ELDER MUSIC: The Late Great Townes Van Zandt
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Crabby and Her Latest Annoying Affliction of Old Age

As if there are not enough well-known ailments of old age, new ones keep creeping up on Crabby Old Lady.

She's not talking about the diseases of age, not the terrible diagnoses no one want to hear. She's talking about the minor irritations - things like fingers too dry to turn book pages, eye floaters, tinnitus, chin wiskers (women), toad spots, short-term memory lapses – for which there is no useful remedy.

Do all these things (and others) happen to all old people? Probably not, but Crabby is pretty sure most of us have our own collection of daily irritations which we can't do much about.

The other day, TGB reader Richard Lombard sent Crabby this email:

”When I saw Tylenol thought Tyvek. Today while watching the crawl on a news show, Tropical Storm Julia drenches Florida...I read Tropical Storm Judi Dench. I could not understand what Dame Judi was doing in Florida.”

“Julia drenches” becomes “Judi Dench.”

Of course it does. It makes perfect sense to Crabby. She's been making similar mis-readings now and then for quite awhile, in books, magazines, online, pretty much anywhere there are words.

It is not uncommon for something like “free checking” to become “free chicken” in Crabby Old Lady's reading, but it is usually enough out of context that she goes back to re-read the sentence and find her error, as Richard obviously did.

Sometimes the mis-readings are funny but Crabby also wonders how often she doesn't catch the error and winds up believing something that is not so.

As far as Crabby can tell (that's a big question), this doesn't happen often. Much more frequently, she types these kinds of mistakes. She knows the word she wants and believes she has typed it and then when she proofs a blog post, there's a weird word where it doesn't belong.

Something like, from the immediately preceding sentence, “...believes she has tripped it and then...”

There is usually some connection between the word Crabby wants and what she types – perhaps that each begins with the same letter. And they usually have the same number of syllables. Verb errors are usually in the desired tense.

Unlike reading errors, typing errors occur several times in one story or email. Yes, email too. It has been many months since Crabby has sent an email, however short, without proofing it and just as often as not, there is this kind of error.

A blog story is much worse than email, usually half a dozen such mistakes and it happens so often that Crabby knows she cannot post anything without two and even three proof readings to catch the errors.

Sometimes Crabby misses them until they've been posted so undoubtedly some of you have seen these along with more usual sorts of typo she doesn't catch. Of course, Crabby has always made typos but nothing to this degree or this kind – substituting similar-looking words that more often than not have no meaningful relationship to what she intends.

Crabby Old Lady is not concerned that these errors are signs of any serious brain problem (yet) but she is really crabby about adding one more irritation to the growing list of old-age related annoyances.

It is a bit of comfort knowing that it happens to Richard too.


Whew. Nice to hear others are floating in this boat. Often I laugh so hard my eyes overflow.

I'm sure it happens other times, too, and I simply don't notice it. And that's an example of ignorance I'm okay with.

I thought it was just me!
Glad to know I have partners in these strange happenings.

Same here! The other thing is that my vocabulary is shrinking! Once my pride in how well I could express myself is fading fast & being at a loss for words is a major blow to me. That addition to what you've posted & the comments really ticks me off! And it ain't for sissies' damn it. Dee (:

What you call "Mis-readings, I call "Selective Dyslexia". It works very much like Google search. Your brain selects what is easiest rather than what you actually want.
For example. A few years ago I was looking for some info about the "River Jordan".
Google then proceeded to question my inquiry by asking "Do you mean Michael Jordon?"

I've noticed this happening for me, too. Have to say, it's kind of scary.

Remember to spell check spell check! It's not always you.

Spell checking is useful only about 50 percent of the time. If Richard substitutes Tylenol for Tyvek or I substitute chicken for checking, no spell checker can catch it because they are real words. And of course, spell check cannot do anything when we read different words than are on the page.

Oh, thank you. I thought I was going mad. I am having to slow down my typing, and proof read (yes and spell check the spell check!)

It's probably most painful to us who lived the era when accuracy mattered even when typing an original with 4 carbon copies. Today any rule of accuracy seems to just be a suggestion. At least we are all in the same boat and can laugh together. If called on it, we can blame autocorrect and move on.

Yup now and then it happens. A big different help is texting with family friends...we all know the text lingo that just becomes letters...i.e. lol...I abbreviate many words when writing....i.e. thx for thanks...kinda sad but if I'm not on the train, I would lose contact with many

Even proofing doesn't always do it for me, for the obvious reason that I know what I meant. Sometimes I do what professional proofers do -- read whatever it is backwards, word by word. No guarantee, but it helps.

In addition to spell check, my software program permits me to use grammar check, as well. Sometimes is gives me false positives, but it slows down my reading enough that I can usually find the majority of errors.

Writing unintended words is the ONLY thing in your list that I do not do!

The other day at a gathering I recognized a handsome young man whom I could not name. I asked him his name which he told me plus, that he had lived across the street from me about a year ago. He and others standing near told me several things he had done for me....

The ONLY thing I could remember was that I recognized his face! Most likely that was because I have always noticed handsome men!

When those weird words show up, I have been convinced by more knowledgeable friends that it is the fault of auto-correct which, once you have typed a couple of letters of a word and then stop only for a second, auto-correct will fill in what it thinks you are going to type. This can lead to hilarious results - and I must say, I feel less irritated than amused, sometimes even recklessly leaving the errors in place to amuse myself and mystify others..

My favorite error, though, is not auto-correct [I don't think -- but who knows?] but sloppiness on my part: I type, with a bad taste in my mouth, the name TRUMP -- and something slips and it comes up Trumpo. The perfect name for a clown, yes? Although the guy is not as innocent as most clowns. And he certainly isn't funny.

And that one I sometimes leave alone, as it appears.

Oh my! am reading this at just the right time. These things happen to me and just this morning while typing an email I used the word "busy." All of a sudden it didn't look right and my thought was how unusual I used that word, although it was correctly used. It looked wrong in that it shouldn't be pronounced "busy," more like it should be "bizy." Isn't that dumb? Anyway, left it and of course it's correct. It was a bit scary--that particular mind trick is new to me.

I noticed the same thing with word changes - until I turned off auto-correct !

When grammar checkers were new many years ago, it produced so many errors that I turned it off and never went back. The same for auto-correct. It never seemed to know what it was talking about so I turned it off too. I have enough trouble keeping up with my own mistakes - I don't need to have to watch for the supposed tech expert mistakes too.

Yes to "selective dyslexia." When a certain fast food company started putting up billboards in Minneapolis, I read it as Chick-A-Fil. Still do, upon first laying eyes on the company name.

I have the same typing problems and it frustrates me. I'm making more and more mistakes, having to constantly correct myself. Letters come out wrong, or words or fragments end up in the wrong place. It's rarely a spell-check problem. I've learned that part of it is poor typing position on a MacBook, which has a touchpad where my thumbs may sometimes rest -- and that can cause words, phrases, or just the cursor to move to unexpected places. Plus it's a very flat keyboard with barely noticeable pips on the home keys, so I can easily be too far left or right without noticing. Freaks me out though when I type the same word three different times before the desired result appears on the screen. As for proofreading ... all I can say is it's a good thing I'm retired.

Enlightenment. Now I understand why people in elder homes can be so punny!

I can get grumpy about what my body is or isn't doing lately but it's really the contents of my head that gives me pause. I "helloed" a woman who looked familiar to me and she responded with my name. Oops, so I asked her name explaining I was having some problems recalling names these days. She told me and added we'd been in two classes together in the last couple of years. I remember those classes, small groups of maybe 6 people but I couldn't remember she'd been there. Ack. And my vocabulary seems to be shrinking too. I am now much more sympathetic to my Dad who complained his memory was going even though myself and my sisters couldn't tell. Hopefully my kids don't notice but I doubt it.

Sometimes it's fun to try a figure out what the author might have tried to say instead of what they did say. The local newspaper is filled everyday with these same kinds of errors. Apparently, it is a sign of the New World of gobbledygook.

Hey Tabor .... That 'p' is not even close to the 'f' on the keyboard. So it can't be a fat-finger' error. Maybe you meant lunny (loony)? (ha!) But I finally got it: Pun + Funny = Punny.
My problem is that I think several sentences ahead of what I am typing . . . and it looks like I have omitted the obvious. Is it just that I type too slow (or maybe now slower)? Not worry - stay happy.

Bset rgads - oops . . best regrets - nope . . . How about: Ciao!

Oh, thank god that all of the above happens to others, too. I thought I was really "losing it".

The older I get, the more my vocabulary decreases until I think I am writing like a 6th grade student.

I always made typos, but now it's becoming a habit. I blamed it on arthritic fingers that have started tilting sideways and end up on the wrong key. I know see that it is an old age ailment.

I have worn out a thesaurus hunting for that damned word that is on the tip of my mind, but that I just can't bring forth. Now I just give up and substitute a simple word that has a similar meaning. It's very comforting to know that all of the word problems happens to others.

Thank goodness for Google or I couldn't write my own name.

Your brain is a funny, tricky thing. I learned years ago that when I'm reading something fairly light or mundane my eyes see the first couple of letters of a word and the brain assumes the word to be something that it really isn't. No alarms go off in your brain, so you keep reading and then realize the sentence didn't make sense and you go back over it to find out what caused the glitch. As I get older these episodes are more frequent.

Now the auto-correct just adds to the problem ... sigh

With diminished eyesight, I often use "SIRI" to help me write emails. The difference between the words I think I dictate and what she/he hears are a real hoot
And I am unaware of it until I get a reply which includes my original email message.
Provides many a giggle !

I thought you were writing about me! You aren't alone in this aging thing; it's nice to have company to share the journey.

Every month, I still edit one newsletter that has a small audience. To make sure the thing is as error-free as possible, I read it out loud to another person who also has a copy.

Amazing the things one can catch, even at that late date.

I keep spell-check turned on and sometimes say to myself,
"thanks for catching that!" and other times, "oh really!"

The glitch I have to work hardest at correcting is repetitiveness. More and more, I find myself using the same word or phrase several times in succession, sometimes within the same paragraph. It's as if my sentence-generating algorithm gets stuck! What comes first to mind is... what I just wrote. Blegh.

Repetition can be good writing when it's intentional, done for cumulative effect. When it happens by accident like this, though, it inevitably sounds lame. It's like my mind is drifting into echolalia.

I try to edit it out. Too often, I miss until it's too late.

I actually called the casters on the bottom of a stool canisters the other day. I knew it wasn't quite right but I could not retrieve the word casters in my brain!

I can see by the number of comments that I'm not alone. I used to consider myself quite articulate, but I just can't find the words anymore. As for the concerns of the aging body, I feel like I'm being "nickeled and dimed to death." It's not big things, just the plethora of little things that all add up to drive you nuts.

I cannot proofread anything on my computer. My brain knows what I MEANT to type, so that's what it reads. I have to print the document, leave it for a day or two, then read it when it's not so fresh and in a different format on the paper. Of course, this doesn't work for emails that need to be sent right away, so I re-read them several times before sending, but I'm sure there are still errors.

Maybe all these challenges are there just to keep us on our toes as we age!

How wonderful to learn that others have been experiencing this also. I just love that everyone is sharing all this. Bless us all.

Ronni: this is a "stellar" post + comments today............you do get the cigar! Thanx so much. Dee :)

When listening, it's called mondegreen--a mishearing or misinterpretation of a phrase as a result of near-homophony. I've been doing this for decades.

But lately, I've had the same problem when reading. Don't know if it's called the same thing.

It was my first secretarial job. I was 22, working for the sales manager of Smith& Nephew, makers of all kinds of facial creams and lotions. I had a stack of work on my desk, so let us get this thing done. The line in the sales advertisement was supposed to read "scores of people love using Nivea cream."

I wrote "sores of people love using Nivea cream."

Sores of people!

Thankfully, my boss didn't fire me. Thankfully he caught the mistake before the incorrect line ended up on a jar of Nivea cream.

My goodness but these do seem like common problems. My daughter-in-law gets very concerned about me and my aging. My cataracts are not ready to remove but they are affecting my distance vision and I use only reading glasses. Last night while selecting the items I wanted in my salad at Mod Pizza I was having a problem seeing the food in the case because the edge of my reading glasses and the edge of the glass covering the food caused a weird refraction and I could not identify the food. She questioned me a some length about my vision - I do wish it was better, but the readers are great and my distance vision does not improve with glasses. And she can't understand that.

And I do wish people would look at me when they talk - it helps me understand better as even with my hearing aids if you are in another room or walking away I will miss a lot of your words.

Have had to go back to my high school new paper days and double proof everything I write as I am terrible at spelling and the computer ofter changes what I type.

I had so much fun reading these comments! What an amazing group of readers! Most of my reading and writing problems stem from a rare, inherited vision condition called pattern dystrophy. I manage it by having my glasses changed frequently, and wearing fit-overs to guard against blue light (present in all screens) when I am using the computer. It's very irritating though—lines of print are wavy and hard to read. In spite of it, though, I am thankful I can still read, use the computer and drive.

All the problems described here seem to be creeping up on me. My years of experience with various proofreading techniques tell me I could catch just about all the glitches by reading the draft text out loud. But somehow I can't bring myself to do that, even when the story or message is brief.

We are all in excellent company.

And, aside from what we mis-read or mis-type, there are so so so many others out there doing the same thing but not even caring about it that it is becoming the norm (not to mention the apparent disappearance of proofreaders from the staff of major newspapers and magazines!).

Not realizing that there was such a thing as "Judi Dench errors", I've been totally amused by my own careless readings. Now I have a name for such occurrences!

Empathy here! We float together.

I am a 57 yo male and in recent years have developed most of the minor irritants that you mention. Yes, it gets frustrating. Last week I was in a business situation where out of several (younger) people I was the person who remembered the details of something that had occurred a couple of months ago (subsequently confirmed via e-mail histories). It was SO satisfying to know that that my memory is still pretty good !

I noticed it first in typing. My fingers get ahead of the word! No I can't explain that better. I couldn't figure out why reading isn't sinking in the brain and re-reading wears my eyes out.

I'm beginning to think there should be an age limit on Congress. Can't tell me they aren't having some aging issues.

I write two blogs and I know now I have to let each of them mellow for a few hours before I publish them. I always find things that need to be fixed. Always.

But I can't tell you how many times I have to go back and edit Facebook comments, even though I think I've read them often enough to catch the mistakes. It's as if little gremlins get in there and mess it up the instant I hit the "enter" button. Thank goodness for the "edit" button!

(Lately I catch myself using "your" and "you're" wrong, even though I obviously know the difference. I don't know what that's all about!)

thank you 57 year old reader for telling your age. I am 62 and have been dealing with a lot of the same stuff. Since everyone is always yammering on how gracefully we age and we see all the 70 year old actresses who look like 50 - if I was too young to be getting forgetful. As to the selective dyslexia - I have been doing that for a few years. Wonderful term! I am still doing part time administrative work - for a college. Sometimes I reread the emails I send and cringe. I was once a very strong writer.

I have been using computers for decades but never explored blogging. I am binge watching SHAMELESS. It is a lonely weekend so I thought I would check out what other "mature" people are thinking. This blog made me feel I was also in great company.

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