When spell-check strikes back: the Cupertino effect

Before there was Damn You Auto Correct, there was the Cupertino effect. The effect derives its name from the spell-check dictionary on Microsoft Word 97, which only contained the hyphenated spelling of ‘co-operation’. This meant the British form ‘cooperation’ would be automatically corrected to ‘Cupertino’ (in a bizarre coincidence, Cupertino turns out to be a…

Cupertino: the Damn You Auto Correct of the '90s Cupertino: the Damn You Auto Correct of the '90s

Before there was Damn You Auto Correct, there was the Cupertino effect. The effect derives its name from the spell-check dictionary on Microsoft Word 97, which only contained the hyphenated spelling of ‘co-operation’. This meant the British form ‘cooperation’ would be automatically corrected to ‘Cupertino’ (in a bizarre coincidence, Cupertino turns out to be a small town in California which is home to the worldwide headquarters of Apple).

Cupertino: the Damn You Auto Correct of the '90s
Cupertino: the Damn You Auto Correct of the ’90s

At the height of its devastating powers, the Cupertino effect ravaged many an important document, and it wasn’t just naïve student editors who fell victim. Two of the more renowned examples;

“Within the GEIT BG the Cupertino with our Italian comrades proved to be very fruitful.” (NATO Stabilisation Force, Atlas raises the world)

“A consistent and efficient tax reform approach also will facilitate the shoring up broader EU and G-7 support for similar reform strategies—this in turn would make international Cupertino easier.” (European Parliament, Towards a Re-Orientation of National Energy Policies in the EU? – Germany as a Case Study)

Yes, Word 97 almost single handedly ushered in a great new age of international peace and Cupertino.

At least NATO and the European Parliament managed to avoid accidentally thanking anyone for shoring-up sex acts, as the Southern African Development Community did.

“The Heads of State and Government congratulated SATCC for the crucial role it plays in strengthening copulation.”

But not every editor can hide behind the Cupertino effect. The following was featured in an Associated Press report regarding the resignation of former CIA Director David Petraeus.

“Florida socialist Jill Kelley, who initiated the investigation that ultimately unveiled Petraeus’ extramarital affair, and her sister had two “courtesy” meals at the White House…”

Unfortunately, Jill Kelley is not a ‘socialist’; she is a ‘socialite’. The Associated Press evidently has a very good sense of irony or a very bad sub-editor. The muddled copy went on to be re-posted all over the net and even found its way into an online story on The Australian’s website.

In spite of these examples, the over enthusiasm of spell-check can still be better than the total absence of it. The 2012 editors of the Toronto Sun are probably wishing their spell-checker had been a little more interventionist after they tried to issue a correction which went wrong in the worst possible way—they managed to misspell the word ‘correction’. When it comes to ironic editing fuck-ups, humanity really is the winning team sometimes.

Vice Chancellor Michael Spence.

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