THE MUSTARD STAIN

Are typos a big deal? True typographical errors, misspellings, incorrect homonyms and the like all get lumped together under the rubric of “typos” these days. Many people seem to accept them the way we’ve come to accept a certain percentage of rodent parts in the processed food we buy. (You do realize that the government allows a certain amount of pest contamination in food, don’t you? There are actually acceptable levels of rodent “excreta” and insect parts in what you’ll have for lunch. Bon appétit!)

Those pesky typos have a more insidious side. While we might brush them off at a conscious level, they send a message to the subconscious that controls our beliefs and attitudes.

The example I like to use is a salesman who comes to call. He’s a handsome gent, well-coiffed, with a smile resulting from skillfully applied orthodontia and bleaching. His Armani three-piece appears to have been sewn specifically for his frame, and his perfectly pressed Oxford shirt is punctuated by an extraordinary silk tie. Your first thought is that he could have walked off the cover of GQ. And then you notice the mustard. Five inches from the bottom of the tie, there’s a glob of brown mustard that dripped from the corned beef sandwich he had at lunch.

Long after you forget his smile, his suit, and what it was he was trying to sell you, you’ll remember that glob of mustard. When his name comes up in office conversation, someone will ask, “Wasn’t he the guy with the mustard?”

Typos, my friend, are the printed equivalents of that glob.

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