Surging Candidates Have Spell-Check Issues

Jan 7, 2008 4:36pm

ABC News’ Z. Byron Wolf Reports: Spending a lot of time writing about the presidential election has led to some eternal questions about the Microsoft Outlook dictionary. How many primary states does a candidate have to win to get his (or her) name in the dictionary?

One, apparently, is not enough.

As a result, spell-checking can be tricky. First of all, if you write "Obama" (as in Illinois Senator Barack Obama, winner of the Iowa Caucus and leader in current New Hampshire polls), Microsoft wants to change it to "Osama." This would be an unfortunate and inaccurate correction that could, given the connotation in this country of the word "Osama," lead to some allegations of media bias.

It’s less serious with former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, who won the Republican caucus in Iowa. The dictionary wants to change him to "Chickadee," a bird that is described at dictionary.com as "any of several North American birds of the genus Parus, of the titmouse family, esp. P. atricapillus (black-capped chickadee), having the throat and top of the head black."

While Huckabee would probably cringe at being part of the "titmouse" family, perhaps there are similarities. Birds sing pretty songs and Huckabee has a voice worthy of talk radio.

Meanwhile, "Kucinich" is a perfectly acceptable entry.

"Romney" is not flagged as a misspelling. But this is not particularly surprising since Mitt’s father George was governor of Michigan. A "romney" is also apparently "one of an English breed of hardy sheep, having coarse, long wool."

Indeed, the former governor of Massachusetts has got quite a head of hair, although its coarseness appears to come from hair care products.

"McCain" is about as general an Irish name as you can get. Outlook’s dictionary doesn’t flag it, but there are no entries at dictionary.com.

It’s a similar story with "Fred Thompson," "Ron Paul," "Bill Richardson" and "Duncan Hunter."

"Hillary Clinton" is not flagged, but she was a First Lady and New York Senator long before she ran for President.

NOTE: The informal study that led to this posting was conducted on one reporter’s ABC-issued computer. It’s entirely possible that future issues of Outlook will have more up-to-date dictonaries and one new entry for 44th President of the United States.

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