Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Prime Minister's Office "bummed" out!

PMO typo draws chuckles, cringes
Misspelling of Iqaluit translates as a derogatory term for 'people with unwiped bums'
Prime Minister Stephen Harper is greeted by Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq and Nunvavut Premier Eva Aariak as he arrives in Iqaluit on Aug.17, 2009. The Canadian Press

Terry Pedwell
Ottawa — The Canadian Press
Tuesday, August 18, 2009

A bumble by the Prime Minister's Office has residents of Nunavut alternately chuckling and cringing.

A news release sent out Monday outlined Prime Minister Stephen Harper's itinerary as he began a five-day Arctic tour.

The release repeatedly spelled the capital of Nunavut as Iqualuit – rather than Iqaluit, which means “many fish” in the Inuktitut language.

The extra “u” makes a big difference.

“It means people with unwiped bums,” said Sandra Inutiq of the office of the Languages Commissioner of Nunavut.

“It's not exactly a nice term.”

Ms. Inutiq said people who speak Inuktitut are sometimes offended or even angered when non-northerners incorrectly spell the name of their capital.

The Prime Minister's Office was apologetic, calling the gaffe a human error that might teach Canadians an important lesson about spelling mistakes.

“Hopefully this unfortunate typo, which we have corrected, will inform the greater public that there is no [extra] ‘u' in Iqaluit,” said Harper spokesman Dimitri Soudas.

“We obviously strive to have the highest possible standard in terms of spelling and grammar... When typos do occur, and we notice them, we either issue a revised advisory or immediately correct it.”

He pointed out that many media outlets, including The Canadian Press, have misspelled Iqaluit with an extra “u.”

The initial release was replaced on the PMO website by early Tuesday, but not before being noticed by some northern bloggers, many of whom were incensed by the mistake.

At least one suggested that the person who wrote the release should lose their job, while some merely ridiculed the author.

“Ohhh oh, someone's going to get fired,” wrote one blogger on a site titled Advocatus diaboli.

“And then the other fellow who was supposed to check and proof the release. I would hope so anyway.”

Ms. Inutiq estimated that nearly half of the correspondence received by her office has Iqaluit misspelled.

“I just received an invitation from a university who did the same,” she said.

A quick search of Google on Tuesday revealed more than 100,000 online pages with some reference to the improperly spelled version.

Media websites carried stories Tuesday with various spellings of Iqaluit, even as many acknowledged their own past misspellings.

“A quick search of a number of media sites, including our own, shows this is a common error committed by southerners,” wrote James Fitz-Morris on the CBC's media blurb.

“In fact, CBC viewers with a keen eye may spot a strip of red tape across one of our studio backdrops. Across it is typed the word ‘Ottawa,' beneath it is what was originally printed on the backdrop: ‘Iqualuit.' ”

Known as Frobisher Bay prior to 1987, the city on the south coast of Baffin Island was named capital of Nunavut when the territory was created in 1999.

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