Is there a medical term for my spelling goofs?
August 27, 2012 7:44 PM   Subscribe

I am finding lately that as I type things in a hurry I'm increasingly misspelling common words. Is there a name for this oddity? Examples inside.

I'm a decent speller and writer and have always been good at dashing off e-mails, documents, etc. However, lately I find I'm making some weird goofs that have me concerned. A few examples:

"He left early today to exercise at the jim."
"I hope they find a cure for that rare desease."
"Do you know which horse won the horserase?"

I notice these mistakes right after I type them, but it concerns me that proper spelling is no longer rolling off of my fingertips. Is there any kind of medical term that describes when a person begins to make these substitutions?
posted by sherlockt to Health & Fitness (13 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
It's happening to me too. I blame autocorrect.
posted by valeries at 7:48 PM on August 27, 2012

posted by cakebatter at 7:50 PM on August 27, 2012

posted by b33j at 7:50 PM on August 27, 2012

I used to be an absolute genius at spelling. Now I'm completely useless and stupid. I blame getting older, having kids, and losing my mind because of all of that.
posted by Sassyfras at 7:53 PM on August 27, 2012 [3 favorites]

I spell a lot better if I don't look at what I'm typing. Otherwise, it's just horrible.
posted by dawkins_7 at 8:39 PM on August 27, 2012

I find that my ability to spell words is as good as ever, but as I touch type more and more on a daily basis, I tend to write what I "hear" in my head, and I sometimes unintentionally substitute homophones. I've made several embarrassing there/their/they're and your/you're typos that way. It's like I've formed a direct connection between the "hearing what I want to say" part of the brain and the fingertips, bypassing the "how do I spell that" part of the brain.

On preview, Metroid Baby said something similar in that previous thread.
posted by Orinda at 8:44 PM on August 27, 2012 [4 favorites]

Sometimes I think my left and right hands get out-of-sync, like maybe my right types faster than my left and the Typus Ganglia has lost interest in the fight. Eventually the Typus Ganglia atrophies and is replaced by the Typos Ganglia.
posted by trinity8-director at 8:56 PM on August 27, 2012 [6 favorites]

I often swap letters with the ones next to them on the keyboard, especially if it's early in the day. Do your misspellings correspond with time of day? Low energy?

That said, I don't think I've ever spelled my first name correctly the first time in an email. Ever.
posted by bendy at 9:44 PM on August 27, 2012

I won (the Welsh village school equivalent of) the spelling bee year after year and had (allegedly) beautiful handwriting... now I have to double check tweets for your/you're and shopping lists are scrawled on whatever available paper is to hand. I think it's called living in the 21st century.
posted by humph at 1:27 AM on August 28, 2012 [2 favorites]

For the record, I still do this, but the frequency of my mistakes hasn't noticeably increased since the previous question (nearly four years ago). I wouldn't worry about these misspellings being the start of a long slow slide into illiteracy.
posted by Metroid Baby at 4:20 AM on August 28, 2012

I believe this condition is called "getting old."

I do it too.
posted by nathancaswell at 6:02 AM on August 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Haste makes waste. At any age.
posted by Carol Anne at 7:21 AM on August 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Psycholinguistics is probably where you want to start looking for an explanation of this, but I haven't looked into it in enough depth to give you an answer!

There are certainly thought to be many routes our brain uses for things like reading and spelling. When reading, if you make people read fast enough, they often mistake made up words for real words if they sound like real words, but not if they are just as similar but don't sound like real words. Likewise, you can get certain patterns of brain damage that make people able to recognise and read words they know but completely unable to guess what a made up word might sound like (we're otherwise very good at this).

Some of the ideas behind these models are that the brain have two ways of getting from the word on the page to reading that word out loud. You can either recognise the word and remember how to say it, or you can recognise each letter or letter combination and sound it out.

I don't know a lot about models of spelling, but I wouldn't be surprised if there are similar processes in spelling - you know the sounds and you pick the letters or letter combinations to form those sounds, and then your brain cleverly intervenes to modify those which it remembers are different. If you're typing or writing very fast then maybe one of these processes isn't quite keeping up. That may account for cases where you've spelled a word like it sounds.

Other word errors like using the wrong word or swapping sounds between words happen to all of us. They can be more common with age (the 'tip of the tongue' effect increases with age) or with brain damage, but they're also more common if you stress your language system by trying to think about too many things at once, or do things faster than you can manage.

Maybe your typing has got faster and you haven't noticed, maybe you have other things on your mind more, maybe you are noticing the subtle effects of aging.
posted by kadia_a at 9:12 AM on August 28, 2012

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