This was not the entry I wished to write. No, when I sat down to write my weekly article, it was to outline my exploration of Borneo with noted explorer and adventurer James Brooke. As I have never been to Borneo and James Brooke has been dead for 150 years, it was to be an admittedly short article.
Then it happened. I was writing a rather benign sentence including the word “is.” Simple enough word, to be sure. It is one of the most basic words out there. As a matter of fact, I distinctly remember “is” to be the verb we spent the most time conjugating in Spanish class. After all these years though, it is also the only Spanish word I remember, aside from the phrase “Donde esta mis zapatos,” which means “where are my shoes,” the singularly most important phrase when visiting Tijuana.
As I typed the word “is,” however, it just “looked” wrong. The small part of my increasingly decreasing brain dedicated to word recognition just shut down. I knew I couldn’t trust auto-correct as it’s been suggested by said program that when I type “and” I seem to be meaning “androgynous,” which is neither here nor there.
No, “is” became an insurmountable mountain in English etymology. I knew it was right in my brain, but the word just looked wrong on the screen in such a way that a highly trained firefighter knows something is amiss when he or she sees a house engulfed in flames. The word just screamed out to me that not only were the letters in an incorrect combination, but the two letters in question had a deep-rooted resentment to each other and needed to be separated immediately.
Look, I know the mind is not infallible. Heck, the whole concept of Déjà vu is the direct result of the brain misfiling optical data in long term memory instead of short term memory. It just makes sense. After all, the brain is a muscle. Sure the activity of this particular muscle creates electricity when the synapses fire, which instantly makes it the coolest muscle in whole body.
Still, “is” persisted. I couldn’t move past it, either. There is no adequate synonym for “is.” I couldn’t use the old writer’s trick of simply using another word because the word I wanted was vexing me. My wife saw me staring at the screen and just walked away shaking her head. After several hours, she decided to send me an email rather than risking my saying something incredibly stupid if she tried to talk me out of my ennui.
The email contained the following text:
“What IS your problem?”
Ah, now the word looks fine. Problem solved!