Auto-correction and Titivillus

Writing has never been easier these days than in the bygone days before the advent of the computer. If you are unsure about how to spell “Tomato,” then the computer will spell it for you by way of auto-correction. And it can even reconstruct your sentences like a pro. The magic is inside the computer, as if it has a mind and even a soul, as it were. This wizardly power of auto-correction can sometimes, however, lead you to an embroglio of nonsense, especially when writing emails or tweeting. Quite devilish, so I think and wonder: are things like auto-correction and the likes a wicked invention of science or science of diabolical existence? Hence, I am talking about Titivillus, the patron demon of scribes.

The birth of Titivillus could trace back to the 13th century when Franciscan theologian John of Wales pinpointed the malicious demonic trickery for the scriber’s mistakes. That’s not a footless excuse for the faux-pas made in a beautifully ornamented medieval script. In medieval times, copying the passages of the Holy Scripture was a painfully punctilious task for a monk to accomplish with perfect penmanship and exquisite illuminations. And the job cost a good amount of his youth with arched back, squinted eyes, and cramped arms and fingers, not in the least due to the time spent scribing. Toiling (even though for the glory of God) and Rejoicing (for the joy of self-fulfillment), Sorrowing always hoovers over the glories. Titivillus often brings this Sorrowing by making the scriber err in labor, such as misspelling or miscopying. When that happens, a corrector scraped off with a penknife or an acidic solution was applied to loosen the ink. Or sometimes he just made little dots under a wrong word, meaning the reader should ignore that bit. In case of more significant errors, the passages were sometimes lined through, and the correction was written in the margin or copied on a smaller piece of parchment and glued into the book.


To think of it, Titivillus has not returned to the Ninth Circle of Hell, always making himself a reason to stay as long as humanity continues writing. Writer’s block is a dark cloud hovering over the soul’s palace, the dome of thoughts. Philological carbuncles, including misspellings and awkward syntax, combine the demon’s interruption and the writer’s fear of writing. The fear is more than devilish trickery or neurotic obsession because it stifles creativeness and imagination of the writer. Still, I cannot help but think that today Titivillus manifests himself in the form of auto-correction, which can change the entire meaning of a whole sentence, often most embarrassingly and awkwardly. You agree?