Titivullus, a hell of a spellchecker


Listening to  Radio National’s The Body Sphere, Gert’s attention was, dare she say titivated*, by the story of Titivullus:

… it was the job of this devil Titivullus to go around and collect mispronunciations, sort of, you know. blunders in speech, of preachers, although later on it was also suggested that he would gather up titterings and whisperings in among the inattentive congregations, and his job was to collect a thousand of these in a day in a big sack and carry them off to Satan, and on the Day of Judgment all your misspeakings would be laid against you.

Steven Connor, author of Beyond Words (Reaktion Books 2014).


Another account has it, though, that Titivullus’ real targets were the miserable monks who spent hours perched on stools transcribing manuscripts:

Titivillus was a demon sent by Satan to catch unwary, weary scribes making quillos (a kind of typo made by medieval copiers; not to be confused with ‘hearos’ or ‘verbose’). Invisible, Titivillus would sneak around, watching over the shoulders of industrious, toilworn scribes. His appetite for souls lost thusly to him was unquenchable. Any quillos he found were placed into the sack he carried over his shoulder. Even though the sack was humongous, he seemed to have no trouble filling it to over-capacity. Sometimes in his eagerness to claim the error, Titivillus would grab it while the ink was still sopping wet –oftimes barely allowing the frightened scribe to remove his hand before tying off the sack and moving on to the next.


Well, fellow members of the Pedants’ Club, we could certainly do with him these days.

Wikimedia Commons http://www.elcorreogallego.es/img/noticias/20101010/7_435091.jpg

* huge mistake made by pedant. I should have said “titillated”.  Perhaps Titivullus has set his sights on me.



9 thoughts on “Titivullus, a hell of a spellchecker

  1. So you were “titivated”. Now Gert, remember we are still in Lent.
    That Titivullus was a real nasty one. To think he would snatch up the mistakes before the ink dried. I hate people like that.

    1. Sorry, Leslie, I have long fallen from a state of grace and Lent is no longer part of my life. You have a kinder heart than me, founding member of the Pedants Club. I rather like Titivullus.

  2. oops Leslie, I have just noticed a huge mistake. I’ll leave it there to prove that even A Grade Pedants can make a mistake. I meant to say “titillated”.

  3. Throughout life there is always someone who can correct you on your deficiences, but imagine when you are in the scriptorium and have a large order of some special script and you have this devil at your shoulder correcting everything it is amazing that there was no outright strike.

    1. I hadn’t thought of that but you’re horribly right. I hate to think what Frankie Howerd would have done with him – though I suppose with a name like that he would have had to made him a her.

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