Barry Smith: Irrelativity |

Barry Smith: Irrelativity

Barry Smith
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

Jordan Curet The Aspen Times

I just learned something new: IANAL is a commonly used acronym for “I am not a lawyer.” Apparently there are enough people routinely doling out unqualified legal advice that there’s a 5-letter disclaimer shortcut.

Example: “Sounds like you have a solid case, but IANAL.”

I just saw this for the first time a few days ago, but according to my research it’s been in common Internet use since the mid-’80s.

Yep – this is the place for late-breaking news.

This IANAL discovery delights me for two reasons. Of course there’s the obvious juvenile thrill (“huh huh huh … you said … etc. …”) But even better is the realization that many of MY commonly typed phrases can also be represented as equally juvenile acronyms.


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“I ordered really amazing lattes!” (IORAL)

“Really, everything can turn ugly momentarily.” (RECTUM)

“I bet you thought that.” (IBUTT)

“Satan, ultra-convincing, knows I try.” (SUCKIT)

“‘Knowledge’ is simply social misgivings you assume sound sane.” (KISSMYASS)

“But let’s only wallow momentarily, e’re …” (BLOWME)

Talk about your reduced keystrokes. Seriously, what am I going to do with my newfound free time? Huh huh … keystrokes …

Shortly after the time IANAL was coming into common use, I was hard at work on an idea that never came to fruition. The idea – computer spell-check program as divination tool! Like a tarot deck or the I Ching or a pile of chicken bones, only on your computer! Brilliant, right?! I’m hoping the use of unnecessary exclamation marks will help make this idea sound as exciting to you now as it did to me then!

Let! Me! Explain!!

At the time spell check was still a bit of a novelty for me. Also, my word-processing program was “borrowed” and not up to date, so its spell-check function didn’t recognize a lot of fancy, modern words. I started keeping a list of the suggested spellings, hoping that a pattern would form. For example, I’d write “Rogaine” and it would tell me I was trying to spell “regain.” Eerie, huh?

OK, maybe not. It was a stretch, I’ll admit. Despite my initial excitement I only got a few other examples, all of them long since deleted from my computer. Believe me, I can easily wallow in my failure to have held on to valuable information like that. BLOWME we miss the point – spell check is now commonplace, operating silently in the background, all but forgotten, taken for granted, making us look educated and literate and thoughtful. But I think it has bigger plans – blackmail.

See, I’ve just discovered that my spell check has been secretly gathering intel. Right here on my very own computer, stashed away in a secret file, is a list of every word I’ve misspelled and how I misspelled it.

Some are simple typos. “They’r” instead of “they’re,” “whoss” instead of “whose,” “fjaiejafkdkjaiceamkowafe” instead of “is” (lot of coffee that day, as I recall.)

But “typo” can’t really explain away the numerous failed attempts at “adequate,” or the e-heavy “becoming,” or the humiliating double-m stab at “familiar,” or that not-even-close try at “lieutenant.” OK, lieutenant is a hard one, but still, starting it with “l-o-o-w” and letting spell check pick up your slack … that’s just lazy. Not something you want on your permanent record. IBUTT same thing, right?

This discovery completely destroys my platform of superiority – do I really get to be all righteous about Youtube comments (“ur gay lol”) being the harbinger of the death of literacy when I once tried to spell turmoil with a “y?” Also, it adds a certain vulnerability to my life. Who else has access to this spell-check file? Is it routinely sent to some central blackmailing office? What will these people want in return for not releasing this information? They have me over a barrel. RECTUM! I’d almost rather have someone discover my secret porn folder than the spell-check Vault of Shame.

Am I making too much of this? Maybe proper spelling is something I shouldn’t be so concerned with. Could it be that IANAL?

And no, that wasn’t an acronym.