Monday, April 22, 2013

Word Boundary Error Commentary Track

Word boundary errors! They don't come up as often as you'd think, especially if you have a robust conflict-free dictionary full of prefix and suffix strokes, but when they do, they're baffling and embarrassing in equal measure.

I recently downloaded my entire Twitter archive and then searched for the hashtag "#wordboundaryerrors". It offered up a treasure trove of them, collected over the last several years. Here are some of the best, with my comments on how I can avoid errors like them in the future.

"more tartar" came out "mortar tar". #wordboundaryerrors

I should probably take MOR/TAR out of my dictionary altogether. Eclipse tells me I've written it MORT/*AR 168 times, but MOR/TAR only once: When someone said "more tartar". #facepalm

"sing Hallelujah" came out "Singha lay lieu ya". #wordboundaryerrors #mmmthaibeer

Two ways to keep this from happening again: Redefine SING/HA as S*ING/HA (with the asterisk denoting a proper noun), or just stick to writing "hallelujah" as HAL/LAOU/YA (already defined in my dictionary that way). I'll probably do both, since it's silly to do "Hallelujah" in four strokes.

Conversely, #stenofail of the day: "salivary gland malignancy" came out "salivary grandma lignancy". Not always smart to define misstrokes!

Take out that GLAND/MA -> "grandma" definition! It might have come up as a misstroke that once, but I probably shouldn't have kept it.

"These cisterns" came out "thesis terns". #steno #wordboundaryerrors

I now write "thesis" THAES, so I don't think this will happen again. Alternately, I could use SIFT/*ERNS, but that feels unintuitive to me.

Argh! And "call me Sophia" came out "call miso feia". #wordboundaryerrors #rackinfrackin

This is a tricky one. I think I'll have to redefine "miso" as MIS/JO. (JO is my {^o} suffix stroke). And Sophia should probably have an asterisk, though that makes it tough to distinguish from Sofia. So I might just leave it and concentrate on "miso".

"optically pure lens" came out "optically purulence". #wordboundaryerrors

Simple way to fix this is keep "pure lens" as PAOUR/LENS and redefine "purulence" as PUR/LENS. Not sure why it wasn't that way already. I think it was a legacy entry.

"supplied by lingual nerve" came out "supplied bilingual nerve". Argh! I have a bi- prefix; it was a legacy entry. #wordboundaryerrors

All your masterful prefix and suffix definitions won't help you if you don't weed out your conflict-ridden legacy entries! This one came from either my NYCI dictionary or the Sten Ed dictionary. Tsk-tsk.

"They're mossy fibers" came out "Thermosy fibers". Sigh. #wordboundaryerrors

Change Thermos to THERM/OS to use -os suffix stroke. In general try to avoid using briefs for common words like articles, prepositions, and pronouns as word parts, because the chance of a conflict is just too high.

"key efficacy objectives" came out "Kiev case objectives". #wordboundaryerrors

I had both KAOE/EF and KAOE/*EF defined as "Kiev". Delete the first one! It's not theory-appropriate anyway.

"could coexist" came out "cocoa exist" #wordboundaries

Like with "Thermos" above, I shouldn't use KO for both my "could" brief and my "co-" prefix. Usually my "co-" prefix is KOE, but this must have been a misstroke define that bit me later on.

"acyanotic" came out "acai nottic". Yep, I had "cyanotic" and the "a" prefix defined, but "acai" got in there first. #wordboundaries

To be honest, this is a tough one. I could have written "cyanotic" SAON/OT/IK, or just have predefined "acyanotic" so that the problem wouldn't have come up, but I'm cutting myself a little slack on this particular error.

Today "saturated fat was bad" came out "saturated fatwas bad". #boundaryerrors

Inflections of "to be" should never be used in word parts. I should either have written FAT/WA/S or FAT/W*AS, or even FA/TWAS. (Since 'twas is pretty uncommon in modern usage, though I do have it in my dictionary.)

Argh. "cost Coca-Cola" came out "Costco ka cola". #wordboundaryerrors

When brand names collide! I probably should have thrown an asterisk in at least one of these corporations, since they are both proper nouns.

"crazy cat lady" came out "Krazy Kat lady". #wordboundaryerrors

Krazy Kat came up in a History of Comics course. I really should have used an asterisk in that proper noun.

Ha! Funniest boundary error in a while: "big surveillance studies" came out "Big Sur valance studies".

Here too. Especially in proper nouns that are only one syllable long. Nearly all one-syllable words can come up as word parts at some point. That's kind of what syllables are. (':

Stickler Syndrome isn't kicking yourself because "past attendance" came out "pasta tendance". It's a genetic disorder:

Another legacy entry! I've written pasta PAFT/A precisely zero times, PAFT/YA 29 times, and PAS/TA 106 times. But of course it had to come up here.

"Broadly correlated" came out "broad liqueurlated". Man, am I glad that was transcription and not CART. How embarrassing. Fixed now.

This is actually a bit of a hole in my current theory. I don't distinguish between the {^ly} suffix and the "li" word part. Boo, hiss. It doesn't come up as often as a lot of other word boundary errors do, but I should still really fix that, and soon. I mostly write "liqueur" LIK/AOUR, but LI/KOR was in there as an alternate stroke.

Tricky boundary error -- "Chris Crosby" came out "criss-crossby".

Easy fix is to redefine KRIS/KROS as KRIS/KR*OS and pray that nobody mentions the short-lived backwards-trouser-wearing '90s rap group Kris Kross. (Or be prepared to fingerspell it!)

Where pharmacology and medieval studies collide: "Fetishistic reliquaries" came out "Fetishist Ikorel wears". Sigh.

Should have kept my medical dictionary turned off during my Medieval studies class! And also should have put an asterisk somewhere in Ikorel, since it is a proper noun.

Worst error so far from tonight's class on Job: "An Israelite" came out "Anise realite".

Probably should start writing "Israel" with an asterisk, since it's a proper noun.

"Per vertebra" came out "pervert bra" #steno #wordboundaryerrors #particularlyunfortunatewordboundaryerrors

Yeah. I got nothing. :'o

Feel free to post samples from your own word boundary rogues gallery, if you like! I promise I won't belittle you for them. No matter how diligent we are, we can never completely avoid every possible word boundary in the universe. We've just got to keep trying to squash them, one word part/suffix overlap at a time.


  1. I was curious so I went through and tested all of these against my dictionary. Only one that tripped me up (as expected) was the fetishistic reliquaries. I didn't even know what a reliquary was until this post :P.

    This is how I wrote them:

    - "more tartar" = PH-R/TART/AR
    - "sing Hallelujah" = SEUPBG/HAL/LAOU/KWRA
    - "salivary gland malignancy" STPHRAER/TKPWHRAPBD/PHAELGS
    - "these cisterns" = THAOES/SEUS/TERNS (thesis = THAOESZ, stick in * to make it theses)
    - "call me Sophia" = KAUL/PHE/SOF/KWRA
    - "pure lens" = PAOUR/LENS (purulence is PAOURNLS and purulent is -PBLT)
    - "supplied by lingual nerve" = SPHRAOEUD/PWEU/HREUPBL/TPH*ER (bilingual is PWEUPBL)
    - "Thermos" = THERPL/OS
    - "they're mossy fibers" = TH*ER/PHAUS/AOE/TPAOERUBZ
    - "Kiev" = KAO*EF
    - "key efficacy objectives" = KAOE/EF/KAES/OEPBLGS
    - "cocoa" = KO/KO
    - "could co-exist" = KAO/KO/KP*EUS
    - "saturated fat was bad" = SAFPD/FAT/-FS/PWAD
    - "Costco" = KO*EUBG
    - "cost Coca-Cola" = K*OS/KOBG/KO/HRA
    - "a├žai nottic" = AU/SAOEU/TPHOT/EUBG (haha)
    - "crisscross" = KROEUBGS
    - "an Israelite" = APB/SR*EL/AOEUT
    - "anise" = AU/TPHAOES
    - "per vertebra" = PER/SR*B
    - "pervert" = PEFRT
    - "big surveillance studies" = PWEUG/STPAEULS/STEUDZ
    - "fetishistic regularly queries" = TP*ERB/*EUFBG/REL/KWAERS

    Being a short writer has its benefits but we're not infallible. :P

  2. Oh, but if I want the bi^ prefix when I don't have the whole word briefed, I use PWEUPG.

    I write "mortar" PHORT/AR

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