Double Braino

Typographical Error

Typographical Error (Photo credit: futuraprime)

You will find errors in these posts, I’m sure, despite my best efforts. I’ve found some already and corrected them. One was a real doosey.

I found that where I had intended to write “loses sight”, I had written “looses site.”

Ouch!  Right there, staring at me: a double braino. (And here I am blogging about writing. Talk about major, major embarrassment!)

I’m trying for a neologism here with “braino”.  Maybe even an internet meme. (That would be really cool, but of course it assumes that someone actually reads this…)

A braino, you see, is intended to be somewhat similar to a typo. Both are inadvertent errors and not, I repeat, not, misspellings.

A misspelling happens, for example, when a person believes that he/she knows how to spell something and is simply wrong. Or alternatively it could happen when a person simply does not know how to spell a word, and makes a good-faith conscious effort, but unfortunately doesn’t get it right.

In the case of typos and brainos, the person does in fact know how to spell the word, but a glitch occurs somewhere in the process that begins with retrieval of the word from the memory banks and carries on through to the mechanical movements of the fingers that get the word typed onto the page, (or keyboarded onto the screen, or whatever).

Typos, of course, occur in the typing process. The movement of a finger is made inaccurately and the wrong key is struck, or rapid-fire sequences of finger movements are made in the wrong order with a similar result.

Brainos are errors that occur further upstream. Although the person knows what he or she means, the brain retrieves the wrong word and sends incorrect information to the fingers, which accurately type the incorrect information. How exactly does that happen? Well, I’m not sure, but I think that my typing “loose” instead of “lose” may relate to the fact that “lose” ought to be spelled “looze” – phonetically speaking. The sound of the word suggests the double “o.” As for “site” instead of “sight,” well, I had been dealing with a number of web-sites that day and thinking about how this site differed from that site. I think I may have just had site on the brain.

The spelling of “braino,” of course, reminds one of “typo,” and it’s meant to. This neologism is formed by analogy. It’s not a really good analogy, however, since “typo” is short for typographical error and there is no corresponding “brainological error” – nor, in fact, any such word as “brainological.” If braino were to become popular and the usage of “brainological” or “brainological error” were to subsequently appear, that would be an example of the linguistic phenomenon known as back-formation.

(And now I’m sure you know way more about this subject than you ever wanted to.)

And now for something a little different…

Neologism generator

Neologism generator (Photo credit: Peter Forret)

A few days ago, my son introduced me to the word “philosoraptor.” It’s a neologism (a newly-coined word) that refers to a humorous, pseudo-philosophical bit of wordplay such as:

“If pro is the opposite of con, is progress the opposite of congress?”

(Sorry, I don’t know the origin of this example, though it’s unfortunately very apropos at the moment.)

According to my son, “philosoraptor” is an example of an “internet meme“, which is an idea that is propagated on the internet. There is usually an image that accompanies an internet meme and in the case of philosoraptor it’s a charming little picture of a thoughtful-looking Velociraptor. (I had the image here, but when I hit “Publish” I lost the entire post – the second time that’s happened when I tried to include an image in a post. Got to figure that one out.)

I learned all about the origins of the philosoraptor internet meme at:

http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/philosoraptor

The image is credited to (and copy-righted by) Sam Smith who designed it to put on T-shirts. The word probably has multiple origins.

I also became interested in the word “meme“, because I was not familiar with it. It turns out to also be a neologism coined about twenty years ago by the evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins. He conceived a meme as being somewhat analogous to a gene. The best current working definition of “meme” seems to be “an idea that is passed from person to person through imitation,” although Dawkins usage included the rather bizarre notion that memes were infectious, like viruses. Regardless, “meme” has definitely gone mainstream. There’s a related field called “memetics.”

Neologisms are great examples of a way in which language change happens, in this case through the creation of new words. It’s fun, it’s easy, and best of all, anyone can do it.