There Are Typos and There Are TYPOS

Words can be misspelled and commas misplaced without doing violence to the meaning of the text. Occasionally one notices an astonishingly inappropriate typo that not only distorts but actually reverses the intended message, as in the following paragraph:

The International Symposium on Focal Therapy and Imaging in Prostate and Kidney Cancer is a joint initiative of the departments of urology at Duke [University], Durham, North Carolina, and AMC, Amsterdam…. The initiative has a purely educational focus [on]… minimally invasive treatment… that destroys the known area(s) of cancer while preventing a man’s continence and potency.… (www.focaltherapy.org)

Either preserving (rather than preventing) was meant, or the writer omitted some important prefixes (incontinence, impotence).

The Thing Is, Is…

Note how Wikipedia defends “legitimate usages of two successive copulae”:

The double copula, also known as the reduplicative copuladouble is or Isis, is the usage of two successive copulae when only one is necessary, largely in spoken English. For example:

My point is, is that…

This should not be confused with legitimate usages of two successive copulae, such as:

What my point is is that…

In the latter sentence, “What my point is” is a dependent clause, and functions as a subject. In the former sentence, “My point” is a complete subject, and requires only one copula.

The double copula is nonstandard in written form. Its increasing occurrence in natural speech, however, is significant, and has affected its rate of commonness in any informal writings contexts.

What happens is, is that someone begins a sentence having no idea how it is going to end. Rather than fumbling around with superfluous clauses (“What my point is is that what on earth was he thinking, wearing a gorilla suit to a wake?”), the speaker could have (with a split second’s forethought) communicated with greater clarity and elegance (“My point is that a gorilla suit doesn’t belong at a wake”).



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