Funniest Newspaper Correction is …. Drugroll, Please!

Typo correction on drugs instead of drums
Centralia, Illinois Daily Sentinel

In 2012 the editors of Centralia, Illinois’ Morning Sentinel learned the value of one little letter. Red-faced, the editors ran the following correction:

“Due to a typing error, Saturday’s story on local artist Jon Henninger mistakenly reported that Henninger’s band mate, Eric Lyday, was on drugs. The story should have read that Lyday was on drums.”

Click here to see how General Douglas MacArthur also learned what a difference one letter can make. 

Major Metric Malfunction Means Missed Mars Mission and Millions of Moolah

Mars climate orbiter lost because of metric mishap

Hopes were high when the Mars Climate Orbiter launched from Cape Canaveral on December 11, 1998. The robotic space probe was designed to study the climate, atmosphere, and surface changes of Mars and to act as a communications relay for the Mars Polar Lander.

For the next ten months, all went according to plan as the Orbiter sped to the Red Planet. On September 23, 1999 the Orbiter began its orbital insertion maneuver exactly on schedule. Four minutes later NASA lost contact with the spacecraft — never to regain communications.

What caused this $125 million failure? Was it alien incursion? Industrial sabotage? An uncharted quantum singularity?

Actually, it was the metric system — at least, according to Lockheed Martin, the supplier of a vital piece of software. Of course, if you ask NASA and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), they would say the problem was the failure to use the metric system.

After two months of investigation, the Mars Climate Orbiter Investigation Board released their report, concluding that two different pieces of software aboard the Orbiter used different units of measurement. The measurements used by Lockheed Martin calculated the thrust for orbital insertion with “pound-seconds.” NASA, on the other hand, used “newton-seconds.” The result was that the orbital insertion maneuvers — which should have placed the spacecraft in orbit at an altitude of 110 kilometers — brought it to within 57 kilometers of the surface, where the spacecraft disintegrated, due to atmospheric stress.

This should be a lesson for all engineers, who hopefully will not come within 100 miles kilometers of a similar mishap.

Death By … Dying?

killed to death funny news

The Charlotte, North Carolina television station WBTV reported a homicide in October 2011. As reporter Ron Lee gave live details of the shooting, the line “Man Killed to Death” was displayed at the bottom of the screen.

WBTV quickly changed the lower-third to the more specific “Man Shot After Argument”.


The Translated Version Hasn’t Come Out Yet

constipation translation

A Spanish delegate to a diplomatic conference turned on his microphone and said, “Estoy constipado, perdónadme.” Ordinarily this would translate as, “Please excuse me; I have a cold.” The French interpreter, instead, translated his words as, “Excuse me; I’m constipated.”

Source: John Coleman-Holmes, Mâcher du coton, Entre-temps, 1971, p. 201.

Translator Wanted — Knowledge of the Language Preferred

President Jimmy Carter reviews the troops in his first visit to Poland as President. photo: Bettmann/Corbis

When a fake sign language interpreter managed to get the job of interpreting during the funeral for Nelson Mandela, President Jimmy Carter must have had flashbacks to a time that his life was complicated by an interpreter who was not up to the task.

The occasion was the 1977 visit of President Carter to Poland. Steven Seymour was hired to interpret the President’s remarks from English to Polish. It was not exactly a match made in heaven:

  • The President said, “I have come to learn your opinions and understand your desires for the future.” Seymour’s version of it came out as telling the Polish people that the President really liked them and that he desired them sexually.
  • When the President remarked that he had left the United States that morning to come to Poland, Seymour interpreted it as the President saying that he had left the USA permanently — never to return again.
  • Later, the President expressed just how happy he was to be in Poland. This didn’t quite come through in the translation to the astonished crowd, who heard the President express his desire to grasp the private parts of Poland.
  • Carter went on to praise the Polish constitution of 1791 as one of the great documents in the history of human rights. The depth of his admiration didn’t quite come through in the interpretation, where the Poles heard the President say that their constitution should be ridiculed. source

Understandably, Carter was leery of interpreters. Shortly after leaving office in 1981, he was speaking at a college in Japan and started his remarks with an amusing anecdote. While amusing, it was not hilarious, so he was surprised when the audience responded to the translation with uproarious laughter. Only later did he find out why he got such a strong response. The interpreter said to the audience, “President Carter just told a funny story; everyone must laugh.”   source

And His Finger Was on THE Button?

A former Secret Service agent reported a time when President Jimmy Carter was using the restroom and pushed a button that he thought would flush the toilet. It actually was a panic button. 
“I rushed in, practically knocked the bathroom door down, my hand on my gun,” the agent recalled. “There he was, zipping up his pants.”