Friday, December 30, 2016


"I'm still alive! Or at least I was."
There's been a lot of loose talk going around lately about something called The Mandela Effect. According to Fiona Broome, the woman who coined the term, "The Mandela Effect is what happens when someone has a clear memory of something that never happened in this reality."

It received its name due to a large swath of people who were surprised when Nelson Mandela was released from prison in early 1990; they were positive that he had died several years earlier.

These folks somehow missed a decade or so of speeches, marches, and songs that shared the same meme: Free Nelson Mandela. Unless they thought we should've freed him from his coffin and put him on display as an animatronic figure in Disneyland. 

Now, my personal theory is that they were confusing Mandela with Steve Biko, another anti-apartheid activist who was killed in 1977 while in police custody. Peter Gabriel recorded a song about him in 1980 -- right around the time people thought Mandela had died. All those anti-apartheid activists look alike to us ofays!  

Or maybe Billy Graham
switched places with Mitt
Romney, and nobody noticed.
Mandela's not the only one, either. Others remember watching Billy Graham's funeral on TV a few years back, even though he's still alive. The only reason why it isn't called The Graham Effect is because people would confuse it with Graham Crackers, and the only effect those have is a craving for milk. 

Right now, Pfizer is probably working on an ad campaign for people "suffering from the Mandela Effect." Possible side effects include being aware of current events.

Not that it would do any good. Instead of merely saying, "Huh, I thought he was dead," then deciding what they're going to make for dinner, these people "remember" where and when they heard about these deaths, almost to the date. Rather than admitting the mind can be a trickster, many of them seriously believe they briefly lived in a parallel universe or experienced a "reality shift". 

Because people were too busy
thinking Mandela died.
My wife experienced a reality shift of sorts when she woke up one morning and realized she was actually married to me. But this other kind involves quantum physics and time traveling. If that were the case, why didn't they travel back in time to, say, prevent the Beatles from breaking up?

It all seemed rather silly to me. Until I realized that I, too, have my own Mandela Effect. And it has nothing to do with anti-apartheid activists or Southern Baptists. It involves a simple, three-syllable word.

Until fairly recently, I thought "dilemma" was spelled "dilemna." I remember being taught that in grammar school, and seeing it spelled that way in newspapers. And before you make fun of me, I ask: does the spelling of "knight" or "wriggle" make any sense? So why do you laugh at "dilemna"? 

I'm not alone in this. Many of us dilemnaphiles lived our entire lives this way. So you'd think there'd be something to it, right? Like maybe the spelling gradually changed over time, the way "connexion" became "connection" by the early 20th-century, or "dout" became "doubt" by the 16th. And there's such a thing as alternate spellings -- aeroplane/airplane, apologise/apologize, politics/bullshit. 

Not according to self-described "Grammar Girl" Mignon Fogarty:

As far back as 1916, the dilemma that the dashing druggist had didn't involve spelling. Nor was Dick Tracy distracted by poor grammar when stalked by a two-bit Capt. Hook in 1947.

So where the hell did "dilemna" come from? Did we misremember it over time? Or did we live in that fabled parallel universe where silent n's were all the rage?

I'm hoping it all comes down to time-traveling. That way, maybe I can do it again. I want to make a pit-stop in 1968, and put Yoko Ono on the first plane back to New York.


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