Is that a choking noise coming from the screen? Something must be misspelled. Well, it happens. I’m not an accomplished typist. I look up from the keyboard to see what’s wrong.
But what catches my eye first is something I haven’t seen before: my email app has taken a lesson from my phone and is offering me options to correct my (presumed) mistake.
I beg your pardon? What the heck is it correcting? I look further north, as it were, and find the red-squiggly-underlined offender: back-and-forthing. What’s wrong with that? Puzzled, I look at the app’s next offering.
Hahaha. To generate options, the app’s strategy appears to be to randomly change-out a few letters, as long as it makes a standard word. Sense? Shmense. What’s next?
Ah, here’s something new. Now it’s changing the word breaks in search of rightness. That’s cute. Clever, even. Never mind that “back-and-for” is not an English construction.
Now, this is just silly. “Hing” isn’t even a word. Or so I think, until I check. Turns out it’s several words. Slang for cigarettes, in schools in Lund, Sweden. A dialetical variant of “hang.” The Hindi word for asafetida, the sap of a fennel plant, used in cooking despite its nicknames: devil’s dung and stinking gum. And a valid Scrabble® word, to boot.
But back-and-fort? Come on!
But what really tears it is this: When I change my construction to “backing and forthing,” figuring that will do it, the red squiggles simply move to “forthing.” This, even though academic literature used “backing and forthing” in 2001 and one online dictionary cites two examples (1988 and 1999) of “back-and-forthing” used as a noun.
All right then.
As a native speaker of English, I reserve the right — indeed, I accept the responsibility — to override the spelling-check libraries of my various devices, not so much for spelling as for non-standard usage. Including the use of adverbs as nouns.
Give me dialectical variance
or give me death!
Well, maybe that’s not quite the rallying cry I need. But take that, red squiggles. Enough back-and-forthing. As Shakespeare himself might have said.