Posted on June 26, 2015
There’s something reassuring about a typo. It reveals a human hand.
Of course, typos can be generated by automated systems too. Usually as a result of a “bug” in the system, as was the case in Terry Gilliam’s 1985 film Brazil.
In case you haven’t seen it, a swatted fly falls into a teletype machine while it’s churning out arrest warrants at the Ministry of Information, thus causing innocent cobbler Archibald Buttle to be confused with heating engineer and suspected terrorist Archibald ‘Harry’ Tuttle.
This stroke of cinematic genius was the brainchild of playwright Tom Stoppard, who was hired in 1982 to work on Gilliam’s film treatment. Stoppard’s contribution made the movie more darkly comic than it would otherwise have been.
Such is the power of the typo. Don’t think of it as making a mistake, think of it as making art.
(Incidentally, Tom doesn’t make typos, he delegates them:
“I write plays from beginning to end, without making stabs at intermediate scenes, so the first thing I write is the first line of the play. By that time I have formed some idea of the set, but I don’t write that down. I don’t write down anything that I can keep in my head—stage directions and so on. When I have got to the end of the play — which I write with a fountain pen, you can’t scribble with a typewriter — there is almost nothing on the page except what people say. Then I dictate the play, ad-libbing all the stage directions, into a tape machine from which my secretary transcribes the first script.”