Friday, September 22, 2006

# Posted 10:52 AM by Patrick Belton  

NAME MY MENTAL ILLNESS WATCH (OR, 'DEATH TO HOMOPHONES!') It's a disease, I know. And as such should entitle me to extra compensatory time in examinations. But having never been one to mispell misspell letter things incorrectly (though admittedly not reaching Glenn's high levels of schoolboy deletreal success), I've suddenly begun substituting homonyms while typing quickly. Like a new Christian Brother in a 1950s Irish orphanage, I just can't stop. (Which is probably why I try now not to type quickly, for fear of breaking something, or perhaps homophonophobia.)

Of all the brain problems this could possibly indicate, I hope it's the hypergraphia someone attributed to Kierkegaard in relation to the girth of his corpus (compare Stalin's micrographia, or my own undoubted hypographia). That would be useful roundabout now. c.f., Donal Henehan in the NYT:
A physician in Boston, for instance, has proposed that Van Gogh's prolific output of paintings as well as his aggressiveness and other strange habits resulted from a disturbance of the brain. That in itself is hardly news. Undisturbed people do not usually cut off their own ears, for one thing. In the past, doctors have speculated that Van Gogh's problem was schizophrenia, digitalis poisoning or terminal color blindness. However, Dr. Shahram Khoshbin of Harvard Medical School contends that the painter suffered from personality disorder as a result of (I hope I have this right) temporal lobe epilepsy. The ailment apparently triggered something known in psychiatric circles as hypographia, which is defined as a tendency to produce voluminous and compulsive writing, music composition and painting. So said the article in my favorite supermarket tabloid.

I am inclined to go along with Dr. Khoshbin on Van Gogh because he obviously has given the question a lot of thought. His theory does raise larger problems, however. It seems logical to assume that hypographia was rampant among composers in centuries past but has been all but conquered recently, like polio and smallpox. Bach, Telemann, Mozart, Donizetti, Beethoven and Schubert suffered from the condition dreadfully, judging from their staggering outputs. Verdi and Wagner came down with a touch of it, too. But sometime around the turn of the century temporal lobes throughout Western culture healed mysteriously and musical production began to fall off precipitously. Except for a stray Shostakovich or two, composers no longer felt driven to turn out piles of manuscripts. The former plague of masterpieces abated. Today it is the rare composer who is afflicted. Where a Rossini or a Donizetti might feel the need to fling off an opera a month to appease audience hunger, their modern counterparts are in no such grip. Artistic compulsion has been conquered and good health is now endemic in the musical community.
Just think of all the beastly stuff we'd need to listen to if it weren't for Freud; and all the literary criticism we now wouldn't have. Isn't that a feeling of relief tingling its way down your spign?
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The inability to spell in graduate school is a relatively common disorder known as Oxymoronia.
Wow, the same thing happens to me. I have no problems spelling with pen and paper but when it comes to typing my spelling ability decreases especially when it comes to homophones. Just the other day I typed "I" for "eye".
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