Top 10 Typos That Almost Changed the World


Spend 10 minutes on Facebook or 5 minutes on Tumblr and you’re bound to see a spelling mistake. They’re an unavoidable fact of life born from a combination of laziness and more laziness. However, some spelling mistakes and typos are more curious than others. Here are 10 of the best we could find.

10. Jesus’ name misspelled, on a coin released by the Vatican.


We’re going to go out on a limb here and guess that the people involved directly with the Vatican encounter the word “Jesus” a little more than the average person on the street. We wouldn’t be surprised if half of the people working there could write it in their sleep. So when the Vatican released an official medal to commemorate Pope Francis being elected to the prestigious position of Pope, on which they spelled the word Jesus wrong, it was a huge source of embarrassment for them. The medals, which stylised Jesus as “Lesus” were quickly recalled to be destroyed, though not before savvy collectors managed to snag a few. Ironically, by destroying the medals, the ones that survived became even rarer, catapulting the value of each on to astronomical levels.

Now we could understand a normal person making this mistake, but these were people working for the Vatican, we genuinely can’t fathom how nobody working there noticed this mistake. We mean, seriously, surely the lack of the letter J at least tipped somebody off that something was slightly amiss.

9. Jack the Ripper’s spelling mistakes makes it easier for people to send hoax letters.


Jack the Ripper is known by criminologists and and laypersons alike as one of the most sinister serial killers in all of history. Even today, over a century after he stalked the streets of London, people are still fervently arguing over his identity and motives. One of the things that made Jack so infamous amongst the public was his annoying habit of supposedly taunting the police through letters. We say “supposedly” only because it has never been conclusively proven that the letters were from the killer.

But we digress. The three messages commonly attributed to the killer himself are the “Dear Boss” letter,  the “Saucy Jacky” postcard and the “From Hell” letter. All of them shared stylistic similarities, knowledge of the crimes scenes and an abundance of spelling mistakes. As noted here, after the police received the second postcard, in a fit of frustration they posted copies of both letters for the public to see outside of the station, hoping that someone would recognize the handwriting and turn Jack in. As an example of how bad Jack’s handwriting and spelling supposedly was, try and spot the mistakes in this quote from one the “Openshaw letter”:

“Old boss you was rite it was the left kidny I was goin to hopperate agin close to your ospitle just as I was goin to dror mi nife along of er bloomin throte then cusses of coppers spoilt the game”

Because the public is mainly composed of d-bags, almost as soon as the letters were printed in the press and made available for the public to view the police were flooded with hundreds of copycat letters. Many were made to look authentic without sparing use of Jack’s common spelling mistakes and the other stylistic features present in his letters. Because the case was still open, the police had to waste hundreds of precious man-hours investigating the sources of these various hoax letters. You know, instead of spending it actually looking for the guy stabbing everyone. Gee, thanks, Victorian era British public.

8. There’s a mistake in Newton’s Principia that went unnoticed for 3 centuries.


Okay so this isn’t a spelling mistake, per se, but considering all of the letters Newton used in his mathematical equations, we think it’s close enough to be featured here. Principia is Newton’s most famous piece of work, and it effectively laid the groundwork for everything we currently understand about gravity and the laws of motion today. The impact this book made on science is so great that when Newton dropped the first copy on his publisher’s desk, it immediately caught fire (probably) and it has been studied by eggheads and people with more Ph.D’s than you could shake a stick at for centuries.

With that in mind, the fact that there is a mistake in this book that went unnoticed for hundreds of years is not only surprising, it’s technically a statistical impossibility. Unbelievably though, there totally was a mistake in the book that went unnoticed until 1987. Newton accidentally put the wrong number into an equation and getting the number 11 instead of 10.5, which as we all know may as well be a million in the world of math equations. What’s even more unbelievable is that the mistake was noticed by a student, not an expert or one of the literally thousands of people who’ve studied the book before. The student, unsurprisingly, got an A+ on the paper in which he noticed the mistake.

7. The various misprinted Bibles.

Bible typo

The Bible has been reprinted more times than Batman’s origin story, and the stories behind some of them are almost as brutal and unfair. For example, perhaps the most most infamous example is the so-called “Wicked Bible” in which the famous commandment “Thou shalt not commit adultery” was accidentally printed as “Thou shalt commit adultery.” Almost immediately after the mistake was noticed, the people who published it were fined the equivalent of about $40,000 before being stripped of their printing license. The church then attempted to burn every copy of the Bible they could find, though a few survived because of course they did.

Weirdly, that’s not even the most peculiar mistake found in a Bible, or even the biggest fine issued for one, though it is arguably the most offensive. For example, there’s “Lion Bible” which features the quote, “thy son that shall come forth out of thy lions,” instead of “loins” and there’s even a copy of the Bible in which Jesus’ name is written as Judas instead. We’re actually more annoyed that more books don’t have mistakes like:

“Blessed are the placemakers” (instead of peacemakers)

Printers have persecuted me without a cause” – Instead of princes.

“And Rebecca arose, and her camels, and they rode upon the camels, and followed the man: and the servant took Rebecca and went his way.” (It’s supposed to say damsels)

Hell, we’d kill for a copy of Harry Potter where a Snake kills Dumbledore.

6. The Koran misprint that sparked a crisis.


Like the Bible, mistakes in the Koran are a really big deal. Though they’re not as well documented, they have happened and like with the Wicked Bible, it caused someone a lot of trouble. In this case that someone was Ahmad al-Kulaib, who oversaw the production of a state-published version of the Koran that featured a bunch of missing sections.

The mistake was effectively political suicide for al-Kulaib, who was serving Kuwait as their Minister for Islamic Affairs when the mistake was noticed. Less than a week afterwards, Sheikh Jaber al-Ahmad al-Sabah dissolved the entire parliament. If you’re thinking a tiny mistake like that couldn’t have caused the Sheikh to dissolve parliament, we though that too. Until we saw this article by the BBC basically confirming it.

5. Shakespeare couldn’t spell his own name.



The name William Shakespeare is intrinsically linked with the English language, and he’s widely regarded as one of the single greatest and most influential writers in all of history. He also couldn’t spell his own name. Now as you’re probably aware, back in Shakespeare’s day, the rules of spelling were a little more lax than they are today. However, it still doesn’t change the fact that one of the most famous writers of all time couldn’t even agree on how to spell his own name.

As noted here, of the six total remaining examples of Shakespeare’s signature, he uses a different spelling of his own name in all but two of them, thereby making the actual spelling of his name impossible to discern. The spellings Shakespeare used are as follows:

  • Shaksper
  • Shakspere
  • Shakspeare

In fact, Shakespeare’s penmanship was so terrible that the actual spellings he used are still being debated. If that wasn’t confusing enough, his contemporaries were even worse at spelling his name with his name being stylized as everything from “Shakysper” to “Shakp.” We mean, come on, that last one isn’t even trying.

4. Jane Austen couldn’t spell either.


It’s almost possible to forgive Schakespeire for his inability to spell because he grew up in a time when there was no universally accepted way of spelling things (including names apparently). However, we’re less forgiving of a writer like Jane Austen who, like Shexpere, is known as one of the best writers to have ever lived.

As an example of Austen’s mastery over the written word, consider the story she wrote as a child simply titled, “Love and Freindship.” You can read it in its entirety via Wikipedia if you’re so inclined. But she was a kid when she wrote that; it’s not like she continued to make stupid, easily avoidable mistakes like that well into adulthood is it? Oh right, she totally did. In fact, a bunch of famous authors are infamous for making childish errors in some of their most famous pieces of work, including man’s man, Earnest Hemingway, who famously told his editor that correcting his spelling was his job. Then again, who’d argue with a guy who used to hunt sharks with a machine gun.

Then again, Hemingway also spelled moving as moveing”. Think that’s bad? Agatha Christia once misspelled the name of one of her own characters, writing Colonel Cadbury as “Colonel Carbery,” and President Andrew Jackson, a man famous for his oratory skills spelled development as “devilopment.” Then again, when he was later insulted about his poor spelling Jackson’s response was:

“It’s a damn poor mind that can think of only one way to spell a word.

So we think he has the upper hand here.

3. Google is the result of a typo.


Google is such a popular search engine that the word “google” is now considered an honest-to-goodness verb meaning “to search for something.” If you’re wondering why we didn’t use a capital letter for the word Google just then, it’s because Google (the company) will send people pissy cease and desist letters if they capitalize it. They even tried to stop it being included in the dictionary. As a result, the term “to google something” is only technically correct if you use a lowercase G. It’s kind of odd because the word “google” itself is a misspelling of the word “googol,” the name given to the number 10^100 (10 with a hundred extra zeroes) which we’re sure you all already knew because everyone here should have already seen Back To The Future. As recounted here, when the inventors of Google were trying to think of a name for their company, one of the originally proposed names was, “googolplex,” which is 10, times a googol. However, Larry Page (one of Google’s founders) didn’t like the word Googolplex and instead suggested just “googol.” However, when the guy he asked to check if the domain “” was available accidentally typed in “” instead, Larry apparently liked this new spelling better and the name stuck.

2. The typo that would have never been noticed if it wasn’t for the Oscars.


Go check the comment section of any article on the internet, we can guarantee you that there is about a 40% chance that there will be at least one comment pointing out either a factual inaccuracy or a spelling/grammar mistake somewhere it its comment section. If you think that this is a recent trend, you’re right, which still hasn’t stopped it reaching into the past to correct the mistakes of people who died before we were all born. Just ask the author of the New York Times article that was trolled for spelling mistakes 161 years after it was published. According to this article, the paper corrected a typo noticed by an eagle-eyed reader viewing their archives that misspelled the name of the Solomon Northup, the author of the book “12 years a slave.”

The NYT mistakenly identified Northup as both “Northrop” and “Northrup” throughout the 1853 article, a mistake they apologized for a cool 16 decades later (something we want you to keep in mind if you notice a mistake in this piece).

1. A bunch of cities in the States are misspellings of way cooler names.


It’s a crying shame how few cities have awesome names these days, but we guess it’s fair that not everyone can live in Sparta or Batman. If they did, it’d be impossible to send letters because postboxes would keep catching fire. As you can see from this article, a lot of cities in America used to have cool names until an idiot somewhere along the line misspelled it. For example, Novi in Michigan was originally just called No VI, which is very vogue, but people kept thinking the Roman numerals were letters. Similarly, Frankfort, Kentucky was originally just called, Frank’s Ford, after a guy who was stabbed to death in a river bed.

Weirdly, a lot of the cities were renamed purely because settlers didn’t like (or couldn’t spell) the word the Indian Natives used. Hackensack used to be “Ackinchesacky” before the white man arrived and Muncie used to be “Munsee” but no one knew how to spell it so we just guessed and never bothered to check if it was correct. This is a lesson for everyone reading this: if something is too difficult, just do it your own way and hope it catches on.

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  1. IndyAndyJones on

    I see that “Jeremy” informed you of this mistake over three years ago, on May 5, 2014, but you’ve failed to correct it, so let’s try again. You’ve written “10^100 (10 with a hundred extra zeroes)” but this is entirely wrong. 10^100 is a 1 followed by 100 zeroes. You should read the rest of Jeremy’s comment as well, and correct your mistakes.

  2. This may be nitpicky and tangent to the point of the article, but hey, if you are going to present information it may as well be correct.
    1. A googol is written as 1 followed by 100 zeroes.
    2. A googolplex is written as 1 followed by a googol of zeroes.

    Your explanation of a googolplex, “10, times a googol” would be written as 1 followed by 101 zeroes.
    You probably meant to say 10 to the power of googol, which would give you the correct, if incomprehensible, number.

  3. With the Vatican Coin, it probably wasn’t that nobody noticed that Jesus was missing a J, but that an “L” was mistaken for an “I”. In Latin, Jesus is spelled IESUS. On a small mint, “LESUS” would look amazingly similar. Still shouldn’t have happened, but I can see how it happened.

  4. Mitro Kiar on

    My last pay check was $9500 working 12 hours a week online. My neighbour’s sister has been averaging 15k for months now and she works about 20 hours a week. I can’t believe how easy it was once I tried it out.

    This is what I do,,,,,,,,,, W­W­W.K­E­P­T­M­?­N­E­Y.C­?­M

  5. englishsunset on

    Ignorance aside. I will now “not” correct spelling, just because it seemingly is an irritation to the likes of you. HA! How I love finding new and interesting ways of making people laugh, think and get mad. I win!