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  • Hazards of Find & Replace

    Posted by David Foster on June 11th, 2012 (All posts by )

    Some rather strange lines in a version of Tolstoy’s War and Peace which was published for the Barnes & Noble device known as the Nook:

    At the rare moments when the old fire did Nook in her handsome, fully developed body she was even more attractive than in former days.

    Captain Tushin, having given orders to his company, sent a soldier to find a dressing station or a doctor for the cadet, and sat down by a bonfire the soldiers had Nookd on the road.

    Probable explanation here

    Pretty funny. Also a useful reminder that computers, despite all their usefulness and power, are dumb and clumsy beasts, and when not properly supervised can do things considerably more harmful than messing up some passages from Tolstoy.

    (via Five Feet of Fury)


    12 Responses to “Hazards of Find & Replace”

    1. Jonathan Says:

      I’m sure they’ll fix this problem quickly :)

      The problem isn’t computers, it’s computer users who cut corners, which I think is your point. You can cause bigger problems faster with a computer than with a typewriter for the same reasons that you can be more productive with the computer.

      I would guess that many people with experience in actual computer programming would not have made this particular mistake, since most of them have probably at one time or another broken a routine by sloppy use of a batch replace command. Unfortunately, in book publishing there may be no feedback until customers complain — or, worse, ridicule you. That’s why it’s generally a good idea to check your work.

    2. David Foster Says:

      The thing about computers is, they are LITERAL.

      At the dawn of the computer age, some of the researchers involved (I’m thinking particularly of Norbert Wiener) found it appropriate to cite old folk tales in which a magical wish-granting power does whatever you want…EXACTLY whatever you want.

    3. Robert Schwartz Says:

      Candidate for a Pullet Surprise by Mark Eckman and Jerrold H. Zar

      I have a spelling checker,
      It came with my PC.
      It plane lee marks four my revue
      Miss steaks aye can knot sea.

      Eye ran this poem threw it,
      Your sure reel glad two no.
      Its vary polished in it’s weigh.
      My checker tolled me sew.

      There is more, but you get the point.

    4. Jonathan Says:

      i spel gr8 wen txtin

    5. PenGun Says:

      Illiterate techs need supervision. If you don’t know ‘kindle’ is a word you might do this.

    6. Elfsta Says:

      U kuld reeelee goh fcking crazee wit dis…

      And that’s a Master Thesis to come within this decade I warrant.

      Since I’m cruel, an agent of chaos who believes in tradition and have observed that most English Profs are gay communists with a childish crush on Che like characters, my Schadenfreude is deep and dark.

    7. Bill Brandt Says:

      I have programmed computers since the early 80’s – the frustrating thing about them is that they do exactly what we tell them to do ;-)

    8. John Burgess Says:

      They’ve been having fun with this phenomenon…

      Personal electronic deDeputys

    9. John Burgess Says:

      Sorry… that should have cited Language Log.

    10. Nicholas Says:

      Someone forgot to check the “case sensitive” box when they did their search-and-replace.

    11. Grey eagle Says:

      I think President Obama will use this as a powerful argument in favor of banning computer editors and spelling checkers so that the jobs these hsve programs stolen can be restored to the Middle Class. He will argue that too many jobs have been sacreficed on the altar of capitalist greed and unbridled lust.



    12. Angie Schultz Says:

      They’ve been having fun with this phenomenon…

      Be sure to click through to Language Log’s post on War and Peace, if only for the comments, to learn how Egypt was troubled by the horrible html.