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Typos That Had Huge Unexpected Consequences

Updated June 14, 2019 74.2k views13 items

Typos have been a part of human history ever since people began to read and write. While they mostly effect publishing companies rather than individuals, anyone who has ever written a essay or typed out a message on social media will be aware of how easily unfortunate typos can creep into text and change its entire meaning.

As the written word has had such an impact of our history, it makes sense that some clerical errors could have had a major effect on the world around us and that some of these mistakes could even have changed the world. It only takes the smallest of typos to have a huge effect and lead to unexpected consequences that no one could have foreseen, costing companies millions of dollars and leading to catastrophic disasters.

While you may think that such mistakes can no longer happen thanks to modern technologies, such as the autocorrect feature present on almost every computer and mobile device, typos are still all around us. This is largely due to the fact that more people write or type today than ever before, leading to plenty of possibilities for errors to make their way into important documents, lines of code, and even holy books.

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  • The Name Google Was A Complete Accident

    The Name Google Was A Complete Accident
    Photo: Tobias Haase / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 2.0

    In September 1997, Larry Page and his fellow Google founders were discussing what to call their newly created search engine. Sean Anderson suggested the word “googolplex.” A googolplex is a very large number, and the search engine would have to deal with a huge amount of data, so it made sense.

    Page liked the idea but decided to shorten it to “googol,” as it would be catchier and easier to read. When Anderson went to search for the term to see if the domain name was available, he misspelt the word as google and registered it after Page liked the alternative spelling. This effectively means that the name of one of the most influential and powerful companies in the world was a typo.

  • A Misprint In Official State Koran Caused Political Turmoil

    A Misprint In Official State Koran Caused Political Turmoil
    Photo: Malaiya / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

    Kuwait was plunged into political turmoil in 1991 when the Emir of Kuwait, Sheikh Jaber al-Ahmad al-Sabah, dissolved parliament to stop MPs from issuing a vote of no confidence in him.

    The move came after free, state-made copies of the Koran had typos and misprints in them that essentially omitted a few passages of the holy book. This caused outrage amongst many Muslims in Kuwait as they thought that the Sheikh was trying to change the faith. This directly led to him dissolving the elected body.

  • A Missing Comma Led To Contract Confusion For A Massive Merger

    A Missing Comma Led To Contract Confusion For A Massive Merger
    Photo: Raysonho / Wikimedia Commons / CC0 1.0

    Contracts need to be checked very carefully by all parties before they are signed. After all, they are the integral way that business relationships are cemented and once they come into effect they are legally binding. Really, you'd expect big companies not to just blindly agree to a contract like you do to your Apple software updates.   

    Two companies in Canada found out the hard way that getting grammar exactly correct in such contracts is vitally important, as a typo that included an extra comma meant that Rogers Communications could cancel their agreement after just one year rather than the five years initially planned. It cost Bell Aliant more than $1 million.

  • Chile Had To Leave Thousands Of Misprinted Coins In Circulation After An Error

    Chile Had To Leave Thousands Of Misprinted Coins In Circulation After An Error
    Photo: axelle b

    When Chile announced that it was set to issue hundreds of thousands of new coins in 2008, no one could have guessed they would go on to be a national embarrassment and cost several mint executives their jobs.

    See, all the coins had a rather obvious typo on them that got the name of the country wrong. The coins actually had “Chiie” stamped on them. As so many of the coins had already entered circulation, they could not be effectively recalled. Mint boss Gregorio Iniguez and several other employees all lost their jobs as a result of the blunder.