The mistaken old fucks at The New York Times

The New York Times has a replete searchable archive. Every issue is there. But every issue from before 1996 has been OCRed (has had optical character recognition performed on it) and in general has not been checked by human eyes. The result is that sometimes the words you see online are not the words that were in print. And word forms are sometimes misrecognized as other lexical items, such as fuck, rather than as unintelligible collections of characters. (The word fuck per se has appeared many times in The New York Times even before recent years, especially in excerpts from books.)

And so we get this headline from September 29, 1950:

Fucks and Wilt Will Speak

(You will see the word fucks in the URL as well.)

The actual person who was going to speak with Wilt was not Fucks but Fuchs, which probably doesn’t surprise you. The same is the case for this headline, from August 31, 1928:

HORNSBY TO PILOT BRAVES SIX YEARS; Not for Sale or Trade, Says Fucks, Who Reveals Manager Has New Contract FULL POWER TO BUILD UP President of Club Asserts Manager’s Word Is Law in Closing Deals for Players.

(Also present in the URL.)

It’s not the only name to be misread; In “Business Records,” a list of bankruptcy proceedings from February 16, 1978, we see this:

GE NE K. ‘FUCK, Railroad Ave., P.O. Box 378, Wingtiale, N.Y. Liabilities, 513,204; assets, $5,650.

But when we see a page headlined “Draths” from April 26, 1979, though we may expect another misread family name, we get something much better:

BEUNSKV—Becky Laroff. Beloved mother of Mixer Lazoff and mtnnia Setbst. Adored grandmother and creat grandmother. Services Thurs.. 2:30pm, Scnwprtz Brothers. “Forest fuck Chapels”. Queens Blvd & 76 Rd.. Forest Hills.

Let it be recorded that if I can have my memorial service (after my drath) held at a place called “Forest fuck Chapels,” I would very much like that. I wonder if it’s anywhere near this movie theater I see listed in the “WEEKEND MOVIE CLOCK” from March 30, 1979:

EAST MEADOW‐FUCK 132 (794‐??)

I. Fri. Murder by Decree (PG) 7:20,9:40. Sat. 6, 8:20,10:4. Svn.2:15,4:15, 7.9:20.

II. Fri. Casablanca IPG) 8:30; Play It Again. Sam (PG) 7.10:20. Sat. Casablanca 6:10. 9:30; Play 8, 11:20. Sun. Children of Paradise 2.5:15.8:30.

On the other hand, in “Russians Step Up Oil Exports to West,” May 24, 1976, there is something else I would like to know more about:

The oil‐export trends coincide with a new Soviet energy policy that calls for greater use of ??? and other low‐grade fuck in power stations and the conservation of oil and gas re. sources for use in the manufacture of petrochemicals and for export.

I’m wondering whether an energy policy that called for ??? and other low-grade fuck had anything to do with the subsequent dissolution of the Soviet Union.

But the great winner is this subhead from “Advertising: Views of Children,” from April 3, 1974:

Cox Building Fuck Drive

If that Cox Fuck Drive lands me in Forest fuck Chapels (perhaps by way of a mischance at the East Meadow – Fuck 132 theater), I still won’t regret it.

The last word on all this has to go to the very end of William P. Luce’s “At the Movies” of July 15, 1977. It’s about acting, but I’m sure it applies much more widely, including to the news:

“A big thing in this industry,” he said, “is called fuck.”

4 thoughts on “The mistaken old fucks at The New York Times

  1. Andrea Webster June 19, 2019 / 8:14 pm

    This made me laugh so fucking hard I could barely breathe! Thank you!


  2. Erick Kline September 12, 2019 / 3:50 pm

    FFS stop publishing the word “fuck”! Someone may get the idea you don’t give a fuck for propriety! You’ll offend my fucking feelings if you keep fucking around with the word fuck. Not that I, really now, give a fuck.


  3. Peter October 26, 2019 / 10:28 pm

    On September 20th, in a Times article on the climate strikes that day, the lead picture featured a sign which read “Save the Earth Motherfuckers!” I was surprised to see this, and luckily I grabbed a screenshot for posterity before it was taken down.


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