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  Join our FREE Illustrations Newsletter: Privacy Policy

    MISTAKE  cf. misfortune

    The following series of advertisements reportedly appeared in a daily newspaper:

    Monday: "The Rev. A.J. Jones has one color TV set for sale. Telephone 626-1313 after 7 p.m. and ask for Mrs. Donnelley who lives with him, cheap."

    Tuesday: "We regret any embarrassment caused to Rev. Jones by a typographical error in yesterday's paper. The ad should have read: 'The Rev. A.J. Jones has one color TV set for sale, cheap...Telephone 626-1313 and ask for Mrs. Donnelley, who lives with him after 7 p.m.'"

    Wednesday: "The Rev. A.J. Jones informs us that he has received several annoying telephone calls because of an incorrect ad in yesterday's paper. It should have read: 'The Rev. A.J. Jones has one color TV set for sale, cheap. Telephone 626-1313 after 7 p.m. and ask for Mrs. Donnelley who loves with him.'"

    Thursday: "Please take notice that I, the Rev. A.J. Jones, have no color TV set for sale; I have smashed it. Don't call 626-1313 anymore. I have not been carrying on with Mrs. Donnelley. She was, until yesterday, my housekeeper.'"

    Friday: "Wanted: a housekeeper. Usual housekeeping duties. Good pay. Love in, Rev. A.J. Jones. Telephone 626- 1313.'"

    Mistakes are inevitable in the publishing business.

    First United Methodist Church, Meadville, PA, Content The Newsletter Newsletter, August, 1990, p. 3.

    When a drum major tossed his baton in Ventura, California, it hit two 4000-volt power lines, blacking out a ten-block area and putting a radio station off the air. The baton melted.

    A bank robber in Los Angeles told the clerk not to give him cash, but to deposit the money to his checking account.

    On his first assignment for a Chicago newspaper, a rookie reporter drove a company car to a car-crushing plant, parked in the wrong spot, and returned from interviewing the manager just in time to see the vehicle being compacted into scrap metal.

    If you don't learn from your mistakes, there's no sense in making them. 

    Oops - The Book of Blunders, 1980.

    From the Pittsfield, Mass., Berkshire Eagle: "The recipe for Nikki's Meat Loaf Surprise, which appeared on Saturday, listed two dollops of wine as being about 11 ounces. It should have read 1 1/2 ounces."

    Source Unknown.

    As a woman placed her order in the takeout chicken shop, a look of consternation swept across the clerk's face, and a shocked buzz rustled through the line of customers. "What!" the clerk cried. "You want to know how much chicken you should order for three hundred people?"

    The woman waved her arms and shouted, "No, no -- three hungry people!"

    Source Unknown.

    From an errata slip for a cookbook published by Alfred A. Knopt: Page 95, line 14: "Exactly 12 minutes" should read exactly 12 seconds." Page 120, last line: "Spoon the floor" should read "spoon the flour." Page 145, line 16: "Skim off the meat" should read "skim off the fat." 

    Reader's Digest, September, 1983.

    While visiting in West Berlin I stopped at Kennedy Platz, the site of President John F. Kennedy's famous speech. The tour guide was recalling the climax of that impassioned address -- the part when the President paused and then cried, "Ich bin ein Berliner!" The crowd that day in 1963 was swept up in the emotion of his words and ignored their meaning until later.

    Kennedy had wanted to say, "Ich bin Berliner!" or "I am a Berliner!" But what he actually said was, "Ich bin ein Berliner!" or "I am a jelly doughnut!" 

    Contributed by Kathleen Flood, Reader's Digest.

    Members of a Virginia volunteer fire department were so proud of their expensive new Hurst tool (known as the "Jaws of Life") that they held a special demonstration last October to show how it could cut into an automobile and rescue people trapped inside. As an appreciative crowd looked on, two fire- fighters quickly ripped a door from a 1966 Buick. They pulled its steering wheel through the windshield and knocked out all the windows.

    At that point, a voice cried out, "Hey, what have you done to my car?"

    "The man was livid," reported one onlooker. He had good reason to be upset. The firefighters, in the enthusiasm, had cut up the wrong car. Their president promised that the department would pay the owner for the loss of his car. "It was just a mistake," the chief kept saying, "just a mistake."

    Ronald D. White in Washington Post, Reader's Digest, March 1980.

    Great Slips of the Tongue in U.S. Politics:

    "The United States has much to offer the third world war."

    (Ronald Reagan in 1975, speaking on Third World countries; he repeated the error nine times).

    "Thank you, Governor Evidence." (President Richard M. Nixon, referring to Washington State Gov. Daniel Evans in a speech during the Watergate period).

    "I hope that Spiro Agnew will be completely exonerated and found guilty of the charges against him." (John Connally, in a 1973 speech). 

    Irving Wallace, Book of Lists, 1980, Wm. Morrow & Co. NY, NY.

    Two teenagers burst through the front door and raced to the counter with an empty pillow case.

    "Put it in," they demanded of the clerk.

    "Put what in?" the attendant asked.

    "The money. Put it in and nobody'll get hurt," they barked.

    The puzzled library attendant, who had less than $1 in collected fines in the petty cash box, ducked out the door and called the police. They, too, were dumbfounded.

    "It's the first attempted library robbery I ever heard of," said one cop, scratching his head.

    The only plausible explanation was that the two careless crooks got the Grandon City, Kansas, bank mixed up with the library. The two buildings are a block apart on corner locations, and at the time, the bank's exterior was partially obstructed by scaffolding.

    The youths, believed to be runaways from Florida, were nabbed by police hours after the bungled heist. In keeping with their crime, the bonehead bandits were taken into custody and promptly "booked". 

    Campus Life, March, 1980, p. 27.

    There is one redeeming thing about a mistake. It proves that somebody stopped talking long enough at least to do something. 

    Irving Wallace, Book of Lists, 1980, Wm. Morrow & Co., NY, NY.

    Memorable Boners:

    In Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, Act II, Scene II, Caesar asks Brutus, "What is't o'clock?" Brutus replies, "Caesar, 'its strucken eight." The Bard had forgotten that mechanical clocks were not invented until 14 centuries after Caesar's death.

    As part of their "Think Toy Safety" promotional campaign of the 1970's the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission ordered 80,000 buttons. Unfortunately, the buttons themselves were dangerous. Their edges were sharp, the fasteners unsnapped too easily and --worst of all -- the buttons had been coated with lead paint.

    Irving Wallace, Book of Lists, 1980, Wm. Morrow & Co., NY, NY.

    Football has its share of improbable -- like the time Chicago Cardinals' Clint Wagers prepared for a field goal attempt. Evidently his educated toe had its own ideas that day, for it missed the porkhide completely and slammed into his face, fracturing his jaw! (Maybe that explains why you've never heard of the Chicago Cardinals!)

    Or we could tell you all about the time a Rice player ran full speed toward a perfectly teed ball ready for the kickoff -- only to land flat on his back. But we won't. 

    Campus Life.

    What you'd get if 99% were good enough:

    No phone service for 15 minutes each day.

    1.7 million pieces of first class mail lost each day.

    35,000 newborn babies dropped by doctors or nurses each year

    200,000 people getting the wrong drug prescriptions each year

    Unsafe drinking water three days a year.

    Three misspelled words on the average page of type.

    2 million people would die from food poisoning each year.

    Source Unknown.

    When Jim Burke became the head of a new products division at Johnson & Johnson, one of his first projects was the development of a children's chest rub. The product failed miserably, and Burke expected that he would be fired. When he was called in to see the chairman of the board, however, he met a surprising reception. "Are you the one who just cost us all that money?" asked Robert Wood Johnson. "Well I just want to congratulate you. If you are making mistakes, that means you are taking risks, and we won't grow unless you take risks." Some years later, when Burke himself became chairman of J&J, he continued to spread that word. 

    Reader's Digest, October, 1991, p. 62.

    Some mistakes seem to stand forever. The distance from the pitcher's mound to home plate in baseball--60 feet, 6 inches-- stands today because someone back in 1893 misread an order for measuring 60'0" as 60'6"! 

    The "front" of the Capitol building in Washington, D.C., faces away from the main part of the city instead of toward it because architect Pierre L'Enfant mistakenly thought the city would develop eastward, not westward! 

    Today in the Word, July, 1989, p. 16.

    Are you strong enough to face how mistaken many of your most cherished beliefs are?

    *Marie Antionette did not say "Let them eat cake." The phrase was attributed to her by those in opposition to Louis XVI, but had actually been used by other prominent figures long before.

    *Charles Lindbergh was not the first person to fly nonstop across the Atlantic. He was the 92nd, although he was the first to do it alone.

    *The centipede doesn't have a hundred legs; it usually has 21 or 30, though some have more than 100. And the millipede certainly doesn't have a thousand legs; very few have more than 200.

    *"A red flag to a bull" is meaningless--because bulls are colorblind.

    *The Emperor Nero did not fiddle while Rome burned. Fiddles had not been invented, and at the time of the fire he was 35 miles away.

    *An ostrich never buries its head in the sand. It only looks that way when it lowers its head in fear, to feed itself, or to cover its eggs for protection. 

    Byles Brandreth, More Joy of Lex.

    Before you send out your next resume', weed out the goofs, cautions recruiting executive Robert Half, who has been collecting examples of "resumania" for years. Some of his favorites: "Please call after 5:30 p.m. because I am self-employed and my employer does not know I am looking for another job." 

    "I am very conscientions and accurite." 

    "I am also a notary republic." 

    "The firm currently employs 20 odd people."

    "My consideration will be given to relocation anywhere in the English-speaking world and/or Washington, D.C." 

    Under physical disabilities: "Minor allergies to house cats and Mongolian sheep." 

    And reasons given for leaving the last job: "The company made me a scapegoat--just like my previous three employers did."

    Business Times.

    It was a simple clerical error, but it could be the most expensive typo of all time. In 1978 Prudential, the largest insurance company in the U.S. loaned $160 million to United States Lines, a shipping firm. As part of the deal, Prudential got a lien on eight ships. In 1986 U.S. Lines went into bankruptcy proceedings and started selling off assets. Prudential said it was owed nearly $93 million, the value of the lien, from the ships' sale. Or so the insurance company thought. A close look at the lien documents disclosed that someone had omitted three little zeros, thus entitling Prudential to $92,885 only instead of $92,885,000. The mistake loomed larger when McLean Industries, parent firm of U.S. Lines, sold the ships for $67 million. In a settlement approved later by a federal court, McLean agreed to give Prudential the proceeds from the sale of the ships--minus $11 million. That was the price McLean demanded for disregarding the missing zeros.

    Source Unknown.