A Reader’s Confession

Lord_Voldemort_statue_(4840264866)Our brains work in mysterious ways. They have the ability to modify what we see, and how we see it. I’m sure you’ve all seen those posts online where your brain magically skips over words without you even knowing. I’m sure that you have all scolded yourselves mentally for not being able to find the mistake before your brain registered it as correct. It’s frustrating, and it makes you want to play with the wires in your brain to make you see the things that others don’t.

When I was in grade 5, I had to do a book project. I had a great teacher who basically told us to do the project on any book that we wanted to, and I chose one of the Harry Potter books because my obsession with them was blossoming. I can’t remember which one it was. I made a book poster ever so carefully, and decorated it with cursive Voldemont’s and Harry Potter’s. That’s right, VoldemoNt. Did you catch that? I thought, even after reading at least one of the books at least 5 times, that the antagonist was Voldemont.

I was so proud of my project. I had used silver gel pens on black bristol board, and I thought it was the best project any 10 year old had ever created. I put it on display in the classroom before the morning bell rang, and a girl from my class walked over to inspect it. In my state of ignorance, I thought that she was admiring my work and thinking that her project just couldn’t compare. Instead, she turned to me and said, “It’s Voldemort, not Voldemont. You know that, right?”. I didn’t believe her. I gave her a skeptical look, one that only a child could manage, with eyebrows raised high and eyeballs nearly rolling back into my skull. I let a smile play on my lips to show that her suggestion was not only absurd, but amusing.

Then, after she gave me a look that said you’re an idiot, I took my book into the bathroom so that I could prove myself right in privacy. The first Voldemort that I found had an “r”. I thought it was a typo. I scanned through every instance of the word only to realize that somehow my brain had turned the “r” into an “n”. I’m guessing that I was a shade of red never before seen.

I couldn’t change the “n” into an “r” without it looking ridiculous. I didn’t have my gel pen with me, anyway. I believe that I tried, in vain, to use a black marker to wipe out part of the “n”, but the gel pen shimmered through. I felt like a moron because I had been so obviously wrong about something so obvious. I clearly remember it being the first time that I was really ashamed about something. It was the first time that I had been publicly disgraced.

It was a long time before I realized that perhaps it wasn’t necessarily me, but my brain. I had, upon the first use of the word, registered it as being spelled with an “n”. Therefore, my brain just filled in the rest. I did re-evaluate my reading prowess, but used it to ensure that I look at words like an editor—each individual letter of each individual word.

Has anything similar ever happened to you? What was it?

Did anyone else pronounce Hermione as “Her-me-own”? I did.

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14 thoughts on “A Reader’s Confession

  1. I remember thinking for a while it was Estelle Auder instead of Estée Lauder. It’s obviously not something I even ever had to say, it just wasn’t until I saw it written down I realised I’d been wrong.

    Along the same vein of Harry Potter actually, I always pronounced Hagrid’s first name, Rubeus, like Roo-be-us (the way they do in the movies) then heard JK Rowling say it like Roo-bay-us. Also of course the ‘t’ in Voldemort should be silent, as in the French for death but got into the habit of pronouncing it as they did in the film versions.

    Great post by the way! 🙂

    • Thanks, so glad you enjoyed it. I did the same thing with Rubeus, and still do. I never knew it was supposed to be different! Interesting what you can learn on here!

  2. Yeah, that lovely squishy-thing inside my cranium loves to graciously add its cerebral twist to a variety of words. Dare I say it baffles my mind? Too late… already typed it.

  3. I think this ESPECIALLY happens with internal pronunciations when reading. I know that once I decide on the pronunciation of a fictional character or place, there is no convincing my brain otherwise, no matter how much evidence to the contrary. I think you’re right – it’s in the wiring.

    • It’s so frustrating! Voldemort, with an r, even tasted wrong in my mouth for a long time after. It was before I learned any French, so I didn’t know about the “mort” part meaning death. It took me a long time to be ok with saying Voldemort instead of Voldemont.

  4. Yes! I always called her Her-me-own in my head. When the movies came out, I realized it was a much prettier name! I also changed horcrux into horticrux somehow.

    • Oh man, I forgot all about horcrux. I changed that to hor-o-crew-ks somehow. I also agree that Hermione sounds much better when you say it like you’re supposed to.

    • I know a lot of people who did. I think it should have been explained in the books somewhere before you hear Hermione trying to teach Krum how to say it properly.

  5. Loved your post! I can’t even tell you how many words I’ve made up over the years. “Suposedto” – as in “supposed to” would be one. Thank you for visiting my blog and the “follow” 🙂

    • Thanks! It’s even harder when you’re simply hearing something as opposed to seeing it, I think. That’s probably why so many people have trouble with spelling.

  6. I love this post, it happens to me constantly, somehow worse with my own writing. It looks fine, then bam. It’s not. Thank you for pointing it out in such a funny yet what must have been heart-rending, for you, way.

    • Ah, it wasn’t that bad. At the time, it was a terrible, but I have realized that my own writing is harder to edit than anyone else’s, at least for me. I have also learned a lot more about reading since then, so I like to think that that sort of thing happens to me less now!

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