Slips of the Brain

do-opposites-attract-largeThere are slips of the tongue, and there are Freudian slips. But I can’t blame my tongue or Sigmund Freud for the mistake I recently posted regarding Southern pronunciations:

“In the South, you hear the ‘ah’ version of long I when it comes before a voiced vowel, as in wide, size, or five. You also hear an ‘ah’ when I comes at the end of a word, as in high or my. Only in some parts of the South does I become ‘ah’ when a voiceless vowel follows, as in light or like.”

A nice concise statement of a well-known situation, no? Well, there was just one little problem, soon pointed out by more than one alert reader. Where I had written vowel, I meant consonant. I did it twice, too.

I hastened to correct it, of course. That’s an advantage of documents on the Web: You can correct them even after they go public.

But I was puzzled. This little slip had slipped right by me and my editor, twice in one paragraph.

It wasn’t a slip of the tongue, like the Rev. William Archibald Spooner’s “You have tasted the whole worm.” And it didn’t have anything to do with repressed feelings about consonants and vowels. Honestly, I’m not subconsciously involved with either of them.

No, I think in this case it’s simply a matter of: Opposites attract. Wherever those particular items are lodged in my brain, they’re obviously close together. They’re next to each other in the categories Language–Phonetics–Types of sounds. In short, they are alike, except for one little detail.

I’ve noticed this before. Have you ever said ancestor when you meant descendant? Tomorrow for yesterday? Half your age instead of twice? Pushed on a door when the sign said pull?

For that matter, have you ever said synonym when you meant antonym? Welcome to the club.

Well, that’s the long and short of it. Has this ever happened to you?

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