dad, Gor-El?
2.2.2008 7:59pm
BgJff (mail):
I think that's Jor-El.

But back on topic:

When Chelsea Clinton asked a returning US Soldier about fear, he said that there were only three things he was afraid of: 'Osama, Obama, and Yo' Mama.'
2.2.2008 8:13pm
Q the Enchanter (mail) (www):
Tangor (tan-jor).
2.2.2008 8:52pm
AN early '90s version of MS Word for MacIntosh didn't recognize "childcare," recommending "kidnapper" instead. I always assumed that was a programmer being cute.
2.2.2008 8:59pm
Dave N (mail):
Hopefully, ABC has either a) updated their Microsoft Word or b) added "Obama" as a perfectly good word to its custom dictionary.

Either way, the network will save itself from unnecessary embarrassment.
2.2.2008 10:03pm
CiarandDenlane (mail):
Given how casually your co-conspirator (ah, I get it, irony) writes off (in the immediately preceding post) solid evidence of such obvious facts as the government's suppression of information on the alien visitations, can it be surprising that you would fall for the all-too-convenient explanation for Microsoft's objectively anti-Obama slant? How tough would it be for a multi-billion dollar corporation to put Obama in its dictionaries, especially when it has managed to get Osama in?
2.2.2008 10:25pm
Liz Glazer (mail):
When I was working as a real estate lawyer and sending emails through Outlook to friends about celebrity gossip, I thought it was hilarious that "Lindsay Lohan" became "Lindsay Loan." She's definitely someone you'd want at the closing!
2.2.2008 10:32pm
Loigin and out:
Reminds of that famous Microsoft "critical security update patch" to remove swastika:


Our planet is much safer now.
2.3.2008 10:43am
G. O. B. Bluth:

I just noticed that mortgagor appears to be the only English word (that I know of), where "go" is pronounced with a soft g.

Hey, what about my name?! Come on!

If this were the Onion AV Club you'd never get away with this. . .
2.3.2008 12:50pm
Ex parte McCardle:
I have a friend from Chile named Macarena Ferrer. MS Word helpfully "corrects" that to Macaroni Ferret.
2.3.2008 2:12pm
The Franchise (mail):
Turns my last name into "Morality".
2.3.2008 4:55pm
Eugene Volokh (www):
I certainly hope CiarandDenlane is joking.
2.3.2008 5:29pm
Reminds me of a semi-famous MS Word spell-check quirk that was discovered during the Clinton/Lewinsky scandals. Someone typed "I'd like Bill Clinton to resign" and got back "I'll drink to that".
2.4.2008 12:33am
Ohio Lawyer:
We recently had a state supreme court justice named Alice Resnick, and Microsoft kept trying to turn her into Alice Redneck. Bad mistake to make in a brief.

As to Obama, you'd think is name would have been in an update by now.

Firefox flagged "Obama" in this post. "Osama" is not one of the suggestions, but "Mamba" is.
2.4.2008 4:47am
Microsoft Outlook suggests changing "Clinton" to "Klingon."
2.4.2008 8:58am