The Largest Typo I Have Ever Missed

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My hometown made the Huffington Post the other day with this item:

A car dealership in Longview, Texas, is seeing the writing on the wall after discovering a huge spelling error on a billboard.

Six months ago, Gorman McCracken Mazda put up a billboard announcing a “Piece Of Mind Warranty” for all customers.

Problem is, they meant a “Peace Of Mind Warranty.”

The spelling error faces away from the building so it went unnoticed by employees until recently when typo-conscious customers have been giving the dealership a piece of their own minds, KLTV reports.

“We’ve had several people complain about it and we realize our mistake,” General Manager Travis Potter told the station.

The dealership could change the sign, but has chosen to donate the amount that it would cost to fix the sign — about $250 — to the East Texas Literacy Council instead.


During those past six months, when this egregious typographical error was displayed in 956-point or larger type, I drove by this sign at least five times a week on my way to work teaching journalism. This job entails teaching students how to write in new style, copy editing and yes, spotting typos.

This is a definite “fail,” as the younger set says. I never noticed the mistake.

I have a plethora of excuses. It is early in the morning as I pass by, so when I crest the hill by the old Cargill Theater — which the dealership bought some time back and installed this sign where the movie marquee once stood — I am in full Mental Preparation to Teach Mode, driving a few miles over the speed limit and watching the clock. But I have noticed this sign because it was installed during the school year. I didn’t exactly study it, obviously, since I am not shopping for a new car. Still, sheesh. I can’t believe I missed this. My dad is up above laughing at his middle-aged son, no doubt.

See, he was a sign painter all his working life, the working part of which ended because of a botched operation unfortunately about the age I am now. Before that, he was widely considered one of the finest craftsmen around at hand-painted signs. He scoffed at computer-produced signs as being too perfect, and I tend to agree. His lettering looked like art, on signs that graced Longview for a couple decades. There are still a few examples around, but not many. He painted his last sign in 1990.

My dad was terrified of spelling something wrong on a sign. He carried a battered dictionary along with his box of brushes in the 1971 Chevy Cheyenne truck he drove to jobs — the tailgate when opened splattered with paint from old jobs. After completing a major job, like a billboard for Weller’s Whiskey on Estes Parkway, or much of the original signage for the menus at the Butcher Shop, he would take us around to see his work. My brother Scott and I delighted in telling him, “Looks great, Dad, but you spelled ‘cheeseburger’ wrong.” His head would snap back, quickly realize we were pulling his leg. Then he would try to dope-slap us, in a gentle, fatherly way, of course, as we started laughing.

I’m sure my dad spelled a few words wrong on a sign in his time and had to make corrections, but he was both meticulous and literate. He certainly would have hooted when the car dealership sign mistake came to light. I like to believe he would have noticed the first time we passed by, unlike his oldest son, who has made a living from words all his life and never noticed what was physically the largest typo I have personally witnessed.

This business can be humbling; that’s for sure.

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