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June 19th, 2008
07:03 pm
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Renee Decart, white courtesy phone*
Google gets closer to DWIM every day.

It all started with an innocent typo. I mistyped Lewis Carroll as "Lewi Carroll" in Google while looking for his birthday.

... And Google cheerfully returned the results for the author without so much as acknowledging the misspelling.

This struck me as unusual. After all, with most errors -- such as Nancie Kerrigan for the figure skater Nancy -- Google will pester you with a little "Did You Mean:" line at the top of your results, showing you what you probably meant to type but returning the searches best matching your exact wording.

But search for Louis Carroll, and the results go straight to Lewis' Wikipedia page and several repositories of his works. None of the results' sample text even quote "Louis" until at least halfway down the page.

A little experimentation with other writers confirmed this wasn't a fluke. For example, the immortal words of Bill Shakespeare stand atop English literature. (Note, however, that Billy Shakespeare is someone else.)

Nor is it confined to the prose disciplines. Actors? Larry Olivier. Artists? Peter Mondrian. Musicians? Axle Rose.

And of course philosophers, like the suave and enigmatic Renee Decart.

Found other interesting "canonical" misspellings? Submit your own in comments!**

--
* DEAR GOD, the PHILOSOPHICAL MONISTS. </ObInJoke>
** Rules: Name has to
1) NOT produce a "Did You Mean" message;
2) NOT contain top references to a different person;
3) return substantially similar top references as the original.

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(11 comments | Leave a comment)

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[User Picture]
From:packbat
Date:June 20th, 2008 02:15 am (UTC)
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the amazing randy is a near miss - there apparently is one, and he gets the fifth hit. Otherwise very close, though.
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From:baxil
Date:June 20th, 2008 02:23 am (UTC)

Win

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"Top references" is kind of a waffle term. Frankly, with the top three references being basically identical (#2 is a different page on randi.org), this one's a good and shining example. :)
(Deleted comment)
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From:baxil
Date:June 20th, 2008 06:54 am (UTC)
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... Wow. How'd you find that one? Every other I/Y swap I've tried has failed.
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From:lienne
Date:June 20th, 2008 02:43 am (UTC)
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From:baxil
Date:June 20th, 2008 06:41 am (UTC)
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Hee. :)

I am reminded that there is much fanfic potential in "Blake's Se7en." As in, the author + the movie. Unfortunately, I'm not the fellow to write it.
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From:baphnedia
Date:June 20th, 2008 04:42 am (UTC)
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All I know is that my name comes up as somebody else :( I guess I have to get back to writing...
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From:baxil
Date:June 20th, 2008 06:43 am (UTC)
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... It does? Your Myspace page was the first result, followed by your website, when I searched just now.
From:mithent
Date:June 20th, 2008 11:09 am (UTC)
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How about Gorge Bush? There may be too many different top references, though the Wikipedia article is first on both, and it highlights the keyword "George" in many.

I do occasionally have the opposite problem - that I want to search for something very specific, but Google decides my search was wrong and changes it. I can't think of any examples right now, but let's hope you never need to find information on the flora found in ravines, for example.
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From:dancinglights
Date:June 20th, 2008 04:59 pm (UTC)
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Hoom. This actually kind of bothers me. How am I supposed to learn correct names and spelling if it doesn't even tell me I'm wrong and make me click through anymore?

I do actually lazily use Google search bar as my spellcheck, especially for famous names. This does not DWIM!
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From:necama
Date:June 21st, 2008 06:49 pm (UTC)
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Heh. Try googling "philosophical monists." You'll be a little surprised, I bet.
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From:foxgrrl
Date:September 15th, 2008 05:32 am (UTC)
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It may be a normalization thingy that's done is some text search databases, where [English] words with and without a final "S" will be merged together. So "Shoe" and "Shoes" are the same, and "Cat" and "Cats" are the same, etc. So "Lewis" may be the plural of "Lewi". But then again, Google has done a lot of research and development in natural language processing.
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