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Misraeding words? I need a brink

I THINK I am in trouble.

I need to either a) get new glasses; b) see a doctor; c) sign up for a boost-your-brainpower course, or d) all of the above.

The problem is, I keep misreading things. It is something we all do at some point, but it seems to be happening to me with increasing frequency.

Take last Friday, for example. I was driving to work, along the Edinburgh City Bypass, when I glanced at one of those variable message signs they have on the overhead gantries. It read: "CAUTION HIGH RISK OF BEER ON ROAD."

At least, that's what I thought it said. I therefore resolved to keep a weather eye out for overturned brewery tankers.

However, further on in my journey, on the M8, the message was repeated. And this time, it registered that what I should in fact be looking out for was the ruminant mammal otherwise known as deer.

Of course, the cynics - who include my wife among their number - will say this error was Freudian, or at any rate, wishful thinking. I admit it, I like beer. But it was not uppermost on my mind at 8.30am on a drive to work, honest.

Besides, as I stated earlier, it is starting to become something of a habit. A quick look at yesterday's Herald nearly convinced me the date was Monday May 15; and I read a headline on Page 3 as "Ministers consult on women on broads". My mind did some mental gymnastics involving Norfolk and Damon Runyan before settling on the more likely context of gender issues in the workplace.

Thankfully, I am not alone. Everyone does it. And some words, it seems, have a nasty habit of tripping us up more than others. Research throws up something of a rouge gallery - one that would make the best of us blush.

One of the biggest villains is "breaded", which people often read as "bearded". It's why you should never place a bearded haddock alongside a razor clam. That is just asking for trouble.

Another is "macedoine". Whenever I see it on a label in the tinned veg section of the supermarket, I read it as "Macedonia". See me? See foreign affairs? Don't say I haven't got my finger on the pulses.

Yet another is "bother", often misread as "brother". Hence the Channel Five show, Celebrity Big Bother. Come to think of it, did anybody actually wash that?

Oops, maybe I will see a doctor. After all, in my line of work, this sort of thing should be my beard and butter. I'm supposed to be something of a swordsmith.

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