Mightier than the sword: the power of the typo

Robert FrostThe temporary meltdown on Wall St on the 7th of May 2010 certainly frightened the horses. Another illustration of how vulnerable we are to computer glitches and failure of what should be insignificant components such as those that caused Auckland to suffer a couple of months of blackout. The Wall Street cockup seems to have been caused by the simple transposition of a ‘b’ for an ‘m’ on some worthy’s keyboard, deftly converting a few hundred million into untold billions and no doubt transferring a lot of wealth from the naive to the quick.

It all prompted Dr Paul Krugman to reflect:

Somewhere I read about a game in which you’re supposed to do the maximum damage to a famous piece of literature with the minimum typo. The winner was:

Whose woods these are I think I know
His house is in the Village though


For those unfamiliar with New York’s geography, the Village is an entirely different beast to the village. Here’s the original version from the ever accessible Mr Frost; even if you’re not familiar with his poetry you’ll probably recognise the beautiful and widely quoted last three lines.

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.
My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.
He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

Robert Frost (1874-1963): the bard of New England.


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