Writers, get your names right

There was a hilarious story by Kirsten Grieshaber on Associated Press the other day, Heil Hound: Nazis dogged by Hitler-mocking mutt.

The story about a Finnish businessman’s dog trained to lift its paw in a mock Nazi salute is in itself both amazing and hilarious. There’s some sloppiness, however. Although the people’s names are spelled correctly, a total of three typos have managed to find their way to the name of the businessman’s company, two words.

The company was called Tampereen Rohdoskauppa Oy, later to become one of northern Europe’s largest pharmaceutical wholesalers under the name Tamro. The article, however, spells it Tapereen Rohduskuppa Oy (the “Oy” is the Finnish abbreviation of the company form, roughly equivalent to “Ltd”).

First, “Tapereen”. It should, of course, be Tampereen, from the name of the city, Tampere.

Second, “Rohdus”. There is no such word in Finnish. The correct form, Rohdos, means ‘drug’.

Third, “kuppa”. The typo here is rather unfortunate. Instead of kauppa (‘store’), the writer says “kuppa” (‘syphilis’).

Of course, foreign names can be difficult as the words don’t say anything if you don’t speak the language. I don’t think, however, that this can be an excuse. If you don’t know what words mean, you should take extra care to get them right.

This is particularly important when writing about people. A person’s name is one of the most important components in his or her identity toward the outside world, so it is almost an insult not to make sure it is spelled right. Even more so because when you do make a mistake, Murphy’s law dictates it will probably result in something obscene (for some unfathomable reason, typos seldom create innocent humour).

So whether you’re writing for a publication or for your company, please take special care with names. Companies, products, people are all named the way they are for a reason. As much as it is your duty to get the facts right, it is to get the names right.

Update: Within the scope of two days, AP seems to have corrected the “Tampereen” bit of the company name. The other two typos still exist.

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