The Most Wicked Freudian Slip in the Bible

alex atkins bookshelf booksIn the Psychopathology of Everyday Life, Sigmund Freud (“Siggy” to his friends) introduced the concept of Freudian slips: a verbal or memory mistake that is caused by a subconscious thought. It is often referred to as a slip of the tongue. For example, during a televised speech on C-SPAN, Senator Ted Kennedy was discussing education and uttered this titillating line: “Our national interest ought to be to encourage the breast and the brightest.” What he meant to say, was “the best” not “the breast.” Freud would say that this gaffe reveals what Kennedy was actually thinking about subconsciously — and of course, being a Kennedy… boys will be boys. More recently, in June 2018, during an interview on CNN’s New Day, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, Queen of Alternative Facts, said this: “Just so we’re clear: and the problem with the president of the United States and the Commander of Cheese — chief — expressing that opinion, is exactly what?” Freud would say that this egregious, and rather delicious, verbal slip-up reveals her subconscious feelings toward the President, considering him to be cheesy, i.e., inauthentic. Or perhaps she was thinking of swiss cheese, full of holes.

But in the world of print, perhaps the most famous—and most wicked—Freudian slip occurs in the 1631 Bible, published by Robert Barker and Martin Lucas, who were the royal printers in London. It was meant to be a reprint of the 1611 King James Bible but the compositor (the tradesman who arranged each cast metal letter on a composing stick) must have had adultery on his mind when he was working on the ten commandments. In this edition of the Bible (known as the Wicked Bible, Adulterous Bible, or the Sinner’s Bible — although it should also be known as the Politician’s Bible) the 7th commandment reads: “Thou shalt commit adultery.” as opposed to “Thou shalt not commit adultery.” Oops. The compositor was caught with his pants down, so to speak. This egregious blunder, a classic Freudian slip, was also missed by the corrector, the person employed to review the typecast forms and initial printed proofs. As you can imagine, that mistake caused quite a scandal in England. The King, Charles I, and Archbishop of Canterbury, George Abbot, threw epic hissy fits. The printers were hauled into court, fined heavily, and had their printing license revoked.

So what happened to the Wicked Bibles? As soon as the error was discovered, all the evil Bibles  were collected and burned. However, dare we say miraculously, a few errant copies made their way to the open market. The Wicked Bible is extremely rare, and thus very valuable — worth about $100,000 (but of course, not as valuable as a first edition Gutenberg Bible, worth more than $30 million). Only a few museums or libraries have a copy of the Wicked Bible; those include the British Library, the New York Public Library, and the Dunham Bible Museum. Since most people do not want to see the Good Book commanding this sort of moral depravity, the Wicked Bible is rarely displayed.

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For further reading: Just My Typo by Drummond Moir

Words Related to How We Process Words

atkins bookshelf wordsThe human brain, with its processing speed of 2.2 billion megaflops utilizing parallel computing (100 billion neurons and 100 trillion synapses), is constantly processing stimuli to interpret the world. In order to process information more quickly, the human brain is designed to find meaning in patterns — in short, the brain is a pattern-recognizing supercomputer. Psychologists use the term apophenia or patternicity to describe the human tendency to perceive connections between or meaningful patterns within meaningless noise or random information. A common example of this, in the context of vision, is the pareidolia — the phenomenon of seeing a familiar pattern where it doesn’t exist. For example, seeing cloud formations that look like animals, seeing a face on the surface of Mars, or the face of a religious icon in a slice of toast.

When it comes to speech perception, as with vision, the brain is hardwired to look for patterns — many times listening for what it expects to hear rather than what is actually said, especially if the the words are not pronounced clearly. The brain immediately substitutes common words and phrases to fill in these sound gaps, making sense out of nonsense. Here are words that are related to how we process words.

Mondegreen: a misheard or misinterpreted lyric that yields a new meaning. For example, Manfred Mann’s Earth Band cover of “Blinded by the Light” that includes the lyric “wrapped up like a deuce” that is misheard as “wrapped up like a douche.”

Malapropism: the use of an incorrect word in place of a word with a similar sound, resulting in a nonsensical statement. For example, “a vast suppository of information” when the correct phrase is “a vast repository of information”

Eggcorn: an idiosyncratic substitution of a word or phrase for a word or words that sound very similar. For example, “for all intensive purposes” rather than “for all intents and purposes” or “old-timer’s disease” rather than “Alzheimer’s disease.”

Spoonerism: an error in speech when consonants, vowels, or morphemes are switched between two words in a phrase. For example, “The weight of rages will press hard upon the employer” rather than “the rate of wages will press hard upon the employer.”

Freudian slip (also: slip of the tongue, parapraxis): an unintentional mistake in speech that reveals a person’s unconscious motives, desires, or attitudes. For example saying “I’m mad you’re here” when you meant to say “I’m glad you’re here.”

Mumpsimus: the practice of mispronouncing a word or phrase, even after they have been corrected. Also refers to the person who continues the practice. For example, you correct some that the proper phrase is “for all intents and purposes” but they continue to use the incorrect form “for all intensive purposes.”

Hobson-Jobson: a word from a foreign language is homophonically translated into one’s language. For example, the word cockroach from the Spanish word cucaracha.

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For further reading: