phrases, sayings, idioms and expressions at

Phrases, Sayings and Idioms Home > Discussion Forum

Re: Cartographically Dyslexic

Posted by Shae on December 16, 2002

In Reply to: Re: Cartographically Dyslexic posted by R. Berg on December 16, 2002

: : : : I'm having an argument with my American husband about the expression "Cartographically Dyslectic" (meaning, of course, the male species inability to follow directions). He swears it's an American expression in common usage whereas I believe it was coined by the expatriated British labour activist/poet Michael Aidan (famed for the observation: "If tradition is the only reason for doing something, there is no reason to do it").
: : : : Can anybody enlighten ONE of us?
: : : : Thanks,
: : : : Kathy O'Brien

: : : I'm as up for a good leg-pull as the next guy, but .... no, it's not really in common usage. It's almost a useful phrase, though, except for two flaws: it's "dyslexic," not "dyslectic" ... and the problem is not dyslexia-related. That is to say, members of our testosterone-challenged gender are indeed ABLE to read the maps - we simply refuse to open them. We know HOW to ask for directions - we're just biologically, genetically, incapable of asking. So a better term might zero in on the root causes. Perhaps cartophobic, or eastwestavoidant, or signpost-blind. "I know we're going the wrong way, but we're making good time."

: : Another word for that is "lost." Rosanne says men are good at reading maps because males are the ones that came up with the concept that one inch equals a mile.

: "Cartographically dyslexic" gets zero hits on Google--strong evidence that it's not a common expression, American or otherwise. "Cartographically challenged" gets 79 hits, a low number for Google. So, if your husband switches to the latter phrase, he'll have moved to a rarely heard expression from an unheard-of one. I predict, however, that after five years you'll become very tired of hearing him use it.

Strictly speaking, the phrase means 'inability to read or understand maps,' and not 'inability to follow or ask for directions.' I suspect many such little dyslexias abound but go unnoticed most of the time. Mine is 'left' and 'right.'

'Take the next left.'
'No, no, the OTHER left, dammit!! The one on THAT side!'

So now I use 'Port' and 'Starboard.' An amazingly large group of people is 'Nautically Dyslexic!'