OCR Software Doesn’t Know its Anus from an Arm

google arms to anus
  • OCR Software Doesn’t Know its Anus from an Arm

 

Romance novel expert Sarah Wendell was perusing some romance ebooks rendered by running old romance novels through OCR (Optical Character Recognition) software, when she noticed something unusual. Lines such as “Mrs. Tipton went over to him and put her anus around his neck,” and “When she spotted me, she flung her anus high in the air.”


That’s when Sarah Wendell, or, as she refers to herself, “Smart Bitch Sarah“, because she contributes to the blog Smart Bitches, Trashy Books, realized that the OCR software could not – at least with older texts – distinguish between the words “arms” and “anus”.

In fact, it translated the written ‘arms’ to ‘anus’, replacing “arms” with “anus” in the ebooks.

Of course, it may be telling that Google – perhaps the largest scanner of books in the world (although HarperCollins is not far behind) – attempted to correct a Google search for the line “When she spotted me, she flung her anus high in the air and kept them up until she reached me” not by correcting ‘anus’ to ‘arms’, but inexplicably by wanting to correct “reached” to “reaches“!

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google arms anus did you mean

Indeed, some of the most unfortunate, or hilarious, depending on your point of view, arms-to-anus oopsies are in Google’s own collection of OCRed texts, such as this gem from an 1887 edition of Peterson Magazine:

google arms to anus

Wendell announced her discovery on Twitter, sharing an image of the sort of older romance novel text that causes the problem for the OCR software.

sarah wendell arms anus

Observed British author Becky Black, “People think OCR is a cheap way to get old books into ebook format. But to do it right means thorough proof reading is needed.”

Searching through Google books for “wound her anus”, “took him in her anus”, and “threw her anus” yields a trove of results.


 

Feel free to share your finds, below.

  
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OCR Software Doesn’t Know its Anus from an Arm

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  • OCR Software Doesn’t Know its Anus from an Arm
Summary
OCR Software Doesn't Know its Anus from an Arm
Article Name
OCR Software Doesn't Know its Anus from an Arm
Description
Sarah Wendell was perusing romance ebooks digitized from old romance novels when she noticed that the OCR software was converting "arms" to "anus", making for some interesting reading.
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