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This morning the entire population of New York City woke up to torrential downpours. And I, for one, love the permission bad weather gives me to close my office door and be quiet. I can sense eye rolling. I get it, but stick with me for a minute. Most of us know that for a muscle to get stronger, it needs to be stressed— ideally to the point of failure. After some rest, the next time that muscle is stressed to the same level, it can handle the strain with more ease. This month has been full of writing-related tasks that cause me stress. My body tenses at the mere thought of something as simple as […].
Mark Twain: Lovesick at Christmas
She walked in through the out door. The perfect line—we all know it when we see it—the phrase that somehow captures a slice of life in a way we all understand, but, somehow, had never thought of before. Prince had a knack. We all have our favorite authors who possess the magic of stringing exactly the right words together in exactly the right order, but how do they do it? Not exactly. Instead, I imagine the kind of person who actually walks in through the out door.
Think about it. We all know people who walk in through the out door. Maybe we are those people. We can either smile at the girl who breaks the rule, or we can judge her. Either way, Prince offers us the chance to daydream a bit about that store, that door. The invitation to imagine is, […].
Language Log » A doubtful benevolence: Mark Twain on spelling
Miss Demeanors. Bartley Susan Breen C. Stuart Connie Berry L.
Blog Home About Contact. When I was a kid, you could find first […] Read More. Celebrating the Fourth, a long way from home. July 4, Cate Holahan. I have a certain […] Read More. And then I ran back out into the sunshine, thankful for another day of being […] Read More. Read More. Bombarding Bookstores July 1, Cate Holahan.
The joy of music June 28, D. Music forms the […] Read More. Read about trains. I still find AmE spellings "look wrong". I'm sure BrE spellings look wrong to AmE users.
Miss Twains Train Trouble
It's not as if I haven't seen plenty of AmE spellings over the years, which makes me think that their inherent "wrongness" was wired into me at an early age. What I do remember is learning to read later than others but then being able to do it very well. I became a voracious reader and encountered many words before I ever heard them: the term "sonofabitch" was not bandied around much in the UK Home Counties in the mid-sixties so I mentally rhymed the middle with 'sofa' and didn't get what it meant at all. For me words "are" their written form.
Maybe that's it. There could also be an element of memorization. Attempts at fonetik spelin kud leed won doun the rawng path. I, too, am a very good speller because I am good at remembering the shape of a word, and I am frankly rather surprised that anyone tries to spell English words by ear. It seems like a recipe for disaster, given how flexible English rules of spelling are. JMM, I have always thought the opposite.
I don't remember ever sounding out words, although I suppose I did, and in fact I distinctly remember sitting in first grade and listening to some kid beside me sounding out words and wondering why they were doing that. Even now, in my 30s, I occasionally find myself trying to use a word and discovering that I don't have a pronunciation for it. Not just that I have a wrong pronunciation for it, because I had never heard it pronounced, but that I had never tried, even in my own head, to pronounce it.
It's a misconception in these discussions that English spelling is completely or largely arbitrary. There are many arbitrary elements to English spelling—probably more than for any other language—but the majority of it is still systematic. That should be kept in mind in theories that link good spelling to good memory. To the extent that memory plays a role, I have my doubts that it has to do with visual memory. I'm a great speller, and I also have a powerful memory when it comes to things like learning speeches by heart or quickly memorizing passwords or combinations, but I don't remember faces very well, I'm not a particularly good artist, and I'm terrible with maps physical or mental.
Somebody mentioned that Teddy Roosevelt was reported to have a photographic memory yet was a poor speller, and that makes sense. I suspect a different type of memory is involved with good spelling. John Walden: I got 17 on that test, though they could have made it more difficult for me; in several cases, they didn't include the misspelling I was thinking might be correct.