Vail Daily columnist Linda Stamper Boyne: I’m just aweful at this
Vail, CO, Colorado
I have a dirty little secret.
It’s not something I usually share publicly. Very few people know. You see, like everyone else who is hiding something, I’m rather ashamed.
But I hope that by admitting it in this forum, I will be helping others who suffer the same fate. I will let them know there is light at then end of the tunnel of shame in which they have been living.
So here it is: I’m a horrible speller. Seriously awful. (I just spelled awful with an e in the middle. Aweful. I’m that bad.)
It haunts me. I have nightmares of enduring the most terrifying torture imaginable, a never-ending spelling bee. It’s the Hotel California of spelling bees; I lose but can never leave. The waves of humiliation continue in perpetuity.
I’m terrible at the “Wheel of Fortune” and just the mere suggestion of playing Scrabble strikes fear in my heart. And forget about word scrambles or crossword puzzles. They just about send me over the edge.
It’s embarrassing, being a woman of words who cannot spell. Not long ago, I was publicly humiliated when asked by acquaintances across several tables in a lively restaurant to settle an argument about difference in the definition between two spellings of the same word. I froze, a feeling of panic running through me, not remembering which spelling went with which meaning, and not entirely certain as to the spelling of either. I distracted everyone by involving my dinner mates in the debate while slyly pulling out my iPhone and bringing up my Merriam Webster app to find the answer. Face saved by technology. And yet it torments me.
I have been challenged my whole life. Spelling was always my lowest grade. In junior high and high school, I lost points on everything I turned in because of misspelled words. I don’t even think I saw the mistakes when proofreading. It was as if I never learned the rules for spelling. Perhaps I didn’t.
I remember “i before e, except after c,” but that’s about the only one. And even that one gave me pause for a while because of the last part, “… except in words like neighbor and way,” because there’s no i or e in way! Took me a while to figure out that it meant weigh. Stupid English. Too many spellings for the same word.
When I was in high school, my mom even bought me a Bad Speller’s Dictionary that referenced commonly misspelled words and their correct spellings. I think it just reinforced my mistakes because I saw them in print. And it listed all the possible misspellings, so it gave me new options and just confused the whole issue.
Even now I pause when writing something by hand, contemplating the correct spelling of everyday, basic words. This especially holds true when it’s a note to a teacher; I’m quite certain more than one missive has been sent off to school with misspelling. I hope they haven’t ended up on the bulletin board in the teachers lounge as an example of the failed American education system, posted for all those spelling savants to ridicule.
Spellcheck is both a blessing and a curse. On one hand, I think it is the greatest invention of modern life. It has saved me countless hours of pausing, thinking and referencing. It has given me the public facade of a well-educated adult.
On the other hand, it has made me not even have to think in correct letter arrangement. I can just push on with my writing, spelling be damned, and go back later to correct the document with more red underlined words than not. I try to pay attention when the correct spelling pops up in the little box, but seems my brain is unable to memorize the right order of the letters.
Sadly, I think I’ve passed this handicap on to my children. I don’t want them to feel the same shame and insecurity as I. As with others who share this affliction, the best course of action is to admit the problem, accept it, try to learn and move on to spell another day.
Linda Stamper Boyne of Edwards can be contacted through email@example.com