Meanings: “Cupertino Effect”

April 11, 2012

A useful term that’s several years old now, but one I’ve just learned.

The “Cupertino effect” is the name that’s been coined for errors that arise from an over-muscular application of the spellcheck function of word processors.  A spellchecker might erroneously substitute “prostitute” for “prosciutto” in a recipe, for example.  Or the spellchecker might discard the proper name of a Pakistani political organization, the Muttahida Quami Movement, and refer instead to the Muttonhead Quail Movement.

Apparently a common such error in official European Union documents has been the substitution of “Cupertino” for misspellings of “cooperation.” Hence the coinage of “Cupertino effect.”

Why would the word “Cupertino” be in the spellchecker at all?  Because it is the worldwide headquarters of Apple, of course.


About Doug Bennett

Doug Bennett is Emeritus President and Professor of Politics at Earlham College. He has a wife, Ellen, and two sons, Tommy (born 1984) and Robbie (born 2003).
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One Response to Meanings: “Cupertino Effect”

  1. martinkelley says:

    The effect’s only gotten more pronounced in recent years as more and more is written on tiny cell phone screens and goes throujgh their auto-corrects (I’m commenting by phone now). Oftentimes the guessed word is humorous, but especially in the case of names it can be mortifying. How long till we have an international incident prompted by an over-zealous autocorrect?

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