Have you ever had the experience where you see a word so many times in a day that it no longer seems to be a word? The correct spelling doesn’t seem correct. I feel this on occasion and it’s always strange.
North and south are easy to picture on my mental map of the world. North is up, south is down. When it comes to east and west, however, I use a mnemonic to remember which is which. We. West is on the left, and East is on the right. It feels silly to admit this, but it helps me remember.
There’s also a saying to remember in which direction the sun rises and sets. I’m sure many know it. Can you recall what it is? This phrase came to my mind when I wanted to mention the rising sun in a story.
I pictured a flat map of Earth with the cardinal directions printed beyond the edges of page. N E S W. And I said to myself, “Rises in the west and sets in the east.” This fits nicely into my mental model of reading from left to right and thinking of directions from left to right, as I mentioned for We.
Except I was wrong. The sun actually rises in the east and sets in the west. A day or two ago, as I was doing some unrelated editing of the story, I had a sneaking suspicion I’d mixed something up. Had I gotten the direction of the sunrise backward? I sure had. Even after searching to verify which phrase was right, it didn’t really click. It feels like a word that doesn’t look spelled correctly. Okay, I can get it if I really think about it, but it doesn’t feel right. The wrong phrase rolled off the tongue so easily — “Rises in the west, sets in the east” — even though it was backward. That’s a bit worrisome. How many times does my mind play tricks on me and I don’t realize it? I’m glad I caught this instance before someone else did.
This is a reminder to double check my work on what seem to be trivial problems. Otherwise, 1 + 1 might end up equaling 3 because it just seems right in my weird, little mind.