Archive for the ‘Misreadings’ Category

From the culture desk: admirable words, admirable things

September 2, 2021

(Plain-spoken appreciative references to penises and fellatio, plus an extended and explicit man-on-man sex scene, so not appropriate for kids or the sexually modest.)

Gastronomy, essays, calliphallicity, poetry. Starting with the New Yorker on 9/6/21 — “Food & Drink: An Archival Issue” — in a “Gastronomy Recalled” column there. From the print magazine, the head and subhead for the piece:


(#1) From the great gastronomic essayist M. F. K. Fisher

Then from the on-line magazine, this version, with the accompanying photo (by Carl Mydans / The LIFE Picture Collection / Shutterstock) and its caption:

(#2)
One does not need to be a king to indulge his senses with a dish.

But, with my imperfect aged eyes — I now misread things so often I’ve pretty much stopped cataloging my errors — and my penis-attuned brain — I am an unapologetic phallophile —  what I read was:

One does not need to be a king to indulge his senses with a dick.

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proofreading

July 14, 2021

🇫🇷🇫🇷🇫🇷 The One Big Happy strip from 5/28:

We all, from time to time, come across a word we haven’t experienced before (or didn’t register having experienced it), and just guess, often tacitly, at its approximate meaning as the world goes on around us. Little kids, having had much less linguistic experience, do this all the time; they pretty much have to.

To this end, they use similarities to words or parts of words they do know, and Ruthie is an especially analytic kid, keen on finding word-parts in unfamiliar material — plenty of examples in earlier OBH postings on this blog. In this case, the word is in fact straightforwardly analyzable into two familiar parts, and Ruthie gets that.

Oh, but what are those parts? Phonologically /pruf/ (a N spelled proof) and /rid/ (a BSE-form V spelled read).  No problem with the second, but there are several Ns proof; the compound proofread is an idiom with one of those Ns in it, but not the one that Ruthie detects.

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Annals of misreading: CEAUSESCU

June 4, 2019

Yesterday on Facebook, current political events brought me to a name from the past:

Arnold Zwicky: Topics suddenly resurrected from the past: the Ceausescus. Because of the solid diplomacy accorded to them by the British royal family when the Romanians came on a state visit. If them, then anyone.

Bert Vaux: Interestingly I first read that as “the Caucasus”…

Dennis Preston: And I read “caduceus.”

John Lawler: It took me quite a while to resurrect čaušɛsku.

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News for penguins: the misread petrel

May 15, 2019

Passed along on Facebook recently, a BBC One clip from 12/13/18, with this header:

(#1)

I read the header before I looked down at the scene. And what I read was:

Emperor penguin chicks take on a giant pretzel

I found this mightily puzzling. The Giant Pretzels of the Antarctic? Then I saw the petrel.

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The didactyl anteater, Anteater D, aka The Antedater

March 3, 2019

It began five months ago, on ADS-L, the American Dialect Society mailing list, with a note from the compiler of the Yale Book of Quotations about a piece he’d recently published:

Fred R. Shapiro, Confessions of the Antedater. Dictionaries: Journal of the Dictionary Society of North America 39.1.23-42 (2018).

An engaging and informative essay about finding earlier and earlier citations for English words and phrases. At the time, ADS-Ler Mark Mandel exclaimed:

At first I saw it as “Confessions of an Anteater”!

and Larry Horn chimed in:

Me too … Indeed, my mailer tells me that when I type “antedater” I really meant “anteater”.  Maybe someone should work on a logo

I seconded the suggestion, but then no one did anything until Fred’s piece came up again yesterday, and everybody made the same misreading again — and I came up not with a logo, but with a mascot, an Anteater With a D, the adorable little Silky Anteater didactylus.

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Annals of misreadings: the Cthulhu caper

February 26, 2019

From linguist Avery Andrews on Facebook:


(#1) Avery: “My first reading of this was ‘Cthulhu Towers’, indicating that whatever the top-down constraints on my linguistic processing may be, real world plausibility has at best a delayed effect”

To judge from my own misreadings — some of them reported on in the Page on this blog with misreading postings — real-world plausibility has virtually no role in initial misreadings; we tend to notice these misreadings, in fact, because they are so bizarre.

On the other hand, they sometimes clearly reflect material currently or persistently on the hearer’s mind — if you’ve been thinking about cooking some pasta for dinner, Italian pasta names are likely to insert themselves into your peceptions; if you’re a gardener, plant names will come readily to mind, even if they’re preposterous; and of course it’s common to see sexual vocabulary where none was intended —  but often they look like the welling-up of material from some deep chthonic place in memory, inexplicably in the context.

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Today’s misreading: life behind piano bars

May 24, 2018

The header on the e-mail appeared to promise:

Prison Gay Nite Every Friday in San Mateo – Piano Bar this week

A piano bar behind bars, gayfolk mingle with the incarcerated at the San Mateo Jail. Not really my thing, but I know people it might appeal to. And San Mateo is about 16 miles from where I live, so it would take some effort.

The message appeared in really tiny type on my computer screen, and its actual first word was entirely unpredictable in context, so it’s not entirely a surprise that I misread it. An announcement for the actual event [called Prism]:

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A hopeful misreading

March 24, 2018

Glanced at yesterday’s NYT when it arrived at 6 a.m., and read the headline for the top story:

[REDACTED] Chooses Hawke
For 3rd Security Adviser
As Shake-Up Continues

Ooh, I thought, a bold appointment: accomplished actor, director, and writer Ethan Hawke, a sturdy Democrat, feminist, and activist for gay rights.

Then I looked carefully at the headline and saw that it said Hawk (referring to a hawk, someone who supports a warlike policy in foreign affairs). not Hawke (referring to Ethan Hawke).  The appointment was of überhawk John Bolton.

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Six months of misreadings

January 25, 2016

Since my 7/2/15 posting on misreadings (with “Calamities” misread as “Catamites”), I’ve collected six more, summarized below. And there is now a Page on “Misreading postings”.

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Thursday’s misreading

September 13, 2014

On the front page of the NYT on 9/11, a headline that I read as

From Kurdistan
To Texas, Scots
Spurn Separatists

This was deeply puzzling: I didn’t think that either Kurdistan or Texas had sizable numbers of Scots, much less ones passionately engaged in the question of Scottish separatism. But then I looked more carefully at the head, and saw that it had Spur, not Spurn. The Scottish issue has inspired separatist advocates in Flanders, Catalonia, Kurdistan, Quebec, the Basque Country of northern Spain, the Veneto region in northern Italy, Brittany, Friesland, Corsica, the South Tirol, Bavaria, the Swedish-speaking sections of Finland, and yes, Texas.

Sometimes I think I understand where my misreadings come from, but in this case I have no idea.