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Saturday, June 4, 2011

ABC 123

I am a word nerd. I absolutely love words, which is kind of miraculous when I consider the trouble that words give me in day-to-day living.
For example, I have this compulsion where I have to count up the number of letters in a word and calculate what fraction of them are vowels. I have kind of a thing for the number three, so my favorite words, predictably, are those that contain nine letters (3 X 3) with 3 being vowels (3/9, 1/3, 0.333). Luckily I don't have to do this for every word or I would be in a mental institution, but my brain is constantly picking random words and performing these calculations on them, which can be a little intrusive when you're trying to listen to what people are saying while weighing the percentage of vowels and consonants in the words they're using. Let's just say I've been known to miss information because of that.
I didn't always have to calculate percentages. It used to be that I had to spell out the words in my mind (in white paint) and then erase them by pouring black paint over them. Thank goodness that stopped, because the black paint had a terrible tendency to miss parts of the words, so I had to mentally brush the black paint over those areas. Unfortunately they tended to either mix with the white paint and make patches of the paint gray, or the black paint would go on too thin and the words would show through. Try carrying on an intelligent conversation while cleaning up that many mental paint spills all the time.
Despite these inconveniences, there are words that give me great pleasure, perhaps even increased by my OCD. As I mentioned, I really like the number three. I like the fact that there is one part enclosed on both sides by two other parts. There's a beginning, a middle, and an end. It feels whole, complete, secure. I also like words that spell the same things forward and backward. (They're called palindromes, which really should be spelled the same forward and back, but whoever coined it obviously didn't have OCD). Words like racecar, kayak, eve, did, deified, and level bring joy to my soul.

Side note: As I'm typing this, my computer is telling me that racecar isn't a word. It's saying I should do race car or race-car. I don't think so.

I also like words such as bid, where the middle letter looks like it has the same view in both directions, like two b's or two d's are facing each other, rather than one b and one d. You know, they're like mirror images. It's not that I can't read words unless they're palindromes or mirror image words. It's just that words like that make me happy.
So, hey! Along with it's various pain-in-the-neck aspects, OCD actually increases my enjoyment of certain words. Who'd have thunk it?


  1. Finishing up highschool work, I looked for words that had as many vowels as possible with no repetitions. One was okay, but preferably none. "Unmarried" would work because it has four different vowels and no repetitions of vowels. I don't think it was ocd, though; I was trying to make somethings I didn't want to read more interesting. Geometry was good for supplying such words.

  2. That's interesting. I always love finding new words that are palindromes or have interesting patterns. You're right, I think it can help to engage you more in material that you might find boring. Another thing I do is read road signs and advertisements constantly, looking for spelling and grammatical errors. I don't know why, I just like to do it!