Are You a “Looser”?

As a kid, I read quite a bit and had a decent vocabulary for a brat my age. However, I was a poor speller–eliminated from the 4th grade spelling bee on the word “chihuahua.” Regardless of the fact I couldn’t tell the difference between a chihuahua and a chimichanga, I still was a poor speller.

I also had terrible penmanship. I don’t know how other schools were, but our school passed-out grades for handwriting through the 4th grade.  I consistently received either a “U” for Unsatisfactory, or an “N” for Needs To Improve.

In college, my freshman year writing class allowed papers to be turned in handwritten–unless you had the penmanship of a 4th grader. I received an “F” on my first paper and was told buy a typewriter. After spending $50 on an old manual typewriter, and 8 long hours trying to type a 500 word paper mistake-free, I received another “F” and was told to find, or pay, someone to type my papers for me.

Long story short, thanks to a student loan, I bought my first PC from Radio Shack (for those who care, the specs are listed at the end of this post) with word processing software and what I thought was a life-saving tool… the spell check!–plus the fact that I didn’t have to deal with typing ribbons, white-out or correction tape had me doing snoopy dances in the aisles.

And now, all my papers had perfect spelling, right? Well… no.

As any modern computer user has probably learned, a spell check may “guarantee” correct spelling of the most commonly used words, but it cannot correct the spelling of misused homophones — words that sound alike but have different meanings, derivations or spellings, e.g., to, too, two. When I’m typing along at a decent clip, my “too”‘s are frequently abbreviated as “to,” which, of course, the spell check identifies as correctly spelled. Hence the need for proofreading.

Which brings me to the word I most often find misspelled in the digital world… LOSER.

Loser is frequently misspelled as its homophone, LOOSER–for a laugh, check out the definition of “looser” at Urban Dictionary.

I briefly toyed with the idea that this was just some wacky, digital, cultural phenomenon along the lines of “LOL.” But no, it’s not.  It’s just a commonly misspelled word. I’ve seen this misspelling from teens to MBA types, and even writers–here’s one in a recent gaming article on Extreme Tech.

So, like anything else, there are two sides to this coin. Our digital tools both help us and hinder us.

My personal digital age pros and cons are as such:

Pros

  1. I am a better speller–over time, spell check has improved my spelling vocabulary.
  2. I am a better writer–I have almost instant access to digital dictionaries and thesauruses along with grammar, usage and style guides.
  3. I save time–same as above.
  4. I can type 60 words-per-minute–too bad I can’t think that fast.

Cons

  1. My handwriting is worse than ever–probably kindergarten level. Cursive, or script, writing is physically painful to me.
  2. I am a lazy speller–I type faster than I can spell. I may know how to spell a word, but my fingers say “to hell with it,” and let spell check make the corrections.
  3. Microsoft Word’s grammar helper is the bane of a writer’s existence–all of the little, colored, underline thingies stitching the page of my less-than-formal phrasing kills me
  4. Homophones suck–‘Nuff said.

I don’t really have a point, here. But I find it extremely interesting that even with all of the tools and conveniences of our modern digital lifestyle, errors still creep in. Which I think, ultimately, is a good thing. It keeps us… human. But not loosers (spell check loved that one).

PS. on keeps us human… anyone remember Skynet?

My first PC, circa 1988:

IBM x86 clone
128 K of RAM
10 MB hard drive
5.24″ floppy drive
14″ monochrome monitor
Radio Shack version of DOS called Tandy DOS
Radio Shack word processing program with spell check

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3 Comments on "Are You a “Looser”?"

  1. Guy
    01/12/2008 at 9:40 am Permalink

    It was the word “abscess” that eliminated me, in the fifth grade if I remember right.

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