Thursday, October 13, 2011

Magic of Words - Oops! How’s That Again


In our daily life, we make numerous verbal errors. They become the cause of embarrassment, insult and sometimes just laughter. But most of the time we are not serious about it although they seem surprisingly interesting. Rosenblatt in “Oops! How’s that again”, has discussed on such verbal errors in a humorous way. However, at the same time he has provided some reasonable explanations behind such errors. He has categorized the verbal errors into 4 groups. They are slips of tongue, mistranslation, bloopers and spoonerisms.

In slip of tongue we mistakenly tell something else instead of what we intend to or are supposed to tell. On the conscious level, we never mean what we speak and sometimes we regret for it. For example once a businessman Peter Balfour wished Prince Charles “Long life and conjugal happiness with Lady Jane” on the day when he has engaged to lady Diana. Similarly when Chicago's mayor wanted to make his city men feel comfortable, he assured them “The policemen isn’t there to create disorder, the policemen is there to preserve disorder.” Clearly, both the miss speaker didn’t mean what they told.

Mistranslation is different but perhaps the most interesting among all verbal errors. A popular slogan “Come alive with Pepsi” was mistranslated in Germany as “Come alive out of Grave with Pepsi”. Similarly, once the German president, Heinrich Lubke went to receive the president of India at an airport. He wanted to ask “How are you?” to Indian President but asked “Who are you?” instead.

Bloopers are embarrassing errors made in public. Once David Hartman, the anchor of “Good Morning America” infuriated his sponsor General Foods when he announced “We will be right back after this word from General Fools”. Similarly American radio anchor Harry Von Zell called his president “Hoobert Heever”. In fact the president’s name was Herbert Heever. However the bloopers largely consists low life verbal errors and toilet jokes. It is also an interesting fact that bloopers records became great hit programs on American radio and television in 1950s.

Spoonerism an utterly different kind of verbal error is named after and Oxford scholar Archibald Spooner. It is the transposition of initial or other sound of words in a sentence. It seems deliberate. The popular example is the transposition of “Conquering Kings Their Titles Take” as “Kinquering Kongs Their Titles Take”. In another interesting example, Spooner scolded his student “You have hissed all my mystery lectures…….” Instead of “You have missed all my history lectures”.

Although we just laugh at such verbal errors, they are of great importance for linguists and psychologist. According to some linguist, like Victoria Fromkin, brain stores idea in a particular grammatical pattern of a particular language. When we speak, we express our idea on the same pattern, but if the ideas are arranged in wrong way, we make mistakes. Mistranslation can be taken as a result of such attempts too.

According to psychologist, our brain has three stages called sub-conscious, conscious and super conscious. In our sub conscious mind there are many wishes related to primitive needs. But our super conscious mind always forces us not to reveal them. Our conscious mind is a balance between them. But sometimes the latent desires of sub conscious mind tend to come out in front of slips. For example when a nun asked the Irish Bishop “How may lords, my lump?” instead of “How may lumps my lord?” She intended to ask profound theological questions.

There is also another psychological theory, which gives a second reason for such verbal errors. According to the psychiatrist, Richard Yazmajian, there are some incorrect words that exist in associative change with the correct ones. He calls it “Dream Pair” of words. When we speak sometimes incorrect words of dream pair substitute the correct words and we make verbal errors.