Oops! How’s That Again?


The essay “Oops! How’s That Again?” written by Roger Rosenbatt deals with verbal error and outlines the responsible factors behind such errors. The essay starts with different types of verbal errors such as slip of tongue, mistranslation, bloopers and spoonerism. The essay also takes the reference of many psychologists and linguists to talk about the reasons behind such verbal error.

The writer in the essay talks about ‘slip of tongue‘ as a verbal error which can also be taken as a careless or slight mistake. Sometimes, we want to say something but accidently, we happen to say something else. The proper example for slip of tongue is, businessman Peter Balfour wished Prince Charles long life and conjugal happiness with lady Jane instead of Lady Diana. Likewise, the Governor James Thompson was introduced as ‘The mayor of Illinois’.

Mistranslation is another kind of verbal error which occurs if somebody is not good at translating one language into another. Nervousness and carelessness can also cause mistranslation to some extent. For example the slogan, “Come alive with Pepsi” was translated in German as “Come alive out of the grave with Pepsi”. And elsewhere, it was translated as “Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the grave”. Likewise, the writer talks about blooper which is known as a public mistake. This type of verbal error often occurs on television and radio. For instance, Herbert Hoover was introduced as Hoobert Heever.

Finally, the writer talks about spoonerism. When the initial (beginning) sounds of the letters of the words are replaced with one another, spoonerism occurs. For example: One spooner scolded his student, “You have hissed all my mystery lectures.” Actually he meant to say:”You have missed all my history lectures.”

The writer mentions some causes and responsible factors behind such verbal errors by taking the reference of some psychologists and linguists. Among such responsible factors, psychological factor is a crucial one. We do have unlimited wishes and desires but the resources to fulfill them are limited. As a result, only few get fulfilled. The unfulfilled desires are stored in our unconscious mind which happens to be expressed in the form of verbal errors. Likewise, human mind does have both correct and incorrect words and structures. Sometimes, the correct word and structures are replaced with the incorrect ones.

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