It appears that Mrs. Wright was right and I was wrong.
Thirty years ago, when I was a cub reporter at the Richmond County Daily Journal, I went to my nephews school in Rockingham to ask his fifth-grade teacher how hed received an A on an assignment that contained several misspelled words, along with subjects and verbs that didnt agree.
Oh, we dont grade on spelling, she told me. She looked at me as though I had two heads when I told her I didnt agree.
Her principal called my editor the next day to complain that I was trying to intimidate his teacher and influence a family members grade.
You dont do that, editor Glenn Sumpter told me, angrier than Id ever seen him, angry enough to threaten me with my walking papers if it ever happened again.
He softened a bit when I explained that I was complaining because the kids grade was too high, not too low, but he, too, looked at me as though Id sprouted an extra noggin on my shoulders.
Three decades later, all thats left to be said is Uncle! I give up.
Not much emphasis
If you watch television news, local as well as national, and read those aggravating scrolls that go across the bottom of the screen while youre trying to listen, it is obvious that Mrs. Wright wasnt the only one who didnt grade for spelling.
The letters and emails I receive from students seeking a job or internship in journalism make it crystal clear that not a lot of emphasis is placed on what used to be considered an essential element of a good education.
As a former English major who is also probably borderline obsessive-compulsive about the issue, I seek out misspelled words the way those truffle-hunting dogs sniff out that buried and expensive French fungi. One neednt dig too deep, though.
In one recent day nay, in one hour on one national news show, you could read about a new canabis report (that should be cannabis) on the long-term effects of marijuana and that soul singer Bobby Womack is suffering sings of Alzheimers disease.
We also learned that Detroit suffers its worse murder rate in 20 years that should be worst and that activists climb 60-foot tries to block construction on the Keystone XL pipeline. Yes, the story said tries, not trees.
Spell-check gone awry
Behold: This is what happens when spell-check goes awry.
That same day, on a different networks news, one saw information about a deadly plan crash and about somebody named J.R.R. Tolkein. I was tempted to call the station and ask if that fellow was related to Lord of the Rings author J.R.R. Tolkien.
Many years ago, back when it was assumed that everyone had paid attention in Mrs. Blackwells second-grade class, I thought that the rare misspellings on store and restaurant signs were just cynically intentional attempts to get literate passers-by to come in and say Hey, Mister, youve got pigs feat spelled incorrectly on your sign so the proprietor could sell us a couple of those bad boys while we were in there.
That strategy, if it is one, worked at least once, several years ago, when I pulled over to inform a man on the side of the road that watermelon has only one l and that peaches should have an A somewhere in there.
When I saw the big, surly German shepherd lying behind his truck, though, I kept my mouth shut and drove off with a watermellon and some peeches.
Both were deelishus.
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