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Guest Post: Scrape Misusage (Making a Case for Grammatical Errors)

By Patricia Harrelson

Recently, Michael Martine at Remarkablogger had a good laugh after content from one of his posts, "I Have Big Hot Burning Desires," was scraped.

Blog scraping is a process whereby automated software scans thousands of blogs daily, searching for and copying content. The scraper then applies a program which rearranges and substitutes the words in the original content, reshaping it into something weirdly different. This new content is published in splogs or spam blogs. Problogger has a great post that describes scraping and what to do about it. There are a lot of issues with scraping (see here), but that's not what this post is about, nor was that the point of Martine's post.

Martine quoted the hilarious results of his scraped content so his readers could laugh with him. And so that he could make this final point:

I've seen a lot of people bitching about scrapers, but they spell it wrong, which really blunts their whole point. It's scraper, people, as in to scrape or remove forcefully, not scrapper, as in to scrap, or throw away junk. Get it right, will ya?

What I want readers and writers to think about is how this story explores language related issues: vocabulary, syntax, and especially SPELLING.

As a retired English teacher, I've long been intrigued by crafty spelling, garbled syntax, and scribbled handwriting. I think wonderful stories lie beneath the surface of these oddities--or errors as they are generally regarded. Without a doubt, Michael Martine sees the frequent confusion of scrape and scrap as an error and tells folks to "get it right."

And yet it was the scraper's error-be-riddled version of his work that amused Martine and in which he recognized content for a delightful post—a post aimed at entertaining and educating readers. Martine uses the humor of distortion to drive toward his conclusion—a vocabulary lesson on the difference between scrape and scrap as well as a subtle reminder that his content is not junk.

So what conclusion am I driving toward? I want to encourage the use of errors in the service of good writing. Here are a few ways we writers have scraped misusage:

  • Creative spelling becomes a captivating title or brand-name: IttyBiz
  • A pair of words collapses into a new a word: weblog = BLOG, spam blog = SPLOG
  • Clich├ęs say more than a paragraph ever could: Mimi Smarty Pants
  • Distorted syntax becomes evocative: See How We Almost Fly

Do usage errors make you crazy or are you on the lookout for ways to turn them into a piece of good writing? What's your favorite example of misused language turned useful or even valuable?

Patricia Harrelson is a retired English teacher who blogs at Grammar Police.

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Guest Post: Scrape Misusage (Making a Case for Grammatical Errors) + special