We often open our mouths and say the wrong thing. That is, we say things the wrong way. There are terms such as “spoonerism” and “blooper” to describe this problem.
Blooper originated in the U.S. in the 1940s. Considered slang, it means, “embarrassing verbal error.”
Bloopers on-air or uttered by someone important never fade away and die, and collections of such gaffes have appeared in recent books.
Blooper initially referred only to the spoken word but, now, mistakes occurring in print are also called bloopers. In writing, typographical errors cause many a strange idea to see the light of day.
In April 2005, Winnipeg’s own, Val Werier, wrote a column devoted to bloopers, among them this gem from the Regina Leader-Post: “Moose Jaw seen as ideal place for insane asylum.”
Werier describes a Free Press photo of former publisher/owner Victor Sifton with his horse. The caption stated, “Victor Sifton at the left.” He mentions an accident report wherein a man knocked down by a bicycle was reported to have received
“minor fatal injuries.”
The late Yogi Berra was renowned not only for his ability as a New York Yankees catcher, but also for his inability with English. Once, he said, “It’s hard to predict things, especially when they’re in the future.”
Here are some on-air examples from All Time Great Bloopers (Kermit Schafer).
On a cooking show: “Then you add two forkfuls of cooking oil.” From a news announcer: “At the sound of the chime it will be the correct time.” And, “This prerecorded program has come to you live from Hollywood.”
Here are some “explanations” on insurance claim forms published July 1977 in the Toronto Sun:
• “The pedestrian had no idea which way to turn, so I ran over him.”
• “A pedestrian hit me and went under my car.”
• “I had been driving for 40 years when I fell asleep at the wheel and had an accident.”
Many printed bloopers occur in headlines simply because copy editors use so few words to get a message across. Here’s an example from a California paper: “Car leaves road, suffers broken nose.” And this, from the Boston Transcript: “Hotel burns. Two hundred guests escape half glad.”
Misspeaks often appear in ads. From the Sherbrook, Quebec, Daily Record: “Anyone not able to pay and stating so, will be buried free of charge.”
Here’s one from an El Paso paper: “Widows made to order. Send us your specifications.”
An article in the Hutchinson, Minnesota, local paper stated: “Sportsmen of this county are sharing with others in this state and with conservation leaders in many parts of the country the privilege of helping to save the noted Anderson Wild Wife Refuge.”
Posted in a Pennsylvania cemetery: “Persons are prohibited from picking flowers from any but their own graves.”
Finally, if English isn’t your first language, beware. The October, 2004, Reader’s Digest printed this beauty: “The Scandinavian electronics company Electrolux tried to sell vacuum cleaners in North America by telling people, ‘Nothing sucks like an Electrolux.’”
(Sources: All Time Great Bloopers, Kermit Schafer; The Bride of Anguished English, Richard Lederer; Oops! Paul Kirchner; Reader’s Digest; Winnipeg Free Press.)