Champion sprinter switches teams in online filter glitch 

Word Games

Last month, world champion sprinter Tyson Gay faced disappointment as his record-breaking 9.68-second run of the 100 meter dash was disqualified as a world record because of a strong tailwind.

He nevertheless qualified during the U.S. Olympic trials.

You'd think that would be a big story in the sports world, and it was, but it became a net phenomenon after OneNewsNow.com's search and replace filters got a hold of it. The American Family Association's website has filters in place that alter wire-service stories to be more in line with their values.

Thus, Tyson Gay had his name changed to Tyson Homosexual.

"Tyson Homosexual was a blur in blue, sprinting 100 meters faster than anyone ever has," the filtered story read. "His time of 9.68 seconds at the U.S. Olympic trials Sunday doesn't count as a world record, because it was run with the help of a too-strong tailwind. Here's what does matter: Homosexual qualified for his first Summer Games team and served notice he's certainly someone to watch in Beijing.

'It means a lot to me,' the 25-year-old Homosexual said. 'I'm glad my body could do it, because now I know I have it in me.'"

And then it led to this little gem:

"Wearing a royal blue uniform with red and white diagonal stripes across the front, along with matching shoes, all in a tribute to 1936 Olympic star Jesse Owens, Homosexual dominated the competition.

"He started well and pulled out to a comfortable lead by the 40-meter mark. This time, he kept pumping those legs all the way through the finish line, extending his lead.

"In Saturday's opening heat, Homosexual pulled way up, way too soon, and nearly was caught by the field, before accelerating again and lunging in for fourth place."

According to "The Sleuth" at The Washington Post, Fred Jackson, news director of OneNewsNow.com, offered this defense: "We don't object to the word 'gay,'" Jackson explained, except "when it refers to people who practice a homosexual lifestyle."

I imagine there are quite a few words they do object to, in their original context. Take "bush" and "dick." Both are slang words that also have less offensive alternatives. What might happen if the words from a 2002 quote by our president about his VP were altered using a search and replace filter? Perhaps it would be something like this:

"I hope one day I can clone another Penis. Then I won't have to do anything," said President Pubic Hair.

But sprinters and unfortunately named heads of state aren't the only ones susceptible to possible misconstrued meanings.

Barack Obama has been dealing with internet rumors for months and a recent Hotmail glitch didn't help things. The spell-check feature failed to recognize Obama and instead suggested Osama as the first alternative.

No doubt many users simply OK'd the spell check suggestions and sent out error-ridden e-mails.

The out of control spell-check problem is also known as The Cupertino Effect, made famous by a glitch that replaced misspellings of "cooperation" with "Cupertino."

This is mostly benign and sometimes funny, but it can be a real problem. International translators lean heavily on the auto-correct features of Microsoft Word and other word-processing programs. This leads to malaprops like this one courtesy of Languagehat.com in which "cooperation" was substituted by something other than "Cupertino": "Albania was very interested in concluding a customs copulation agreement."

The bottom line is this: Don't let machines do the thinking for you. Whether it comes from the thought police or your spell-checker, there is no substitute for a strong mind and some thoroughness.


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