Monday, February 23, 2009

Faulty Mnemonic

To take a break from partially baked thoughts around publishing: For whatever reason I've been typing the word "embarrass" slightly more often than usual over the past couple of weeks, which has me thinking about the fact that I systematically misspell that word in a way that I don't for most other common words.

The reason for this, I think, is that some time ago I accidentally developed a false mnemonic for how to spell the word:

"I would be embarassed [sic] if someone saw my bare [one 'r'] ass [two esses]."

Now, when this mnemonic comes to mind I'm able to consciously tamp it down, but given that I usually misspell "embarrass" with one "r" on my first pass and the mnemonic seems always to be hovering at the edge of my consciousness at that point I suspect that it's involved in the mistake somehow. If nothing else it's certainly part of my conscious process for spelling the word right, that being:

1. Write "embarass".
2. Check my spelling (with or without computer assistance).
3. Remember "embarass" isn't right.
4. Think of mnemonic.
5. Remember mnemonic isn't right.
6. Correct spelling in violation of mnemonic.

There are a few other words I regularly have problems with but I think "embarrass" is unique for me as far as having a faulty trick for recalling it. How about for anyone else? Any other false mnemonics out there?


Blogger Jack said...

I think you're overthinking this slightly.

2/23/2009 10:13 PM  
Blogger Pete said...

I'm certainly aware of words that I consistently misspell, but I don't know that I've ever determined any mnemonic ("what about 'mnemonic,' what's the mnemonic for mnemonic?" he asks, in his awkward stand-up comic voice) for any of them...

though, recently (given the month that it is), I've noticed that I consistently misspell "February" and that the mnemonic that I seem to remember from grade school, "Feb, You Are Airy!" is incorrect. Or, rather, I have misremembered a once correct mnemonic.

2/24/2009 1:34 PM  
Blogger Dan B. said...

I before e, except after tea. It turns out that spelling does not change from morning to afternoon.

2/26/2009 11:13 AM  

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