Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Embarrassing admission...

No, not that I used "principles" instead of "principals" in this morning's post.

The embarrassing admission is that I didn't learn to touch-type until only a few years ago. Oh, I took typing in high school, but instead of doing my work, I was using that big ol' Selectric to hunt'n'peck out some glurgy SF and Fantasy stories and got, like, a D or an F for my lack of effort.

I never used a typing tutor program and I don't touch type properly to this day, with "home keys" and whatnot, but somehow over the course of who-knows-how-many hundreds of thousands of words spewed into the internet, I realized some three years back that I wasn't really looking at the keyboard much anymore.

And that's when the homonyms attacked.

I don't have a problem with, say, "flaunt" and "flout", because they're different words, and my brain would never tell my fingers to type "he flaunted the law". And actual misspellings are pretty easy because they stood out to my eye long before computers started putting red squiggly lines under them. (Seriously, I've been known to turn a page in a book and a misspelled word in the middle of the page will leap into focus before my eyes can go start reading in the top left corner where they belong. I think that just comes from reading a lot.) But the verdammt homonym thing cropped up once my fingers could type without being watched constantly.

The brain tells the fingers to type "capitol" or "principal", and they wind up typing the much more frequently-used "capital" or "principle", and the brain never notices because it's halfway into the next sentence. I usually catch this in proof-reading, but sometimes it's early and you haven't had any caffeine and you just want to get something up on the blog before you're off to do other, more chore-like things, and you walk away from the keyboard leaving a hanging curve belt-high over the plate. Sigh.


Wyoh said...

I was perusing the changelog for the Windoze version of Scrivener this morning, and came across the notation that some highlight option was a "feint gray" instead of the blue it ought to be. O.o

rickn8or said...

Don't get all wrapped around the axle there Tam; I understand Stevie Ray Vaughan missed a note here and there.

Jay G said...

BTDT. Got the OCD T-shirt.

"Automatic" words are a b!tch.

Phillip said...

My problem tends to be using the King's English spelling of a word instead of the American English spelling. Grey vs. gray, for example, or putting a u in words like favorite.

Comes from reading a lot of work by English-from-England authors during the time most people are in primary school. I left in the fifth grade and became self taught until I chose to go to college.

Tam said...


I only completely divested myself of the English "U" very recently myself, and then only after a number of years of odd and intermittent use.

I still use English punctuation with quotation marks, however.

Anonymous said...

It's better to have "Order OCD" than "Hoarder OCD"!

My niece has "Order OCD" and it shows mostly in her inability to ignore misspellings in email and chat.

Robb Allen said...

I readily admit that I cannot spell. I have become so accustomed to this fancy computer doing it for me that I've lost the skill. No matter how hard I try, I cannot correctly spell "bureaucrat" (oddly, I got it right there... go figure).

Once, I was using this ancient form of communication called 'pen and paper' and was writing a word. I realized halfway through it that I had no idea how it was spelled so I just scribbled down how it sounded.

Then I waited.

For the squiggly red line to appear so it would tell me how to spell it correctly.

Talk about disconcerting.

Weer'd Beard said...

I "learned" to type the same way. Was chatting online with some friends, and I reached for something on my desk, needed to turn on the light to find it as the sun had gone down during the conversation.

I realized if I couldn't see my desk, I couldn't see the keyboard, and I realized I was touch-typing without knowing it.

Also a prankster at work switched some of the keys on my keyboard around...took me a week to discover it, and when I did it really confused me because I still occasionally look...

Tam said...


"For the squiggly red line to appear so it would tell me how to spell it correctly."

Oh, gawd, I LOL'ed so hard it got Marko's dogs to barking. :D

Earl said...

I missed all the typing classes in high school because they were for girls - does that ever age me? But by the time I had four foreign adventures with the Army I wanted to take some college classes and I needed to type papers for professors, so I took a course, and luckily for me, I could correct my mistakes, by the time I was typing on a keyboard of a PC at home, I was golden. If I had only paid attention to spelling and grammar I would be farther ahead. Nothing like telling all my fingers to fly across the keyboard to speed the moment on.

Anonymous said...

I've often thought we need a homonym checker along with the spell checker.

New Jovian Thunderbolt said...

You and me both, sister. It's amazing what my fingers know how to spell write, wear my brain knows the usage is wrong. Stupid fingers.

Stuart the Viking said...

When I was a wee lad my brother and I had a manual typerwriter that we were allowed to play with. Probably because it was so heavy the parents didn't think we could lift it enough to chuck it at eachother. One of the first typewriter rules that our mother laid down was that if we were going to type, we were going to put our fingers on the home keys and do it the correct way. That started me out young and by the time I started using a pc keyboard I pretty much had it down. I am definately not the fastest typer, but I do pretty good.

I recently pulled the old manual out (I still have it) and tried to type on it. NO WAY! TOO MUCH WORK!


New Jovian Thunderbolt said...

Even worse, not pluralizing when I mean to.

Buzz said...

"Its the rampant abuse of apostrophe's that gets me."

People manage "its" and "it's" better than expected, but throwing in an apostrophe before the plurality "s" is pandemic.

And I agree wholeheartedly on the rebellious, autonomous fingers. I'll proofread something and wonder, "WTF?"

OrangeNeck said...

Uhhh, Tam, I think you mean "synonym."

Homonyms are two words that sound the same but spelled differently and have totally different meanings (most of the time).

DirtCrashr said...

Touch-typing makes me nauseous, I don't really look a lot but intentionally not-looking, I just can't do it. I like the squiggly red line, it cures my double keystrokes.

Tam said...


"Homonyms are two words that sound the same but spelled differently and have totally different meanings (most of the time)."

No, I meant "homonym".

"Principle" and "principal", for example, are homonyms.

Stretch said...

If anything could convince me of reincarnation it is the fact I use Elizabethan style spelling ... as it sounds.

And I took typing in high school because I knew I'd be the only guy in the class ... and the teacher was the Hot Spanish Teacher (every high school has one).

og said...

I have to dot the I's and cross the T's at work every.single.day. To not do so, to have less than comprehensive code, or less than comprehensive safety or less than the accepted standard for foolproof wiring, could expose myself and my company to extensive and expensive litigation.

Blogging allows me the luxury of not being perfect, and nobody cares. I can't type worth a damn, though I can mostly spell, and when I worry if my grammar is good I read some Twain.

If I were trying to make a living out of this, I'd be a lot more particular. As is, I'm having fun, and I hope my readers overlook my failings, malaprops, and typos. Only the nearly perfect- like Tam- attract the pedantic.

Zendo Deb said...

English is a completely unreasonable language.

It rains in Florida in the summer.

A king reigns over his land.

A cowboy jumped on his horse and grabbed his reins.

It comes from all the times the English were invaded.

Vikings (they made things awkward and occasionally awful.) The Normans - who gave us two words for the same thing depending on whether it is an animal in field (swine, cattle, fowl) or food on the table (pork, beef, poultry). It goes on.

Then there are the words hardly anyone knows anymore. Like sidhe (pronounced "shee") that shows up in fantasy and science fiction.

Seth from Massachusetts said...

My late father could type 40 words a minute with two fingers. And a woman I know who is a receptionist can hold the phone in one hand and type 40 words a minute with the other!

Matt G said...

It has to do with how we parse information, and how our brain "hears" things that we see. I've discovered that I'm very auditory in my information. When I am on patrol, and see a vehicle whose license tag I wat to run, I look at it, and "hear" the tag in my head: "HR2-579", say, might go into my MDT terminal a few seconds later as "8RU-I79) (H and 8 sound alike. 2 and U sound alike). Thus I'll often just say it aloud phonetically "Henry Robert Two Five Seven Nine" to stick it correctly into my short-term memory before I get to a safe place to turn some attention to my terminal. I have co-workers who say, "Didn't you see it? Just type what you saw." Sorry. It's what I heard, in my head, that I remember.

Basil said...

Tam's dead on about the wickedness of typing. I knew she knew the difference, stickler that she is for such things. For those challenged (such as "anonymous") in the thread in question:

"principals" are people
"principles" are ideals

Then ask yourself which makes sense in the context in which it appears.

That's how I keep them straight.

David said...

Earl - I took typing in high school exactly because it was a class for girls. I walked by the classroom the first day of class - saw 20 girls sitting in the classroom and added that class to my schedule.

It didn't do me any good, didn't get so much as a kiss out of the deal, but did learn how to type.

Unless you ask my co-workers who hate listening to me type. I never have developed a light touch on a keyboard. I smack the computer keyboard like I'm still using a manual typewriter. Apparently you can hear the clanking of my keyboard several cubicles away.

At least I don't slap my monitor off the desk at the end of each sentence.