Thursday, November 03, 2011

Ye Olde Spelinge Bea

I'm a good speller (You wouldn't know it from some of my entries, but that's because I'm not a good typist.).  It runs in the family.  My dad is a good speller.  My son is a good speller.  Dad and I both rocked in spelling bees when we were in school.  Today was the boy's first spelling bee, and I was reminded why, even though I'm good at them, I loathe spelling bees.

When I was in seventh grade, I won the school contest and went on to the county.  Then things got serious, and we received a little blue book of words to study.  I remember looking through the lists and thinking, "Who last used these words, Chaucer?"  I think I've actually found some of them in my Anglo-Saxon copy of Beowulf.  Seriously, though, I think spelling bee organizers pull a solid 25% of their words from diaries of their great-great-great grandmothers who spent their lives in rural, isolated places.  Well, I got tripped up by one of those "words that are no longer with us" (and that wasn't in the blue book either, hah!).  Now, I have always loved reading Shakespeare and such and learning the words in the old literature, but you have to draw a line.  Dad and I actually got into an argument about that line in the parking lot after the spelling bee.  He threw an "if you'd just study more" routine at me, and I responded, "Who gives a damn about memorizing words that haven't been used since before Noah Webster was born?"  He didn't appreciate that.

The rock the boy wrecked on was that commonly used word "chickabiddy".  Look it up (I sure had to.) and ask yourself what dismal corner of 19th Century Mississippi they dragged it from.  There isn't enough time to learn everything there is to learn in school, and that problem gets worse every year.  Learning to spell words that fell into disuse so long ago they probably never had a standard spelling isn't learning, it's busy work.

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