Every year, Edison Township has contestants for the Scripps National Spelling Bee, and their cute pictures would be published in the local newspaper. Last year, even if it was cancelled due to the pandemic, an online substitute contest was won by an eighth grader from Edison, Navneeth Murali, who spelled the word “Karoshthi” correctly. I don’t know what “Karoshthi” means and I am sure even if I read the definition of “Karoshthi”, I still wouldn’t understand what it is. I am hopeless with spelling, or memorization, or the intricacy of roots, definitions, and etymology.
Nice to know immigrants’ children become expert spellers, but for the rest of us, spelling is a struggle. English is a whimsical language and it often inserts silent b, w, k at will, and doubles a letter for no reason at all, just to mention the least of the troubles. English has spelling rules, but the problem is that the rules are broken so frequently that you can’t help but wonder why bother to have rules at all.
If you ask me what’s the greatest invention of the 20th century, I wouldn’t go for airplane, spaceship, washing machine, movie, TV. Yes, you guessed it, my pick will be the humble word processor and its spellcheck. Without the modern Microsoft Word’s auto-correction and Google’s as-you-type spelling assistance, I would have gone crazy long time ago. It is still a mystery to me how people survived a writing task in English without word processors in the past.
When I was in graduate school, I knew a person who can spell, and she often mocked people in her department who cannot do the same. Although I agreed with her just to be on the polite side, I’ve always wanted to tell her that she is a little too proud of herself. Of course I never told her that, and would never dream of doing such a thing. I am a polite girl and I want to keep it that way. Still I have my private opinions.
Mark Twain once said that to misspell a word is to display your imagination. Not exactly his word for word, but something to the same effect. Not just misspelling. Many of our faults originate from our imagination, don’t you think? Our anxiety for example. It often happens that the anxious type suffer deeply from their own imagined disasters. Lovers’ jealousy, for another example. So if your spelling is not good, like mine, “bee” positive and don’t “bee” too hard on yourself. You have the imagination to misspell, the compassion to live with imperfections, and the resilience to bounce back from language disasters no matter how humiliating.