The information we get from our environment is pretty noisy, and we constantly apply an error correction which seems to align our perceptions to some kind of Platonic ideal. Consider for example a spoken dialogue with someone: the words are often slurred, affected by surrounding words and sometimes just plain misspoken, yet we adjust to them almost effortlessly and hardly ever think about what was actually said, rather than what was meant. Or what we think was meant—sometimes we over-correct something, a new word that is similar to one we’ve already heard.

It was years before I realised our next-door neighbours actually were called Sällström. My parents pronounced the name quite correctly, but compensating for the Finnish accent I assumed they meant to say Kjellström.

A quite proper lady of limited computer literacy consistently referred to the “dildo” character on the keyboard (~). I never dared ask her what she thought the word meant.

Now I found a grad student referring to a “defector standard”. What would that be—an Anthony Blunt a year?

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