I read recently on Eugene Volokh‘s site that spellcheckers in common word-processing programs don’t recognize the nickname of “Lighthorse” Harry Lee — Robert E. Lee’s Revolutionary War hero father — as a word.

“With a nickname like that, history remembers Lee as a man of action, forever in motion.” Not any more. Spellcheckers change it to “Lighthouse.” He says it’s beginning to turn up on the Internet that way — and so it is.

I found “Lighthouse Harry” in the Texas Archival Resources site, the Lonesome Pines Cabin tourist attraction site, and Wilmington News Journal’s listing of New Castle County, Del., tourist attractions.

Curiously, the mistake also got into an online version of Groucho Marx’s satirical letter berating the Warner Brothers over legal use of the title of “A Night in Casablanca” (Warner said it tread on the toes of their “Casablanca”). Groucho reminded Harry Warner that his name, too had been used before:

As for you, Harry, you probably sign your checks, sure in the belief that you are the first Harry of all time and that all other Harrys are imposters. I can think of two Harrys that preceeded you. There was Lighthorse Harry of Revolutionary fame and a Harry Appelbaum who lived on the corner of 93rd Street and Lexington Avenue. Unfortunately, Appelbaum wasn’t too well known. The last I heard of him, he was selling neckties at Weber and Heilbroner.

That’s how it should read. This page, however, has “Lighthouse.” In Groucho’s case, I suspect, the alteration would be approved.

And to think, my editor has told us that failure to use a spellchecker is grounds for dismissal.

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