I have autocorrect turned on in my text editor for good reason. Despite my age and my level of education, it’s clear that I am not going to sort out how to spell “connoisseur”. I can either accept help or stop using the word altogether. There’s a similar problem with “accommodate”. I admit I sometimes get that right by accident by remembering to double up the letters I forgot to double up last time. I don’t know why that doesn’t work with “connoisseur”. That’s all to explain why I was typing with autocorrect on.
The sentence I was trying to write started out “Well, actually”, and the autocorrect decided what I meant was “We’ll actuate”. This happens. I erased the start and tried again, and got as far as the first `l’ in “actually” before we were actuating again. I don’t usually have this sort of problem with autocorrect. I give it a steady diet of “ahve” and “teh” and let it do what it will with “centre” and “theatre”. This should keep it happy.
My intention starting the sentence with “well” was to warm up to it. I’m wary of committing too strongly to anything without serious thought. A good “well” gives me an extra syllable to delay whatever I’m saying. If I say it aloud I might delay long enough that someone else interrupts me, and I can avoid having to say anything. I’ve often given the impression of social grace by saying only “well” and listening in wide-eyed panic that I might have to say more. And by “actually” I meant to clarify my focus wasn’t the obvious consequence of where the discussion had been, but a related point.
But I know on some level that “Well, actually” is the starting point of sentences composed by know-it-all weenies. They can’t see a discussion without finding a way that a word’s usage has shifted since the first dictionaries were carved out of igneous stone, in 1838, and want you know to know they know that and are thus better than you. I understand that. I’m a recovering know-it-all weenie myself.
I come by my know-it-all weenie nature the classic way, without technological aid. I grew up looking for any book that promised thousands of astounding and dubiously-sourced facts. The thicker the better. The bigger a series the better. I remember parts of David Wallechinsky and Irving Wallace’s The People’s Almanacs better than I remember the names of my parents. And I have my father’s exact name. The complete works of Cecil Adams, even the minor books where he answers why Velma changes from the smartest to the stupidest character on Scooby Doo when her glasses fall off? Almost memorized. And that question was from Ask Dr Science anyway. If my parents had ever needed to get me out of their hair for a couple years they’d have just given me a Time-Life series on paranormal mysteries. And wait a minute, what were they doing from 1986 through 1989 that they didn’t want me interrupting anyway?
Why was it essential I gather all this stuff? I don’t know. I must have figured I’d someday be sitting on the front porch and a man wearing evening dress would pull up. He’d be in a horse-drawn carriage surely. He’d cry out, “You there! Lad! It’s an emergency! Can you tell me of some notable missing persons?” And I could promptly answer, “Judge Crater, obviously. And then there was this Austrian I think diplomat somebody who was in the 1810s or 1820s or something and he walked around a horse and nobody ever saw him again, how about that?” And he’d answer, “Excellent! You’ve saved the day!” And this despite the questionable taste of my reference. He would offer a sack full of obscure gold coins recovered from Oak Island, Nova Scotia, in payment. I would graciously decline, paid enough by having been useful when the need arose.
Of course this never happened. Through to age eighteen I spent about six minutes total on the front porch, and that includes time spent shoveling blizzards off it. It’d be impossibly unlikely the need would arise in that little window. And who’d pull a horse-drawn chariot through suburban New Jersey when we were still shoveling out after a blizzard?
And you know what know-it-all weenies are like. You can see their social behavior in the talk page of any Wikipedia article. They’re the ones arguing without any hint of irony or self-awareness that a longrunning web comic can’t be “notable” if the comic’s home page confesses it’s “the greatest comic strip you never heard of”. The “Well, actually” open is the challenge call of the unrecovered know-it-all weenie. Others know to ignore all the pedantic silliness which follow it.
So I thank my autocorrect for saving me from an innocently meant mistake, and the social oblivion which would follow. But this does make me wonder what other kinds of know-it-all weenie protection I have on my laptop. If I began a sentence “To be precise”, would it deliver a mild electric shock? If I started to write “In point of fact”, would it slap my hands? I considered starting a paragraph “Techincally.” I feared the computer would explode in a room-filling cloud of foam, leaving me unable to move until authorities cut me free. And I bet they couldn’t even name one foreign prince to cross the English Channel and rule from London since William the Conquerer, let alone two, like me. Clearly, I don’t know what I would do without autocorrect on my side.