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Spell-Checker Rewrites History:

My friend Rob Morris reports that Henry "Lighthorse Harry" Lee (Robert E. Lee's father), has been renamed:

[Lighthorse Harry] earned his nickname during the American War of Independence as commander of the Legion of Virginia. The nickname Lighthorse Harry has followed the man for over 200 years. Imagine dashing the dashing Lighthorse Harry, rallying his legionnaires as they complete the encirclement of Fort Watson in April, 1781. With a nickname like that, history remembers Lee as a man of action, forever in motion.

That is until spell-checking software anchored him on a rocky shore. It seems that "Lighthorse" isn't an English word spoken in Redmond, Washington (home of Microsoft Word) or Ottawa, Ontario (Home of Corel WordPerfect). Their spell checkers want to change it from "Lighthorse" to "Lighthouse," and they have.

Now various Web sites, including some at reputable locations -- the University of Houston Library, the Texas Archival Resources Online, and other places -- talk about Lighthouse Harry. As someone whose last name is changed by spell-checkers to Moloch, I empathize and protest.

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. Allen Ginsberg and My Family:
  2. The Spell Checker Knows:
  3. Spell-Checker Rewrites History:
The Spell Checker Knows:

In an earlier post, I complained that Microsoft Word's spell-checker suggested that "Volokh" be changed to "Moloch." I wasn't wild about the connection to a spiny-scaled lizard ("Moloch horridus") and especially not to a god to whom the Phoenicians and Canaanites supposedly sacrificed children.

But Seth Goldman points out the deep truth underlying Word's suggestion! A second definition of "Moloch" is:

Something possessing the power to exact severe sacrifice.

Around exam time, my students may well find this to be highly apt.

Allen Ginsberg and My Family:

Several readers pointed out to me that Allen Ginsberg had much to say about Moloch — which, to remind people, is what the MS Word spell checker changes Sasha's, Benjamin's, and my last name to. This makes me realize that Allen Ginsberg must have actually been writing about us, but his spell-checker screwed things up. Wow! In any case, here are his views of our clan, from Howl:

Moloch! Solitude! Filth! Ugliness! Ashcans and unob-
   tainable dollars! Children screaming under the
   stairways! Boys sobbing in armies! Old men
   weeping in the parks!
Moloch! Moloch! Nightmare of Moloch! Moloch the
   loveless! Mental Moloch! Moloch the heavy
   judger of men!
Moloch the incomprehensible prison! Moloch the
   crossbone soulless jailhouse and Congress of
   sorrows! Moloch whose buildings are judgment!
   Moloch the vast stone of war! Moloch the stun-
   ned governments!
Moloch whose mind is pure machinery! Moloch whose
   blood is running money! Moloch whose fingers
   are ten armies! Moloch whose breast is a canni-
   bal dynamo! Moloch whose ear is a smoking
   tomb!
Moloch whose eyes are a thousand blind windows!
   Moloch whose skyscrapers stand in the long
   streets like endless Jehovahs! Moloch whose fac-
   tories dream and croak in the fog! Moloch whose
   smokestacks and antennae crown the cities!
Moloch whose love is endless oil and stone! Moloch
   whose soul is electricity and banks! Moloch
   whose poverty is the specter of genius! Moloch
   whose fate is a cloud of sexless hydrogen!
   Moloch whose name is the Mind!
Moloch in whom I sit lonely! Moloch in whom I dream
   Angels! Crazy in Moloch! Cocksucker in
   Moloch! Lacklove and manless in Moloch!
Moloch who entered my soul early! Moloch in whom
   I am a consciousness without a body! Moloch
   who frightened me out of my natural ecstasy!
   Moloch whom I abandon! Wake up in Moloch!
   Light streaming out of the sky!
Moloch! Moloch! Robot apartments! invisible suburbs!
   skeleton treasuries! blind capitals! demonic
   industries! spectral nations! invincible mad
   houses! granite cocks! monstrous bombs!
They broke their backs lifting Moloch to Heaven! Pave-
   ments, trees, radios, tons! lifting the city to
   Heaven which exists and is everywhere about
   us!
Cool.

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. Allen Ginsberg and My Family:
  2. The Spell Checker Knows:
  3. Spell-Checker Rewrites History: