The Charming Twitter Bot Devoted to a Single Grammatical Error

Slate's Culture Blog
Jan. 20 2012 1:29 PM

Follow Friday: Stealth Mountain

stealth-mountain
Stealth Mountain's avatar on Twitter.

Stealth Mountain (@StealthMountain) is a Twitter bot with a single, simple purpose: It searches for tweets in which a person has typed the words “sneak peak” when they meant to type “sneak peek,” then publishes a reply informing the author of his error. The account went live in November, and as of this morning has issued 16,900 such corrections.

Taking the time to build a bot solely to chastise Twitter users who have fallen into this clearly common error would at first blush seem to be the work of a very annoying person indeed. Yet there’s something charming about Stealth Mountain’s approach. In the account’s bio line, its creator speaks self-deprecatingly of his project: “I alert twitter users that they typed sneak peak when they meant sneak peek. I live a sad life.” And the account’s automatically generated replies take care not to assume too much. “I think you mean ‘sneak peek,’” they read, allowing for the possibility that the Twitterer was in fact referring to a mountain peak that somehow behaved surreptitiously. (“We thought there was a lot more hiking left to do, but Mt. Aerie had one of those sneak peaks; we were already at the summit!”)

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Many recipients of @StealthMountain’s tweets do not appreciate being scolded, even gently. The owner of Stealth Mountain stars the nastiest responses, which allows the visitor to his Favorites page to see for himself the thanklessness of this work, and to be reminded of the delightfully varied surliness of the Twitterverse. “its twitter not school -_-,” replied @CoCo_DippinDots, omitting an apostrophe and a comma as if to prove his point. “no it’s fucking peak dumbass look it up,” countered @BrendanMosh, defiantly. “I can give you a SNEAK PEAK of my brand spanking new testicles after my surgery,” wrote @Mrstallurgurl, mysteriously. Several homophonically challenged Twitter users have questioned Stealth Mountain’s jurisdiction in such matters, on the grounds that, as @FinalShotGaming put it, “UR NOT MY DAD.” Others take an ad hominem approach: “You’re a terrible person!” avowed @Noevalle. “If a vat of Hydrochloric Acid was poured on you causing you to erode instantaneously nobody would miss you, nobody,” said @RDP_Hill.            

I politely disagree with @RDP_Hill. I would miss Stealth Mountain if it were gone. As a bad speller who probably gets sneak peek right about half the time, I’m glad to know someone is out there correcting the mistake—and since I’ve started following the account, I’ve gotten it wrong less often. Following @StealthMountain is a low-stakes move—since it only ever replies to other users, the account’s policing will only clog up your feed if you also follow a bunch of serial “sneak peak” offenders. Joining the ranks of his 5,300 followers is a vote for orthography, and for the good humor with which Stealth Mountain preaches it.

John Swansburg is Slate's deputy editor.

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