In sending an email recently, Crabby Old Lady intended to write, "That works. Let's meet there at noon on Tuesday,” but when she scanned for typos before hitting "send", this is what she saw:
"Than works. Let's meat there at non on Tuesday."
Okay, that “non” is a simple typo, hitting the “o” key once instead of twice. But the other two, “than” and “meat”, are a different kind of error – mental rather than physical.
This is not a new phenomenon for Crabby Old Lady. It has been happening for several months, maybe even a year or more and it happens pretty much every time she types out something longer than six or eight words.
Crabby finally gave this issue some (semi-)serious thought when, a few days ago, she read a review of the last book from beloved American poet laureate, Donald Hall, who died in June at age 89.
As you might imagine, the new book, A Carnival of Losses: Notes Nearing Ninety (which is sitting on a table across the room from Crabby along with more than a dozen others she hasn't found time to read yet) is largely about the indignities of growing old.
The reviewer, Dwight Garner, quotes some short passages about certain age-related losses Hall reports on and although they don't plague Crabby yet at age 77, she can feel them or something similar nipping at her heels:
“You are old when the waiter doesn’t mention that you are holding the menu upside down...when you guess it’s Sunday because the mail doesn’t come. It might be Christmas...In your eighties you take two naps a day. Nearing ninety you don’t count the number of naps.”
But the excerpt that had Crabby Old Lady groaning aloud in recognition is this:
“Striving to pay the mortgage in the late 1970s and ’80s, some years I published four books,” he says. “Now it takes me a month to finish 700 words.”
Whatever may have slowed Hall's writing (Garner doesn't say), for Crabby, it is the typing/finger/word problem. Imagine if every other sentence in a story or email or letter you write contained one or two or three such errors.
That is what Crabby Old Lady is up against these days and it takes an inordinate amount of time to correct them.
With the hope of mitigating these errors, Crabby tried to analyze what is happening when she writes and discovered several types of word problems.
Sometimes the mistake is a rhyme as in substituting “to” for “who”, “case” for “face.” (All examples are real errors Crabby has made.)
Another common mistake is synonyms. Crabby perfectly well knows the difference among to, two and too but often types the wrong one.
Mixing up “than” and “that” happens almost every day. If you are a touch typist like Crabby, “N” and “T” are typed with different hands but they both do use the first finger. Is the brain signal going to the wrong hand?
Too often the mistake just comes out of nowhere. “Of” for “in”, “car” for “cabinet”, “screen” for “fork,” etc.
Who knows what that kind of mistake is about and the thing is, when Crabby is writing, she visualizes the words she is using. So if the word needed is “fork,” that image is in her mind while she types “screen.” How can that be?
Recently a crazy new one turned up, a weird spelling out of nowhere: “plase” for “place.
At last “plase” in Crabby's word error list, is the problem of omitting words - just plain skipping them so that the first half of this sentence might look like, “At last “plase” Crabby's word error list, is problem of omitting words – plain skipping them that...”
These are also the kinds of errors the eye might skip over when reading so Crabby doesn't always catch them all. Even reading stories twice, she can miss them – you may have noticed in some blog posts.
Spell check, of course, is mostly useless because it checks only for correct spelling, not usage and it certainly won't tag missing words.
So should Crabby Old Lady worry about these mistakes?
U.S. media makes sure with their daily servings of commercials and Alzheimer's reports that anyone over the age of 45 or 50 is terrified that every time they misplace their reading glasses, forget what time they are due at an appointment or lose their train of thought it is the beginning of dementia. Crabby refuses to take their bait.
She is not unaware that a large number of elders are diagnosed with dementia and she carries on a kind of relaxed monitoring system of her brain activity, enough so that she recently asked her physician about these mistakes.
Not to worry he says. And anyway, Crabby seems to be getting through daily life without any alarming cognitive issues. What she doesn't like, what she really resents every day is the extra time her typing/finger/word problems take up.
It doesn't happen when she writes with a pen in hand. How about you?