Running the rounds recently, the story of a university lecturer who ranted herself out of her job. From RawStory: “Florida St. communications lecturer resigns after bemoaning ‘Northern fagoot elitism’ on Facebook” by Scott Kaufman on the 10th:

A senior lecturer in the College of Business at Florida State University resigned over the weekend after she posted a torrent of racist, homophobic comments on a Facebook photograph of outgoing Attorney General Eric Holder, the Tallahassee Democrat reports.

The spelling FAGOOT was widely taken to be an illiteracy, but (though the woman seems to be thoroughly repellent) I very much doubt that that’s what was going on.

One Urban Dictionary contributor on FAGOOT identifies it as “A very common mistake by the illiterate”, and no doubt there are some ignorance errors out there: the misplacement of gemination, or letter-doubling, is indeed common in the writing of uncertain spellers, especially children. What they know is that “there’s a doubled letter in there somewhere”, but they’re not entirely sure where.

But misplacement of gemination in spelling is actually a pretty common typo from practiced and assured spellers. Like me.

These misplacements arise from a glitch in realizing a plan in language production. Gemination is part of a high-level plan in writing or typing, and a geminate can then be produced too early (as in my very frequent typo of REFFERED for REFERRED) or too late (as in FAGOOT). Some more examples from my writing:

AMZ to ADS-L 6/23/09: goggling [for googling] on “sceince” can be a sobering experience. [late geminate]

AMZ typed 7/10/10: fottballs for footballs [late geminate]

AMZ wrote 10/3/12: How far is the Old Logg [Logg crossed out and replaced] … Log Inn? [early geminate]

(All four of my examples discussed in “Planning at an abstract level” of 10/4/12.)

I am by no means an uncertain speller, but I produce a lot of typos when I write or type fast. So I’m inclined to give the former FSU lecturer the benefit of the doubt; her FAGOOT almost surely has a misplaced geminate, produced in the heat of her fury.

One Response to “fagoot”

  1. arnold zwicky Says:

    From Chris Waigl on Facebook:

    Your take on it was also what I immediately thought, that is, I didn’t even put any extra penalty on her spelling in my mind, above and beyond the content of her rant. I’m surprised how many people feel so strongly that any misspelling must reveal some deeper level of deficiency. Maybe it’s what schools [I sometimes have typed scholls ..] everywhere drum into you — teaching via humiliation.

    It’s crucial that so many people think that all mistakes are the same, whatever their source, and see no point in distinguishing inadvertent and advertent errors (my terminology), typos and thinkos (Nunberg’s terminology), or knows-better and doesn’t-know better errors (Goffman’s terminology).

    This attitude means that some people will take any typo to mean that you’re an illiterate fool. Friends sometimes write me about typos in my postings, noting that some readers will take them as evidence that nothing I write can be taken seriously.

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