Norwegian sculptor blames English spellcheck for Oslo war memorial riddled with typos

Artist says she was using an English-language word processor when working on the 1.2 million krone (£120,000) statue

Adam Withnall
Sunday 29 December 2013 15:08
The artist behind a war memorial unveiled in Oslo last month has blamed an English spellcheck after members of the public pointed out numerous spelling and grammatical errors
The artist behind a war memorial unveiled in Oslo last month has blamed an English spellcheck after members of the public pointed out numerous spelling and grammatical errors

A Norwegian sculptor has blamed an English spellcheck after it emerged that a 1.2 million krone (£120,000) war memorial unveiled in Oslo last month included spelling mistakes and grammatical errors.

The statue, designed to commemorate the country’s resistance fighters during the Second World War, was revealed to the public in a ceremony on the capital’s waterfront in late November.

The memorial features the names of 63 saboteurs and those who died during resistance operations against occupying German forces, but upon closer inspection members of the public discovered a series of mistakes in the text.

Errors include basic misspellings, with an “s” missing from the Norwegian word for community, “fellesskap”, and the “t” left out of the phrase “Oslo-området” (the Oslo area), according to reports in the Aftenposten newspaper.

Full stops are also used incorrectly across the memorial, only occasionally following the Norwegian grammar rule that they should always be used after numbers, as in 2. verdenskrig (the Second World War).

Botolv Helleland, a linguist at the University of Oslo, told Aftenposten: “It’s particularly unfortunate when there are spelling mistakes on signs and statues which many will see and will stand for a long time. English writing rules have come into play here. In English, numbers in dates are written without a period following.”

The sculpture was created over 18 months by Kirsten Kokkin, the daughter of famous resistance fighter Sverre Kokkin.

She admitted that she had used an English-language spellcheck while creating the text, and that it was partially to blame for the errors.

“I hope it won’t get too much attention. I worked on the text in America, and didn’t have a Norwegian word programme,” Kokkin explained. “The text went through at least three people in addition to me. So this was missed, but it can’t be changed in retrospect.”

Kokkin nonetheless hit out at critics for taking the statue too literally. She said that with a limited amount of space for characters, some of the full stops had been missed off deliberately.

“We must not forget that this is a work of art, an artistic retelling of a historic moment,” she argued. “This must not be considered as a document.”

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