I want to live in Amercia! How Mitt Romney’s iPhone app typo explains the Internet

Virginia Heffernan, Yahoo News
Yahoo News

To be fair to Mitt Romney, his copywriters and his proofreaders — all of whom allowed a typo spelling “America” as “Amercia” into Romney’s new iPhone app — “America” is kind of a weird word.

Yes, yes, I know about Amerigo Vespucci. But we pretty much never talk about him, and his first name, anyway, was Amerigo. No one really understands why the word that Wikipedia calls “the feminized, latin version of his first name” is on the door to the home of the brave.

To be even more sumptuously fair to Mitt Romney, whose team as of this writing is still having trouble righting the entirely pleasing wrong word they bestowed on the world on Tuesday, typos make the world go round. The online world, anyway.

In the language of the digital elite — meaning, not people with only 117 Facebook friends — typos like “teh” and “pwn” are elegant strings, loaded with irony and history, that communicate volumes of cultural content. I can’t even explain all that content to you here. They can’t explain it. It’s elite.

The best way to get a sense of the 1337 typo humor is to correct someone on Twitter who uses “teh” for “the.” You’ll be laughed off the Internet.

And then to coin one of those blockbuster typos: who could even dream that big? Visit 4chan sometime and try to start a meme like “meem” or go viral with “vrial” — you’ll get hacked out of town. They’ll pwn you.

“Amercia” is still getting auto-corrected on iPhones, and it is not yet a full-fledged Wikipedia entry. But Twitter’s running with it. Given its portability, its uniqueness on Google, and the number of short-form gags it continues to spawn, Amercia has the making of a nifty, hardy little meme. The Romney campaign shouldn’t panic about Amercia. They should, stealthily, pwn it. (Sorry — I won’t stop with that one.)

The campaign should create a WIkipedia entry this minute (are you listening @ZacMoffatt, Romney digital director who doesn’t return my calls?), and stay on top of it, showing the campaign has a sense of humor and deep tendrils in the social networks. It should hint — with links — at a passing understanding of leetspeak. It should rib Apple’s App Store for being slow to take proofreading changes. And it should maybe hint that Amercia is a country of — whatever, mercy, Mitt Romney, hijinks. Twitter fun.

Amerigo Vespucci’s name was contorted to girly America and slapped on a land mass. He got way more credit than he deserved for our one nation under God. Americans owe our brand to a 16th century typo. Maybe Romney can point that out, too.