Oops ! How’s That Again ? - Summary | The Magic of Words

Roger Rosenblatt

Oops ! How’s That Again ? - Summary | The Magic of Words

Oops ! How’s That Again ?

“Oops! How’s That Again” is an essay written by Rosenblatt and this essay has a humorous tone. Through the humorous tone also, the essayist has tried to reflect the bitter reality of human beings when they make mistake when they speak. He enriches his discussion with remarkable examples; although, as befits its subject. He is much concerned with the psychological causes of bloopers.

Human beings often make mistake knowingly and unknowingly when they speak. After making mistake they also apologize for it. From the uneducated person to highly intellectual and educated, scholar, different mistakes are made according to their level. This essay describes the mistake the people make while speaking and the reasons behind it are divided into four categories. They are as follows: i. Public Blunders ii. Memorable Translations iii. Bloopers iv. Spoonerisms.

Public Blunders are the mistakes made by the people when they give the speech. While delivering the speech, they don’t actually care for the grammatical mistakes or vocabulary mistakes. These mistakes are especially committed by especially by the political leaders when they deliver their speech. They try to give emphasis by giving different examples but their sentences are not totally complete. This happens due to their tongue slip. Here the speaker may be trying to give a message from one view but the different audience may take it in the wrong way.

Memorable translations are the mistakes generally done by the people who speak very fast. This is also related to the psychological condition of the listener. The words spoken by the fast speaker may not be easily understood the real words. There may be a misunderstanding between the speaker and the listener. The person with weak psychology, if, wrongly interprets the words of the speaker, it may bring a violent situation.

Bloopers are the mistakes done foolishly and not tried to correct. These mistakes are very simple types of mistakes, which are not given much importance by the speaker. This may be the habit of some people. Spoonerisms are the mistakes, which are done by the use of incorrect words due to tongues slips. Here, wrong words are not known by the listener as the speaker immediately tries to replace the wrong word when he comes to know the mistake. While the replacement of words the speaker should be conscious as a wrong replacement can misinterpret the actual meaning.

There are different views about the verbal errors according to different people. Victoria Fromkin, a linguist, says that the verbal errors happen due to tongue slips concerned with the brain. Before the words are expressed, the thought is placed by the brain into a grammatical framework. Sigmund Freud, a psychiatrist, presents his theory about the verbal error in a different way. According to him, a tongue slips are caused by the network of id (unconscious mind), ego (subconscious mind) and superego (conscious mind). When people make mistakes, it has become the trend to laugh at them. Why do we laugh at them we don’t know. According to the philosopher Henri Bergson, the act of laughter is caused by any interruption of normal human fluidity or momentum. So, tongue slips are like slips of banana peels. We simply make fun and hoot at the errors simply to break the monotonies.

Important Questions

1. Into what group has Rosenblatt organized his blunders example of verbal miss-steps?
Ans: Rosenblatt has organized them into four groups: public blunder, memorable mistranslations, bloopers, and spoonerisms. First, he talks about public blunders e.g. Nancy Regan describes the voters as “The beautiful white people” secondly, the writers say about memorable translation. This type of error is created when “Come alive with Pepsi” another verbal error is blooper is generally made on TV and radio programmes. In place of saying “Herbert Hoover” one says “Boobert Heever”. The fourth error is “Spoonerisms” once Spooner said to his students. “You have hissed all my mystery lectures” instead of “You have missed all my history lectures.”

2. What explanation does Rosenblatt advice for the human tendency to make verbal errors?
Ans: The writer examines many reasons why the speaker makes such errors. According to the writer, slip of the tongue is the main cause of the mistakes (verbal errors). Slip of the tongue is like slip on the banana peels. The thoughts in our mind are put into the grammatical order before we express them. According to Freud, the slips or verbal errors are caused by the speaker’s inner desires. The tongue slips also because of other types of verbal errors such as blooper (stupid mistakes) and spoonerism. The writer says that nothing is perfect and ever successful. It is human nature to make mistakes.

Questions for Practice

  1. Provide two examples of verbal errors from the text “Oops! How’s that Again” from accrual life. Explain why people make such errors.
  2. In “Oops! How is that again?” Rosenblatt talks about various types of verbal errors that people make. Take up one such error from your own experience or from some other source, and guess the possible cause.

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