The Cupertino effect

When I was an editor on Holiday Which? magazine, a colleague submitted a typescript about the Lake District that recommended readers to take their Renoir. Now, the region may be better known for its natural beauty than for its cultural attractions, but I still thought it a bit OTT that we expected visitors to provide their own artistic stimulation. It turned out that the writer had run her copy through the spellchecker, which, not recognising the word “rainwear”, had substituted “Renoir”.

Apparently, there is an official term for this – it’s called the Cupertino effect. Benjamin Zimmer of OUP says that when writers and translators for the European Union wrote “cooperation” without a hyphen, early spellcheckers failed to recognised it as a word and substituted “Cupertino” instead (Apple fans will know that Cupertino is the city in northern California where the computer company is based):

Sure enough, there are dozens of Cupertinos to be found in online documents from the UN, EU, NATO, and other international organizations. “The Cupertino with our Italian comrades proved to be very fruitful,” a German NATO officer was quoted as saying. Meanwhile, the EU’s Scientific and Technical Research Committee proposed “stimulating cross-border Cupertino”.

To press home the point, the poem Candidate for a Pullet Surprise by Mark Eckman and Jerrold H Zar contains 225 words, of which 123 are faulty, though they are all spelled correctly:

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.

A checker is a bless sing,
It freeze yew lodes of thyme.
It helps me right awl stiles two reed,
And aides me when eye rime.

Each frays come posed up on my screen
Eye trussed too bee a joule.
The checker pours o’er every word
To cheque sum spelling rule.

Bee fore a veiling checker’s
Hour spelling mite decline,
And if we’re lacks oar have a laps,
We wood bee maid too wine.

Butt now bee cause my spelling
Is checked with such grate flare,
Their are know fault’s with in my cite,
Of nun eye am a wear.

Now spelling does knot phase me,
It does knot bring a tier.
My pay purrs awl due glad den
With wrapped word’s fare as hear.

To rite with care is quite a feet
Of witch won should bee proud,
And wee mussed dew the best wee can,
Sew flaw’s are knot aloud.

Sow ewe can sea why aye dew prays
Such soft wear four pea seas,
And why eye brake in two averse
Buy righting want too pleas.

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