Several years ago (in 2006; I just looked it up) I was reading a blog post by a tech writer that I respected, Tim Bray. One of the things I liked about his blog was that he didn’t just write about tech topics but as in this case he was writing about music.
This post was about a particular recording that featured the violinist Gidon Kremer, and he was extolling Mr. Kremer’s virtues at some length.
I’m an admirer of Gidon Kremer’s artistry as well, so he didn’t have to convince me, but there was one major problem. He misspelled Mr. Kremer’s first name as Gideon. Not once, but every time he mentioned it.
So I dashed off a very short email to to him:
I did want to gently let you know that the violinist’s first name is spelled “Gidon” not “Gideon” as you have it.
To which he quickly replied:
I am flabbergasted. I have been a Kremer fan for twenty years and have many disks with his name on it, and seen him perform, and somehow misread his first name all through that time. The human mind’s capacity to betray its owner is remarkable. Thank you! Fixed. -Tim
And I’ll quickly add that that is exactly the kind of error that I might very well have made myself, and probably the only reason that I didn’t is that I was used to hearing Gidon’s name on radio broadcasts through the years. It’s pronounced GHEE-don.
But there is a related error that I did make for many years, decades in fact. It concerns the word apropos. I’m not sure how to explain this, but in my mind it was actually two separate words, a printed or visual one and an audible or oral one.
Whenever I saw it in print, I knew what it meant and I mentally pronounced it ah-PRO-pohss.
But whenever I heard it pronounced, say on a television program or wherever, I heard it as ah-pro-POH, knew what it meant, and never connected it with the printed word, nor did I give a thought as to how it might be spelled.
Two different words and never the twain did meet in my mind. I’m not sure when I finally figured out that they were in fact one word. I’m just glad that I never had occasion to use either the printed or spoken version in all those decades, or someone may not have been as gentle in pointing out to me if I had gotten them/it wrong.