Am I reading the poetic maunderings of a youth regarding a romantic soul-searching staring match with his sweetheart–or is there somewhere a glorious spa for mollusks about which I ought to know? One little slip of spelling or pronunciation leaves me wavering in the dark. Which might be good, or might be bad–it’s all in the application of the moment. For lo, there can be such beauty and delight in Malapropisms and Spoonerisms and all manner of other happy tortures imposed on language. These joys are often best savored like a very dry aperitif by those intrepid souls fortunate enough to discover them, for the most frequent perpetrators of unintentional linguistic crimes rarely know the difference even if the error of their ways is pointed out to them by any well-meaning pedagogue or tiresome pedant.
Whoever chanced upon the bag of “Mescaline Salad” before sharing its portrait online must have been elated both at the pleasurable frisson of surprise and the consideration of whether his dinner greens might in fact be hallucinogenic. After all, a product-testing could conceivably explain the truth-in-labeling serendipity itself. The “Sliming Tea” I found on the weight-loss product shelf at a health food store seemed to me as though it might have been assisted in its production by this post’s titular creatures, but on second thought I was reminded of the effects such dietary aids can often have on digestive tracts en route to achieving their, ahem, ends. This led me to wonder further if the product was to be followed by consumption of yet another product I spotted in the refrigerator case, the “Steamed Mini-Bum”–or if it actually produced the latter item.
You see how marvelously, magically this all works. One good mislabeling–or indeed, inadvertent libeling–can lead to yet another, and each offers opportunities of the richest and rarest sorts for improving one’s health, wealth, and entertainment, not least of all by virtue of increasing the quantity of belly-laughs-per-hour in a day. Best medicine of all. For example, if I should accidentally ingest some of the aforementioned miraculous products, I wonder if I would have been more or less inclined to accept the printed invitation I once read to attend the special breakfast being served at “Our Lady Queen of Heave”, which I rather pictured as a chastely Catholic version of a fine Roman vomitorium at which attendees could enjoy communal pancakes-and-puking.
Meanwhile, on the home front, I need only look at my voicemail transcriptions or activate the subtitle function on the television in order to enjoy the best garblings of garbage on offer. There, our friend Wyant becomes “why amps” and I, as Kathryn, get to become “Captain”; I really think Captain Sparks has quite a dashing ring to it, don’t you? Though it might be even better as it’s occasionally written, Spanks. But I have a feeling that Captain Spanks might receive communications less delightful or at least a tiny bit less polite-full than otherwise. Why, now that I’ve mentioned the name, I could even be getting a new reader or two who came here searching for one kind of play (‘swordplay’, if you will) and stayed for another (wordplay). Because that’s just how fantastically a misplaced consonant can change the path of one’s life. And don’t get me started on what can happen when something goes awry with one’s vowels! It can be a little disconcerting to get a message that one’s colonoscopy doctor (in this case, Dr. Panzer) on Wednesday will be “Dr. Cancer”, or discover that apparently the titration study for which one is scheduled might be a “castration study”, something that I think it’s safe to say not a one of us would show up for willingly (a quick return phone call to clarify, at the least, is required).
In that case, it might be best to obey the Spoonerific actor who implored his mistress to “sift and shave thyself” and make a dash for the nearest door. Potentially life-and-happiness-hazardous typos aside, there is still a whole universe of fun to be found in the misadventures of the lettered sort. I know my dear husband “Dr. Splotches” (thank you, Google Voice) and I have found a great deal of amusement in the translation of previously-unknown worlds through the artful misplacement of a letter or two along the way.
I adjure you, do not trust overmuch in your Spelling Supervisor or Grammar-Magic software to save you from your worst self. The machine knows not of homophones, colloquialisms or, as mine has proven many a time, what might to you be perfectly commonplace words and terms–I love the alternatives my computer offers for any words it finds unfamiliar, but they’re not often appropriate replacements, sometimes especially for use in mixed company. Scientific phrases and jargon can trip up the masters, but beware your trusting it’s (not its) okay to let a computer impose its (not it’s) will on your verbiage. Even artificially intelligent characters (I’m referring here to technology, not to politicians, zealots, critics and other humanoids) can slip on the banana skins of word choice and phrase placement. The computer is the veritable Dogberry of the modern world and not to be trusted any further than the assumption of GIGO can go. So I will leave you with Dogberry’s farewell admonition, “Adieu: be vigitant, I beseech you.”