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Bryan, D. (1922). A Grammatical Error. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 3:332-332.

(1922). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 3:332-332

A Grammatical Error

Douglas Bryan

A patient during analysis mentioned that a friend had been talking to him about a visit to a dissecting room. I said to the patient, 'Would you like to visit one?'. He replied, 'No, but if it was necessary I could do so'. I asked him why he would dislike it. He said it was because of the dead decomposing bodies, the messiness and smell. He then added voluntarily, 'I will be the same once', and immediately went on to talk of something else. I stopped him and drew his attention to the previous phrase 'I will be the same once'. He said, 'Of course I meant to say, I will be the same someday'. On asking him why he had made this grammatical error he said that it was due to his mixing up German and English. If the phrase had been spoken in German the word einmal (which means once) would have been used for someday. This explanation is obviously a rationalisation as English is his language which he speaks quite grammatically, and his German was only obtained through his living in Germany several years.

This error in speech is interesting in that it definitely shows unconscious anal birth ideas. His associations to dead bodies in the dissecting room led immediately to faeces, and previously the analysis had brought to light many ideas in which faeces, children and birth were closely associated. 'I will be the same once' is a condensation of two ideas. I was a decomposing, messy, smelling body ( = faeces) once (i. e. before birth), and I shall be a decomposing, messy, smelling body someday (i. e. after death).

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