If it were not for the spell checker function on my computer, I could not write this blog, at least in readable form. When occasionally giving a lecture on a blackboard, I would deflect comments by saying right at the beginning, “There are very intelligent people who cannot spell and very stupid people who cannot spell. You will have to decide for yourself which one I am.”
So, I was pleased to read in a letter-to-the-editor in The Wall Street Journal the following:
Mark Twain once said, “I don’t see any use in spelling a word right, and never did. . . . We might as well make all clothes alike and cook all dishes alike. Sameness is tiresome; variety is pleasing.”
William James concurred: “Isn’t it abominable that everybody is expected to spell in the same way? Let us get a dozen influential persons each to spell after his own fashion and to break this tyranny of the dictionary.”
That may have been valid in its day, but today we are so used to seeing uniform spelling, many readers are brought up short by a misspelling and lose the point of the message. William James (American philosopher, 1842–1910) was correct when he spoke about the “tyranny of the dictionary.”
Poor spelling is often attributed to poor education. I assure you, our LAHS English teachers did all they could with me. Blaim my ansesters—it must be jenetik.