Skule werked four me. I kin reed an spel…

One of the perils of spending time with the folks is that you lose control over what is being watched on TV. The other night, we had “America’s Got Talent” on the big screen, watching smoke come out of David Hasselhoff’s ears as he tries to decide between a boy teen sensation and a girl teen sensation. The strange thing to me was that neither of these kids had a name that would give you any kind of hint as to the gender of the child. I swear, when he picked “Arcadia,” I was amazed that the boy reacted with joy.

In any case, in the middle of this bastion of mid-summer programming, Mariah Carey showed up to promote her new single, complete with the bad-ass male dance troupe that apparently is comprised of the descendants of Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” guys. When the song was over, they put up a graphic on the screen as to how to get “Maria Carey’s latest single.” It was up for a moment and quickly came down. I couldn’t rewind it (the folks lack TiVo, another peril of the house) so I was convinced I didn’t see it until a friend texted me about the spelling error as well.

This was the latest in a string of spelling FAIL that I’ve noticed lately in some pretty visible places. This road sign has become a national story, in that the only word they managed to get right, apparently, was “exit.”


Even worse, when Dad and I were rolling through Vegas last month, we found this beauty, a rare instance of “fail FAIL.” Making this worse, it was in the parking lot for the COURT HOUSE. Apparently while justice is blind, she is also illiterate.


Dad kind of shrugged it off as par for the course. This is the same man who sent me to Catholic school, where the nuns would beat you senseless for not looking up both the spelling AND the meaning of words you felt like using.

I asked my students (an editing class) what they thought of this phenomenon. Many of them noted it was unacceptable, horrible, rotten, bad and no good. These, however, are also the people who occasionally send me emails with the word “assingment” in the subject line.

I understand that my job value is essentially predicated on the ability to convince people that writing, grammar, style and spelling are important. Without being able to make this argument, I am like a farmer without a field or a plastic surgeon without Joan Rivers. However, I have to think that I’m not the only one who would be scared as hell to see a sign at the doctor’s office telling me that “Dr. Smith cars about all his patience.” I’d like to think that if you want people to believe you’re on your game, it starts with being careful on the little things.

Am I too concerned about this? Let me know.


19 thoughts on “Skule werked four me. I kin reed an spel…

  1. butbutbut they spelt reason and change rite! as a dyslexic spelling challenged person, i am proud of spelling gooder. a lot of reading has helped. lol cats doesn’t.

  2. I have to agree with you on this one, although I would say it’s “being carefulabout the little things.” That could just be a regional difference, though. 😉
    I could go on and on about this topic, but I’ll try to be brief instead:
    – I read somewhere a couple of years ago that today’s high school grads have 25% of the vocabulary that they did in the early 1900’s. Can’t find the article right now, but it struck me as extremely plausible (and I believe they had the research to back it up).
    – There’s some educational theory about getting kids to express themselves openly without giving them a hard time about grammar and spelling, the idea being it’s more important for them to write, period, than to write well. I’ve never been a fan of this idea, even after my sister (who is a teacher) explained why it was a good thing. My objection was, what’s the point of writing more if your writing is so bad that people can’t understand you anyway?
    Or maybe I’m just picky becuz Ize kan spel.
    As for “assingment,” well, everybody makes a typo now and then, eh? 😉

  3. You are definitely not being too concerned. I bemoan the advent of Twitter because it only fuels the poor use of the English language. Not to mention the toll it takes on spelling (it’s YOUR, not UR, people). However, I don’t know what to do about it, since people treat grammar and spelling pedants like me as, well, pedants who just won’t loosen up. *sigh*
    But, as an example of what happens when you just loosen up, I was reading a food review in our remaining local paper. The food critic was praising a quesadilla having been cooked as crisp and impenetrable. What? As my co-worker said, impenetrable is inedible–something you’d throw to the dog to work on. Gah…

  4. I’ll repeat what probably got me banned at DKos last night.
    The English language is a tool. Used correctly it can flay with the painlessness and precision of a surgeon’s blade.
    But the world is hellbent, evidently, on reducing it to something more primitive than stone knives and bearskins, and leaving us all poorer for having stood aside for this triumph of illiteracy, imprecision, carelessness, haste, stupification and dumbing-down.
    I raised Cain with my sons over grammar and spelling after their teachers told me it wasn’t important. Literacy matters. Communication matters. If you cannot communicate your thoughts so that others can understand them, your brilliance is wasted.

  5. I don’t think you’re being too picky. In many arenas, you must communicate with precision.
    It bothers me greatly that newscasters don’t seem to know how to conjugate even “is” (as in “tornados is coming”). These are the people who are supposed to be examples.
    Admittedly, there is a place for informal language. But to operate in an international business you must also be able to use formal language. (see GW Bush).

  6. Pity this poor Latin teacher, where in a manner of speaking, there is no grammar, only spelling — e.g.amicō, ‘to a friend’, vs.amicī, ‘of a friend’, orninget, ‘it will snow’ vs.ningat, ‘it might snow’.
    You try holding a young America raised on texting tothat level of precision.

  7. No, I don’t think you’re too concerned, but on the other hand, I’ve been in the Language Nazis so long, I’ve worn out three armbands and two tweed jackets with leather patches on the elbow (and a polka-dot tie, and man oh man). And I have a Master’s degree in rhetoric, essentially.
    There are any number of things, language-wise, that make me crazy. Don’t get me started on the grocer’s apostrophe (plural’s are not spelled like possessive’s, dammit!) or people who say “reign in” when they should be saying “rein in” (Melissa McEwan just used that one over at Shakesville, and I hope if she ever tries that one at the Grauniad online, some web copy editor clouts her in the head) and various other textual eggcorns, and of course, the various folks one observes who seemingly Capitalise random Words. (For some reason, you find a lot of creationists who do that; it seems to be a tell.) Or, while I’m at it, the people who post comments on blogs and can’t be bothered to capitalise or use proper paragraph breaks. Find someone online who capitalises random words and posts screens’ worth of unbroken text, and you’re absolutely for certain-sure looking at a mentally ill religious whacko.)
    Speaking of spelling and denotation, I’m currently having a fight with my boyfriend about whether my legal name (which exists in three variant spellings throughout the English-speaking word) is one name, or three. I can’t quite get him to grok that the name has been in use in western culture for the better part of a thousand years, and spelling has really only been reified in the last hundred or so, soof course there are variant spellings, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s all the same name, much as “Abraham,” “Ibrahim,” and “Avraham” are all the same name, or that the names for the rivers Don, Dan, Danube, Dnieper, and Dniester all come from the same primordial root-word (*D-N, for those of you who are linguistically inclined).
    Spelling matters, but on the other hand, we haven’t been at this fixed-spellings thing very long either, and the bar for literacy is getting higher and higher. (Really. In 1600, you were “literate” if you could write your name. In 1900, you were “literate” if you could write your name and read a few words. By 1950, to be “literate,” you had to have completed at least five years of formal literacy education, and be able to read complex information like maps and bus schedules. By the late 1990s, you had to have done all that, plus a few more forms of complex information — common everyday user interfaces, etc. and, pretty much, be able to type using a keyboard. So the vocabulary of people in 1900 may have been higher, but their complex literacy skills were nowhere near as well-developed.)

  8. No, you are not too concerned. I get work requests forwarded to me by my client and the (mostly) ladies keying them in and sending them are Administrative Assistants…??!??! I mean, for the love – they have SPELLCHECK in finger-reach…!???!? They cannot conjugate, they cannot spell.
    I was raised by a secretary of the typewriter’s zenith – spelling was my favorite thing (but being just shy enough, I stayed away from spelling bees) and is still very important to me.
    Writing and spelling go hand in hand. I am usually a strict taskmaster when it comes to spelling/grammar, almost OCD about it – not that I don’t make the odd mistake. However, the one thing that has brought me from the ledge of overly obsessing is LOLcats. I can deal with those, it’s almost like a word game/cryptology. And when paired w/silly animals, it makes me smile.
    I still cringe at incorrect spellings and of recent date I HOOTED at a colleague’s use of ‘effect’ instead of ‘affect’. This ‘colleague’ being someone who has utterly left my company and myself in the soup.
    I do abbreviate and use text-speak, I’m more comfy with it now, but if I can, I will spell out things. Though, I have taken to verbalizing “BRB” when excusing myself from my co-workers when we are in a ‘webinar’.

  9. It’s important to me to spell correctly and to use the precise word I need. The folks I run with love to learn/use their good words.
    Too bad so many people don’t. “Grocer’s apostrophe”—Good one!

  10. I proudly stand with you, Doc, in caring about spelling, grammar, and language. Some other offenses include:
    * “lead” instead of “led” for the past tense of “lead”
    * “loose” instead of “lose”
    * confusion and misuse of “counsel,” “council,” and “consul”
    * confusion of “peak,” “peek,” and “pique”
    * and the worst, suddenly rampant even on the best blogs: using “a” instead of “an” in front of a word beginning with a vowel sound.

  11. i went thru oer 20 vol. of ‘the book of knowledge’. a early 20th C set of books for kids. children were expected to know far more. nobody expects anything anymore. just pass the math test. at the marquette applebees, we joshingly applaued the waitress for being able to make change. but she was into history.

  12. Being raised by an English teacher, the example set by the college my own child just graduated from (as an English education major, no less!) made me cringe in my seat at the “commencement excersises” sign proudly displayed on the jumbotron for all to see.
    It was disheartening, to say the least, that apparently nobody else, including my English teacher mother, noticed it.
    I did get a photo of it to prove their epic fail.

  13. rein/reign is my personal freakout bugaboo.
    I lay the blame at the feet of the morons on Madison Avenue who decided to go with creative spellings of common words, like “lite” and “nite.”
    I also blame it on the invention and proliferation of digital watches.

  14. then there’s the damnably-near-ubiquitous “loose” — “loose” your job, “loose” your health care, “loose” your house.
    Loose the dogs of war, dammit.

  15. Bother’s the hell out of me two.
    I had a kindly but very strict 8th grade English teacher who had a fetish about the proper use of the words ‘lot’, ‘stuff’, and ‘bunch.’ Two points off for any unapproved use. I am 65 now, and still feel a twinge of guilt if I use them inappropriately in speech. I still can’t write them unless with the approved meaning. Thank you, Mrs. Fitzgerald!
    Another pet peeve is the egregious innumeracy one sees. I mean, using a printed chart to look up a 10 per cent discount. Sheesh!

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