Lapsus digiti

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Ivanka Trump congratulates Boris Johnson:

Of course the eccentric spelling earned some media commentary, and plenty of laughs on twitter. Of which this was my favorite:

And of course the faulty tweet was deleted and a fixed version posted in its place.

I'm sympathetic, since my fingers frequently insist on following their own nonsensical logic as soon as my attention shifts to the next words I mean to type. This sort of thing is obviously analogous to the kind of speech errors that are known as Fay-Cutler malapropisms — but the logic of slips of the finger seems to be quite different in some ways from the logic of slips of the tongue.


  1. David Morris said,

    July 23, 2019 @ 7:44 pm

    Possibly predictive text had something to do with it. I typed 'United King' into Google and it predicted 'United Kingdom', but as soon as I added 's' it changed to 'United Kingston'.

  2. Monscampus said,

    July 23, 2019 @ 8:24 pm

    Sure it's not the Cupertino effect?

  3. Wells Hansen said,

    July 24, 2019 @ 12:58 am

    On page 214 of the Fay Cutler paper in the third paragraph, is "three-syllable" correct, or should the paper read "four-syllable"?

    [(myl) I think you mean "page 514". But your syllable count is correct!]

  4. Keith said,

    July 24, 2019 @ 1:11 am

    Almost certainly a case of DYAC or predictive text.

    Whoever types this tweets for her hit the S key instead of the D key (they are side by side on a QWERTY layout keyboard).

    Hardly newsworthy.

  5. Chris said,

    July 24, 2019 @ 2:18 am

    My favourite comment was:
    No, she tweets garbage all on her own accord.”

  6. Thomas Rees said,

    July 24, 2019 @ 2:51 am

    If Wells Hansen was in my class they'd get a gold star sticker for close reading of the assignment!

  7. Philip Taylor said,

    July 24, 2019 @ 3:16 am

    Initially intrigued by the 3-syllable/4-syllable question, I checked the LPD to see if a 3-syllable rendering of either was attested, but it was not. What then intrigued me more is that John Wells gives /ɪ/ as the initial vowel of both "equivalent" and "equivocal" and /iː/ as the initial vowel of (e.g.) "equidistant" where I have /e/ for all (but more marked in "equidistant"). Is /e/ as the initial vowel of words such as these simply a personal affectation, or is it more widespread but unreported by JCW ?

  8. Anne Cutler said,

    July 24, 2019 @ 6:40 am

    Indeed, Wells Hansen, you are very welcome to come down here and proof read all my papers!
    What led to the slip, or whose slip it was, is no longer within my power to recall (though I can be fairly confident that it wasn't a cut-and-paste error).
    But – thanks again*, Llog!

    * Last published thankyou to Llog: AnnRevLing, January 2019.

  9. Monscampus said,

    July 24, 2019 @ 12:12 pm

    My mistake – I should have included this link in comment no. 2:
    I was convinced every linguist here must have encountered this annoying feature, but there seems to be no end of presuming "something predictive". When *Cupertino" first cropped up in a text of mine (unrelated to the US or the English language), it made me disable my spell-checker.

  10. Chris C. said,

    July 24, 2019 @ 4:15 pm

    I find it almost impossible to type the word "ratio" without paying close attention, or it invariably comes out "ration". I have no idea why my fingers automatically go there.

  11. Andrew (not the same one) said,

    July 25, 2019 @ 7:40 am

    The United Kingston was presumably formed by the union of Kingston upon Thames and Kingston upon Hull. Or does it also include Kingston, Jamaica?

  12. V said,

    July 26, 2019 @ 3:54 am

    The embedded video crashed my tabled.

  13. Gregory Kusnick said,

    July 26, 2019 @ 1:59 pm

    Andrew: That would make it the Kingston Trio.

  14. Chester Draws said,

    July 26, 2019 @ 11:43 pm

    I find it almost impossible to type the word "ratio" without paying close attention, or it invariably comes out "ration"

    Not only do I have exactly the same problem, but because I am a Maths teacher I get to type out "ratio" quite a lot.

  15. Andrew Usher said,

    July 27, 2019 @ 12:32 pm

    They are, of course, the same Latin word, and only differ conspicuously in pronunciation because of the recent change of 'ration' to a short vowel in the first syllable. I do not know how that arose.

    Indeed, '-atio' is very unexpected for an English word, we write the Latin suffix as its stem '-ation' – except for that word, the only other exception I can think of is 'fellatio' (the name 'Horatio' does not contain the suffix; the more regular form is 'Horace'). 'Fellatio' is especially weird because 'fellate' exists, normally used metaphorically, and if one were trying to form an abstract noun from that, one would want to come up with 'fellation' rather than 'fellatio', but people instead avoid it in a sort of defective paradigm i.e. one doesn't see 'the fellatio(n) of …' in the metaphorical sense.

    All of 'ratio', 'fellatio', and 'Horatio' can have the '-tio' said as one or two syllables; the latter is preferred by dictionaries but I learned 'ratio' with one. Fortunately that doesn't cause problems in speech, as would my mental pronunciation (still to this day) of 'cation' and 'anion' as rhyming with 'station' and 'canyon'! I have to consciously avoid that in speech, justified though they might be.

    k_over_hbarc at

  16. Philip Taylor said,

    July 28, 2019 @ 3:50 am

    'Patio' is the only other common English word ending with "atio" of which I can think, but it would appear to come from Spanish rather than from Latin.

  17. Andrew Usher said,

    July 28, 2019 @ 10:25 am

    Yes, 'patio' does not contain the Latin suffix, and is pronounced differently again, so it's not surprising I didn't think to list it. It would be a harder task for me, I think, to come up with a list of words by spelling, than by pronunciation – showing then that even for me (hardly a poor speller) words mentally are primarily stored phonetically.

  18. Garrett Wollman said,

    July 28, 2019 @ 11:07 am

    Chiming in a bit late here, but I'd like to point out another feature of mobile-phone softkeyboards which has become a significant annoyance to me and might be another explanation of the originally noted phenomenon. On Android phones, the standard softkeyboard displays a strip of possible completions to the current "word' above the keyboard. In older versions of Android, there were three completions displayed, and the center slot showed the completion with the smallest edit distance to the current "word". In more modern systems, this has been replaced with a machine-learning model that shows only two likely completions (in the center and right slots) and the left position is always the current word. The model's idea of "likely" is very sensitive to how long a prefix you have already typed, with the completion strip changing — and changing order — seemingly at random after every character.

    During typing, motion planning and reading back the contents of the display proceed in parallel, allowing for frequent race conditions where the user is in the middle of typing a word, sees the desired completion in the completion strip, and decides to tap the completion, but is already in the process of typing another character, the act of which changes the contents of the completion strip in between the formation of the intent to select a completion and the physical touch of the screen. Sometimes, the user will actually finish typing the word by the time they hit the completion strip, which in the current Android keyboard design guarantees that they will invoke the wrong completion unless the model cannot find any completions at all, due to the way the correct word abruptly shifts to the left position when the user types the last character.

    As a result of these phenomena, I find that my overall input accuracy suffers when my "typing" on the softkeyboard is _too_ accurate, as I've learned to ignore the left-hand slot, and typos earlier in the word ensure that the correct word is never in that slot. I can easily imagine the same thing affecting Ms. Trump.

  19. Steve Bacher said,

    July 28, 2019 @ 2:37 pm

    When, in my role as church music director, I was attempting to write up the choir anthem for the coming Sunday, Henry :Purcell's "Rejoice in the Lord alway", the software (Microsoft Office in this case) persisted in changing it to "always." It was next to impossible to get it to stop "correcting" me.

  20. Philip Taylor said,

    July 28, 2019 @ 2:48 pm

    (patio / ratio). Yes, I agree that they both etymologically unrelated, and normally pronounced very differently, but when "ratio" becomes the head element of "ratiocination", then (in my idiolect at least) they are pronounced very similarly.

  21. Victor Mair said,

    July 30, 2019 @ 10:21 am

    One of the easiest words for me to mistype is "language" — the letters in the second half often come out garbled.

    Another is my own name, which often comes out as "Vicotr".

  22. Philip Taylor said,

    July 31, 2019 @ 5:11 am

    "Victor" frequently appearing on-screen/in-file as "Vicotr" could be an artifact of your keyboard — I use original IBM "clicky" keyboards (1391406s) on all of my computers, and I find that these are far less prone to transpose letter sequences than more modern ones.

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