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Definition

Cupertino effect

The Cupertino effect is an erroneous suggestion or replacement by a spellchecker, auto-correct program or smartphone predictive text feature. The Cupertino effect got its name because Word ‘97 suggested Cupertino when co-operation was spelled without a hyphen. Cupertino is a small city in California, best known for being the home of Apple.    

Although it sometimes results in unintended humor, the Cupertino effect can make the writer appear less intelligent.  In Microsoft Word, for example, when a user misspells the word “definitely” as “definatly,” the auto correct program changes the word to “defiantly.” Unfortunately, some users assume the latter to be the correct spelling instead of a completely different word and continue to spell the word incorrectly.

Here are some examples of the Cupertino effect that appeared in print:

  • Queen Elizabeth has 10 times the lifespan of workers and lays up to 2,000 eggs a day. (Reuters)
  • Football player DeMeco Ryans’ name changed to Demerol. (New York Times)
  • Lord Voldemort changed to Lord Voltmeter. (Denver Post)
  • Quaker Maid Meats Inc. on Tuesday said it would voluntarily recall 94,400 pounds of frozen ground beef panties that may be contaminated with E. coli. (Reuters)

 

The Cupertino effect is often noted in text messages sent from cell phones and smartphones, which have small keyboards and display areas and are often operated in less-than-optimum typing environments and postures. New York Times’ technology columnist David Pogue requested smartphone auto correct errors from his Twitter followers. Replies included the following:

  • My iPod Touch thinks “Donner party” should be “dinner party.” It has a morbid sense of humor. (@TMatysik)
  • “What was I thinking?” -> “What was I honking?” (@gregcfl)
  • A relative e-mailed Richard Moxon, a distinguished pediatrics prof at Oxford, only to find his name auto-corrected to “Moron.” (@hmf284)
  • Mine changes “meh” to “Meg.” Texted my significant other, “I’m feeling pretty Meg today.” Got an interesting response. (@sheldonc)

 

Continue reading about the Cupertino effect:

> When Spellcheckers Attack: Perils of the Cupertino Effect

> Auto correct follies

This was last updated in October 2011

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