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Barack Obama Is A Familiar Name Now, But Not To Spell Check

When Barack Obama burst on to the national political scene with his keynote speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, he talked about the "hope of a skinny kid with a funny name who believes that America has a place for him."

As yesterday's inauguration proved, America has found a place for him, and it's in the Oval Office. But there are still some places where that funny name still doesn't fit - most notably Microsoft Word's spell check.

Type the president's first and last names into Word - at least in the versions of Word used in most newsrooms, plus the one I use at home - and you're greeted with that all too familiar squiggly red underline which flags misspelled words.

The program's suggestions for correct spellings: Barracks and Osama.

If you were to use the president's middle name - Hussein - Word would tell you you're in the clear there.

In the spring of 2007, Microsoft added the word "Obama" to available updates for Word, but apparently none of the dozens of computers I've used lately have had that update installed.

A Microsoft spokesperson said in a statement that the company is always looks to keep its products current.

"We consider a number of factors when updating our content, including user feedback, frequency of the words in market area publications, and the first names of public figures whose last names have been added," the spokesperson wrote.

That company's statement also pointed out that the "latest version of the Office speller includes the word 'Obama,' and users can freely download an update..." (Here for Word 2003 and here for Word 2007.)

If you happen to work in an office where you can't update software because the administrator password to your computer is guarded like a nuclear launch code, Microsoft would also like you to know that you can just add Barack and Obama the old-fashioned way.

"As a workaround for individual users who have not installed these updates, they can right-click the flagged word, and then click Add to Dictionary."

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