Word 2003: Obama or Osama


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How do you spell ‘Barack Obama’? Maybe it’s ‘Barrack Osama’ ? Word 2003, Vista or Windows Server 2008 might tell you that.

How do you spell ‘Barack Obama’? Maybe it’s ‘Barrack Osama’ ? Word 2003, Vista or Windows Server 2008 might tell you that.

Word can have some quirky results in the suggested spellings for words it thinks are wrong. Office Watch has reported some of these glitches over a decade or more – usually they are funny and occasionally embarrassing. Sometimes they give rise to conspiracy theories.

Microsoft is usually pretty good about updating the in-built dictionary to cover new words and proper names but Word 2003 has a few where the suggested alternatives are less than complimentary.

Most prominent of these is ‘Osama’ for ‘Obama’. Type in ‘Obama’ and it’s marked with the red squiggly line to indicate a word not in the in-built or custom dictionaries. Right-click on the word (or press F7) to see suggested alternatives.

Word 2003 - Obama or Osama image from Word 2003: Obama or Osama at Office-Watch.com

 

Unfortunately the first alternative is the first name of the most famous person on the FBI ‘Ten Most Wanted Fugitive‘ list.

This isn’t deliberate nor is it some right-wing conspiracy of Microsoft staff. It’s just the way the spell-check software works – it looks for similar words in the existing dictionary and puts them in the suggested list.

And it’s not the only quirky suggestion in Word 2003:
























Word

Suggested Alternative

Friendster

Fraudster

Klum

Klux (as in Klux Klan)

Nazr (a US basketball player ‘Nazr Mohammed’ among many)

Nazi

Racicot (a surname)

Racist

Barack

Barrack

Obama

Osama

These quirks appear in Office 2003 – all versions until Service Pack 3 plus all earlier versions of Office. But not in Office 2007.

There’s been an Office 2003 hotfix for the ‘Obama’ suggestion since 30 April 2007 and Office 2003 Service Pack 3 adds all the above words to the in-built English dictionary.

If you have a version of Office before 2003 or don’t want to apply Office 2003 Service Pack 3 you can easily choose ‘Add to Dictionary’ which will stop any word being detected as an incorrect spelling.

But other parts of Microsoft have been surprisingly slower to act – we’re in July 2008 and there are still current Microsoft products yet to be updated.

Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008

The latest incarnations of Windows have their own dictionaries for supplied applications to use – for example the spell-check in Windows Mail.

It’s surprising that Vista Service Pack 1 or the release version of Windows Server 2008 didn’t have an updated dictionary but it was overlooked. Go to Microsoft to get dictionary updates for both operating systems or they may have been pushed out to you via Windows Update as (KB955020)

Hotmail

Until a few days ago the same ‘Obama’ quirk was in Windows Hotmail even though the issue was known in Office 2003 since at least early 2007.

Even stranger, Hotmail has had no problem with ‘Barack’ for some time but no-one thought to put the surname in the online dictionary?

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