MY LOUSY WORLD: When spellcheck comes out ‘smelly cat’


I have unexpectedly come to an impasse with one of my most hated rivals. Finally I found a reason to love spellcheck. My tiny, Pantech phone didn’t have it, but did have a feature known as “Call Grating.” It would constantly dial or text people without my knowledge and certainly without my consent.

My phone contacts are in alphabetical order, Al Simpson is the first entry, with niece Amber second. At least three times Al has left me amusing voicemails like, “Blough, if you don’t quit butt-dialing me, I’ll have you killed.” Amber also voices irritation at frequent, nonsensical texts. Worse yet, this dinosaur phone often took it upon itself to delete vital texts and contacts.

My brother Paul came to my rescue when he and partner, Roy Holm, sold their surveying business, necessitating a new smartphone. Like 50 years ago at home, I got his hand-me-down, but this time it was a godsend upgrade. My nephew Rusty spent exhaustive hours switching me from AT&T to Straight Talk and several tutorials, basically “smartphone for dummies.” Heck, I didn’t even know what “app” meant.

I asked Paul one day, “How do I get rid of that annoying spellcheck it keeps throwing out unsolicited?” Paul answered with concern, “Oh no, you don’t want to get rid of that. It’s valuable.” Explaining how it saves typing when it offers previously-used words, I figured I’d give it a chance.

I questioned Paul’s judgment when the litany of suggested words continued to distract me as I composed texts. But I had my “Eureka moment” one day as I attempted to complete my Billings Gazette, daily Jumble — of which I say with deceptive humility, I have no equal. Yet in a rarity, I became stumped on the unscrambled word, “onisca.”

Immediately, “As the casions go rolling along,” rolled through my mind. I wasn’t convinced “casion” was a legitimate word, yet the circled, clue letters, c, o, and n did fit into the obvious answer to the mystery riddle, which was “The woodpecker hoped the tree would be home for a long time.” The answer, “Knock on wood” required all three of the circled letters.

I swallowed my pride and began a text to my go-to, Jumbles colleague, Faith Holler. Faith was recently featured in a front-page photo of the newspaper riding the new Sleeping Giant zipline while in her 80s (Faith declined to be specific — only saying “80ish” when I asked her exact age, so I’m assuming she may have lied on some dating website).

I wrote: “Hey, is casion a word?” Before I had a chance to hit send, I noticed “casion” had magically changed to “casino.” “Of COURSE,” I shrieked, concerning my neighbors yet again.

For the first time, I loved spellcheck. It’s like the annoying, love-struck girl from high school who has pestered you for years. One day she says something that makes you realize she may be “the one” after all. But true love is fleeting. Minutes later, I was texting a friend about our common buddy, Mike “Fritz” Felsheim, who had died unexpectedly weeks ago while I was on his roof. All of a sudden, I noticed Felsheim had changed to “Funnel.” I thought, “At least make an honest effort, for God’s sake. I could see ‘fallacy’ or ‘fledgling,’ but funnel?”

It’s like people who interrupt stories, assuming they know what you were going to say. You’re bragging up an acquaintance who became a doctor, saying “I found out he’s now a doc…”  and the guy blurts out, “Dump truck?”

Then today, I sent a text to Roy Holm about a 120-mile Colorado bike ride he recently participated in, and began the text with “Question:” Luckily I proofread because “Question” had turned into “Q urination:” I am not making this up. Had spellcheck been a person, I’d have grabbed him by the throat and demanded to know what possessed him to think I needed help with urination. It’s a pretty cut-and-dried issue.

What it comes down to is that I really need no help expressing myself, and rarely need help with the Jumbles. But I’d sure rather misspell one Jumble word than to text that aforementioned doctor about needing medication and have it come out, “Could you help find me some methamphetamine?”