Oh Beebe! This stone cutter needs spell-check

Friday, November 29, 2013, Vol. 37, No. 48

“Virtue is like a rich stone, best plain set.” Francis Bacon wrote that.

And then there’s “I wept not, so to stone within I grew.” From Dante Alighieri.

Perhaps the most memorable quote on point is Euripides’s “Leave no stone unturned.”

In any event, having your name etched in stone may not be all it’s cracked up to be. Just ask Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe.

The last name of the former state attorney general, former state senator and current chairman of the Southern Governors’ Association is spelled the same as a town 40 miles northeast of Little Rock.

Home of its high school’s Badgers, Beebe, Ark., is the second-largest town in White County. Named for railroad exec Roswell Beebe, it was incorporated in 1875.

All of which is mere preamble to the story at hand, which was broken Nov. 12, by the statewide daily. It was reported that the governor’s last name had been misspelled. [Gasp!]

Not on an envelope. Not in a letter. Not even in a formal document. But on a monument. That’s right, a 15,000-pound sandstone monument donated to a certain museum-to-be by a stone supplier from a nearby town.

The museum is not set to open for a few years. Its horn is getting tooted aplenty, though, during the development phase. Several million dollars have been raised. Several more are hoped for. It is a worthy cause, no argument there.

So, when did this error get caught? Quoting reporter Bill Bowden: “After a dedication ceremony Saturday, museum officials noticed that Gov. Mike Beebe’s name was misspelled on the 8-foot-tall stone.” The museum folk had had the monument for several days by then.

The error itself? Turns out one of those three E’s was in the wrong place, resulting in “Bebee.” A common misspelling? I dunno.

A Google search turns up a respectable number of hits for “Beebe,” almost nothing for “Bebee.”

In fact, at onelook.com, under the misspelling, there’s a “phrase that includes bebee: mike bebee” [sic]. Click on it, and you’re taken to the Wikipedia article titled “Mike Beebe,” correctly spelled.

So, surely you’d think someone’d fess up and offer a mea culpa.

“We apologize. We will review our proofreading policies and retrain our staff accordingly”?

Not exactly. The museum spokesman did what anyone would do. He blamed the chisel-wielder: “[W]e have determined … that the stone cutter or the engraver made that error, and it is 100 percent fixable.” That’s how it was phrased to the reporter.

The spokesman said the fix “will be indistinguishable from what it was supposed to be.” He added that he “was embarrassed for the governor that such a mistake had been made.”

Someone in the donor’s shop, no doubt, is embarrassed. My guess – and it’s just a guess – is that someone, somewhere jotted words onto a sheet of paper, from which the cutter worked.

But c’mon, man! Someone at the museum is supposed to read the text before it goes on display, no? And the first thing anyone would check is whether names are spelled correctly. Right?

Oh, well. As Tony Soprano would’ve said, “Whaddaya gonna do?”

Vic Fleming is a district court judge in Little Rock, Ark., where he also teaches at the William H. Bowen School of Law. Contact him at vicfleming@att.net.