I’m currently finishing the 3rd edition of my Guide To Linux Certification for Cengage. In Chapter 7, I used the following text from Shakespeare in the section on the stream editor (sed):
Two households, both alike in dignity,
In fair Verona, where we lay our scene,
From ancient grudge break to new mutiny,
Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean.
From forth the fatal loins of these two foes
A pair of star-cross’d lovers take their life;
Whole misadventured piteous overthrows
Do with their death bury their parents’ strife.
The fearful passage of their death-mark’d love,
And the continuance of their parents’ rage,
Which, but their children’s end, nought could remove,
Is now the two hours’ traffic of our stage;
The which if you with patient ears attend,
What here shall miss, our toil shall strive to mend.
I originally grabbed that passage from the Internet (copy-and-paste is easier than typing), but the technical editor caught a typo (Whole misadventured piteous overthrows should be Whose misadventured piteous overthrows). I verified it on the Internet and just thought it was one of those weird Olde English things, but the copyeditor verified it as a typo (she has an English degree) and also found out that it was a simple transcription typo (Whose –> Whole) that managed to spread quickly across the Internet because most people prefer to copy-and-paste Shakespeare rather than type it out manually! Hilarious.
I would normally chalk this up to an Internet-related phenomenon, but this type of thing has happened long before the Internet. One example is my 1st year Physics prof at the University of Waterloo (Ken Woolner), who purposefully tried to test the gullibility of the scientific community. Scientific units are only capitalized if they are named after someone (e.g. Hz = Hertz). However L (Litre) is capitalized only because it looks like the number 1 otherwise. So he published an article entitled The Life and times of Claude Émile Jean-Baptiste Litre – it made it into most North American textbooks before he announced his clever hoax. However, you can still find the fictitious Claude Émile Jean-Baptiste Litre in many places today including Encyclopedia Brittanica and Collier’s Encyclopedia.