That can’t be spelled right: learning about semantic satiation

It happens to me a lot when I’m editing books. You know, that thing when you see the same word over and over again, and then all of a sudden it starts to look like it’s spelled wrong. It happened to me recently with far-fetched. After I saw it three or four times in a half hour, I thought, “Wait, that can’t be spelled right. There’s no way a word can look that ugly and be correct.” Then my fingers went running to the dictionary to double check, even though I must have seen the word thousands of times in my life.

It turns out there is a name for this experience: semantic satiation. Most of the experiments about semantic satiation seem to have been done with saying words verbally and then studying how the connection of the word to its meaning gets lost when one repeats it several times.

Here’s a video about it:

However, this happens with typed words, too. Check it:

far-fetched far-fetched far-fetched far-fetched far-fetched far-fetched far-fetched far-fetched far-fetched far-fetched far-fetched far-fetched far-fetched far-fetched far-fetched far-fetched far-fetched far-fetched far-fetched far-fetched far-fetched far-fetched

Looks funny, huh. The more you know . . .

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6 thoughts on “That can’t be spelled right: learning about semantic satiation

  1. Yeah, that happens a lot! I have that issue with the word “necessary” – I constantly think that it is impossible for it to have a doubled “s” instead of “c”. 😉

  2. This is it. I have the exact same thing with the word “necessary”. The more I look at it, I can’t believe it is spelled with a doubled “s” instead of “c”.

  3. Yes, recently went through this with the book I designed, The Lucayan Taíno: First People of the Bahamas. Many words in the language, some changed back and forth due to research, had to make sure we were consistent throughout.

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