I have long been fascinated by funny mistakes committed by people who should know better. Whenever I find an amusing goof, I seize upon it. “How did the copy editors and proofreaders and fact-checkers miss that one?” I think.

Many people share my passion, judging by the popularity of Jay Leno’s “Headlines” segments, bloopers and outtakes on TV, and lists of errors, real or alleged, that circulate online. (“Dog for sale, eats anything, fond of children.”)

Even more appealing is when the boner is followed by a witty or snarky retort, in the style of The New Yorker.

I’m working on a book — a compilation of these gems. Here are a few samples:

  • Correction: “Some jesters in a British competition described in a page-one article last Monday ride on unicycles. The article incorrectly said they ride on unicorns.”

The unicorns’ union is filing a protest about those lost jobs.

  • Photo caption: “Karen Duplessis and her son, Patrick, are Patrick Henry’s ancestors.”

And they look so young, too.

  • Headline: “Though Frail, Castro Denies He’s Dead”

But why should we believe him?

  • Newscaster: “We’ll be talking to one of the producers of Law and Order SUV — excuse me, SVU.

The cops are really cracking down on those gas guzzlers. Newspaper article: “An island surrounded by water, Manhattan has long been without a beach, prompting locals to flee by bridges and tunnels during the dog days.”

Thanks for differentiating it from all those islands surrounded by cottage cheese.

In an era of declining literacy, perhaps the laughter and ridicule that bloopers provoke are a hopeful sign that we still care about language. Keep your eyes and ears open, and you’ll start spotting them, too.

[Ed Note: For more than three decades, Don Hauptman was an award-winning independent direct-response copywriter and creative consultant. He is author of The Versatile Freelancer, an e-book that shows writers and other creative professionals how to diversify their careers into speaking, consulting, training, and critiquing.]

Don Hauptman was an award-winning independent direct-response copywriter and creative consultant for more than 30 years. He may be best known for his headline “Speak Spanish [French, German, etc.] Like a Diplomat!” This familiar series of ads sold spectacular numbers of recorded foreign language lessons for Audio-Forum, generating revenues that total in the tens of millions of dollars. In the process, the ad achieved the status of an industry classic. Don’s work is mentioned in three major college advertising textbooks, and examples of his promotions are cited in the books Million Dollar Mailings (1992) and World's Greatest Direct Mail Sales Letters (1996). In a column in Advertising Age, his name was included in a short list of direct-marketing “superstars.” He has a parallel career as a writer on language and wordplay. His celebration of spoonerisms, Cruel and Unusual Puns (Dell, 1991), received rave reviews and quickly went into a second printing. His second book was Acronymania (Dell, 1993). Recently, Don retired from full-time copywriting in order to focus on other interests, including his passion for “recreational linguistics.” He is at work on a new book in that genre. He is a regular contributor to the magazine Word Ways and writes “The Language Perfectionist,” a weekly column on grammar and usage, for Early to Rise. Don is author of The Versatile Freelancer,an e-book from American Writers and Artists, Inc. (AWAI) that shows copywriters – and almost anyone – how to diversify their careers into consulting, training, critiquing, and speaking.