Back in the days when writing things actually involved these odd creations called paper, pens and pencils … certain things were done slightly differently. For instance research involved actually opening books and finding things yourself. It wasn’t a matter of typing a question in a little box and getting more information than you actually desire about everything. Sometimes you had to … gasp … use your voice and verbally ask a question even. Or worse yet, it may even have involved actually leaving the house to go to say … a library or a book store.
Now I know these concepts are hard for some people to imagine, but it really did happen this way.
One of these research materials has always kind of confused me as to its true value. It always amazed me when I couldn’t spell a word, and asking how to spell it was told to “Look it up!”. It always boggled my mind how I was supposed to look a word up (which requires knowing how to spell it), when I don’t actually know how to spell it. Granted sometimes one can make a reasonable guess and find it. But as anyone who actually has any contact with the English language knows, there are many words that defy any definition of ‘reasonable’. Fortunately now that everything is done electronically, we have these great tools that will … yes … correct our spelling for us. Such wondrous things as spell checkers and auto corrects.
Unfortunately as far as I can tell these wondrous things are actually worse than using a dictionary.
Nothing like having that little red underline telling you that something is spelled incorrectly, only to have it say “No suggestions” as to the correct spelling. Then one needs to try for five minutes to spell it in an incorrect way that the ‘smart’ machine will recognize before the correct spelling actually reveals itself. Better yet the ‘smart’ machine may actually decide that a perfectly good word is not, in fact, the word you are looking for, and will suggest a much better word since the machine obviously knows what you actually want to say better than you do. This is always funnest when you are say … in the middle of a conversation via text or chat, and you don’t even know your word has been replaced until whoever you are talking to you wisely says “What the hell are you talking about?”
Auto correct has even graciously taken this desire to fully correct our speech to an even higher level. Not only will it obligingly tell us that “You have spelled something wrong though I am not sure what you spelled wrong” or “Silly fool that is not the word you actually want!”, but often in a special effort to truly make life easier, it will replace said misspelled or wrong word with a word or phrase from another language altogether. Most likely a language that only three humans in the world actually speak; or perhaps a dead language, because obviously you really wanted to say “I like steamed clams” in Latin instead of the word ‘incapacitate’.
I for one am very glad for the designers of high-tech dictionaries. They have truly mastered the art of not being helpful at all. But they sure do entertain!!