Issue 268: 2021 02 25: Dictation Errors

25 February 2021

Dictation Errors

Putting the whore in.

By Robert Kilconner

Public amusement like fashion moves in cycles and today it is the turn of the dictation error.  At least that’s the case for readers of “The Times” where the diary column has been publishing the best of the errors submitted to it by readers for some days now.  As far as I am concerned there is a certain déjà vu, taking me back to the days when, as a partner in a city law firm, I had to advise a client on whether or not we should interfere in a dispute between another party and the government.  “We must be careful before sticking our oar in”, I dictated cautiously.  Good advice as far as it went but the typist misheard it and the unfortunate substitution of the word “whore” for “oar” gave the impression that we had some sort of Delilah plot up our sleeve.

Fortunately the letter did not go out but, had it done so, I don’t suppose that the recipients could have resisted the temptation to show their friends what their lawyers had written to them.  It would have made an odd impression, although no odder, I suppose, than rather a crusty letter which supported an old established practice with the words “it would be wrong to take a different view from our four bears”; if that had been sent, the clients could have been forgiven for thinking that they were being advised by a zoo, an impression they might already have received from an unfortunate reference to those fiscal quadrupeds “the badgers of trade”.

Luckily this was all in the old days when letters were in hardcopy and read carefully before dispatch.  Nowadays with auto correct and instant electronic communication the scope for absurdity is much much higher.

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