Funny autocorrect fails in STEM: the gremlin organdy fiasco

Today’s post is on the lighter side with some humor on funny autocorrect fails related to science. It’s surprising sometimes how far certain tools can lag behind cutting-edge science.

Spellcheck tools are useful, of course, but they don’t always know what to do with STEM words. The same is true of tools like Grammarly, although it tends to be better than standard spellcheck.

Gremlins in the germline, funny autocorrect fails
This issue of The American Journal of Bioethics had an article that reminded me of spellcheck goofs, including changes from germline to gremlin.

List of funny autocorrect fails

Over the years I’ve kind of collected some of the funniest spellcheck failures related to science and research. I also just found a few on the web. Here are some of my favorites.

Germline Gremlins

Potential germline human gene editing is still a hot topic in the stem cell and developmental biology field. Such heritable gene edits could fix problems or cause all kinds of new health issues or both. Then there are social and ethical considerations too. In short, tools like CRISPR could be like gremlins in the genome if the technology isn’t vastly improved.

That’s why on a less serious note I find it funny that autocorrect so often fails here by changing the word germline to gremlin.

Admittedly, this even happened to me on Twitter and I didn’t even realize it at first. See below. “Gremlin human CRISPR” doesn’t sound good.

There’s even a perspectives article on gene editing out there entitled, Gremlins in the Germline. 

Organdies are candied organoids?

Organoids are another hot area of our field for years.

Still, autocorrect is very puzzled by the words organoid and organoids even now.

I don’t know why, but it prefers the words organdy and organdies, instead. Now, I’ve never heard of these other words.  Have you? I looked up “organdy” and it’s a kind of sheer fabric, according to the web.

Okay, if you say so Google.

If you search “organdies” on Twitter, there are a huge number of tweets with this spellcheck mistake instead of the desired word “organoids.”

My lunchtime PubMed search for “organdies” gave three results and two seem to reflect uncorrected typos where “organoids” was changed to “organdies”. Damn.

Fatal bovine serum in cell culture media?

When we grow cells in the lab, we feed them with something called medium. What is cell culture medium?

It is a liquid food that the cells live within. I think of it kind of like a combination of Kool-Aid and Ensure but for cells.

In some cases, we add a product called fetal bovine serum to the cell culture medium, since it is full of growth factors and other stuff that most cells benefit from. Cells love this stuff so much that there’s even a serum starvation assay to test how cells respond to stress by taking away the serum in the cell culture medium. Many cells die under such conditions, even in 1% serum instead of the usual 10%. It is therefore very funny that a friend mentioned to me once that her autocorrect changed fetal bovine serum to fatal bovine serum. That got me wondering if there are cells that are killed by fetal bovine serum. I know some stem cells do differentiate when exposed to the stuff.

Labmate lambaste

When I was a trainee once, the lab had this person who would literally yell at other members of the lab. That was not fun. They would also leave yelling-type notes on labmates’ desks. I suppose you could said they were lambasting their labmates.

On Twitter this autocorrect fail came up.

By the way, one time I was chatting with someone about my lab. I used the term “labmate” and they kind of titled their head like they were puzzled. So to be clear, a labmate is a word we scientists use to describe our fellow researchers in the lab a la roommate.

Alanine to praline is quite the mutation

A hat-tip to this other site, which has one of the same autocorrect epic fails that I found and has other funny ones too.

My favorite from the site was where proline was swapped out for praline. Quite a mutation, huh?

I got autoclaved and more

I also found another funny science autocorrect fail on the web. It kind of went the other direction. Someone was texting about being autocorrected and autocorrect changed that (maybe with a typo?) to autoclaved. I had to laugh at that one.

When I just recently asked people to share their funny autocorrects on Twitter, I think the best one was when “in situ” got changed to “in Siri.”

Have you found any funny autocorrect fails related to science? Please share in the comments!

By the way, autocorrect in MS Excel has caused real problems in science. For example, genes like “SEPT4 (septin 4) and MARCH1(membrane associated ring-CH-type finger 1) will be automatically changed to 4-Sep and 1-Mar.” Excel thinks those gene names are dates. Ouch.

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