The Vatican was forced to withdraw thousands of commemorative papal medals this month as a result of a typo. Proving the importance of always giving content that final proofread, the Italian State Mint misspelt Jesus as ‘Lesus’.

More than 6,000 medals in gold, silver and bronze were produced to commemorate Pope Francis’s first year in the papacy. The medals featured his own coat of arms bordered by his Latin motto, which translates into English as: “Jesus therefore sees the tax collector, and since he sees by having mercy and by choosing, he says to him, follow me’.” The passage is taken from a meditation by Bebe, an English monk, author and scholar who lived during the 8th century.

Unfortunately, a rather glaring error was missed on the coins before production began. As a result, each of them was imprinted with the word ‘Lesus’ in the motto, rather than ‘Jesus’. One theory is that because the Latin spelling of Jesus begins with an ‘I’, this may have been misread as a lower case ‘L’ and rendered as such on the coin. While this might seem an easy error to make, it could have been avoided by having someone who understood Latin give it a thorough proofread.

Now, the Vatican has withdrawn all of the medals – but not before four were sold. Each came with its own unique number and a certificate of authenticity, and experts predict these could become valuable among collectors of rare coins in the future.

Lost in transcription

This is not the first typo to make the news this year. has highlighted four examples where a careful proofread could have avoided a big problem. For instance, earlier in October a typographical error in the announcement of Spain’s national debt figure resulted in a number being published that was 10 billion euros (£8.45 billion) higher than what was actually forecast. The error arose when the transcriber typed 99.8 per cent rather than 98.9 per cent – a slight fraction that equalled a huge sum of money.

Just as dramatic was the typo that prompted a bomb threat. In July, a man walked into the Teacher Standards and Practices Commission office in the state of Oregon armed with what appeared to be a bomb. He headed straight over to the receptionist and told them he had tried to blow up the agency’s sign because it contained a typo. Instead of reading ‘State of Oregon Teacher Standards and Practices Commission’, it read ‘State of Oregon Teacher Standards an Practices Commission’. Ironically, he revealed he had been unable to blow up the sign because, according to the Statesman Journal, the bomb-building instructions he had downloaded from the internet were also full of spelling mistakes.

Typos to cause blushes

Transcription errors are nothing new. Indeed, one of the most famous was recorded in 1631 when a reprint of the King James Bible featured the commandment: “Thou shalt commit adultery.” It became known as ‘The Wicked Bible’, as a result of this typo. Another bible publication that got lost in transcription was 2010’s The Pasta Bible, published by Penguin Australia. Unfortunately, no-one noticed that a recipe for tagliatelle with prosciutto and sardines instructed chefs to add flavour with a sprinkle of “freshly ground black people”, rather than ‘pepper’.

These errors do not only pop up in printed publications. Last year, the Dalai Lama gave a speech to Brown University students in Rhode Island and to ensure that everyone in attendance could see and hear him, a screen was put up on stage featuring the Tibetan leader and a live transcription of his words. The Associated Press reported that the spiritual leader closed his speech by saying that if the attendees agreed with his words they could share his thoughts with others, but that if they didn’t they could “forget it”. However, the transcriber producing the subtitles on the screen accidentally typed “f**k it” – which are not words normally attributed to the Dalai Lama.

Proofreading should never be an afterthought, but must be a vital part of the transcription process – particularly when publishing something as high profile as a Vatican coin or public debt figures. At Language Insight, proofreading is included as standard in every translation and transcription we produce.