10 April 2006

spell it out

I consider myself to be an excellent speller. perhaps this comes from the part of my brain that is also a visual learner or engages with space in particular ways. I don't know. nor do I particularly care. but I can look at a word and tell you if it's spelled correctly, even if I've only seen it once. I read prodigiously as a child, which apparently led to glasses at a young age which of course led to Lasik at a less-young age. so I have a big vocabulary too, and one which is highly inflected by what I call 'words of the commonwealth' like scone (before Starbucks had them people, not that they do now, but that's another post), rubbish, lift, lorry, and my favorite, post-prandial. this is the word that made me realize, when it appeared on my SAT, that the SAT was fundamentally and utterly classist and amazingly white. for only I, among all my well-off Catholic school comrades in the room, could possibly know this word, for having heard it nigh every evening as my father sidled to the liquor cabinet for what he called a 'post-prandial snort' or something like that. crazy commonwealth folk.

but I digress (talking about spelling always does that, no?). I was discussing spelling. the sole gap in my spelling ability has always been words like surprise, realize, analyze, and the like. for I began my childhood in said commonwealth, first in Australia and then in Canada. and I learned to spell during those formative Canadian years (how I love thee, O Canada...). upon moving to the US at age 8, there were several things I had to get used to. these were major, life-changing, scarring things and I will now reveal them to you:

  1. Sesame Street was in Spanish, not French. it's just that I thought the world was one way, and then it turns out it's another way. and I missed the french.
  2. chips had now transmogrified into crisps. the word 'french fry' seemed utterly silly and long-winded in the face of this change. (I got in a physical fight about this one, by the way. there was screaming involved and it was very crucial that chips were chips, as in 'fish-and-' and not these packaged Lays things.)
  3. people south of the border shortened their spellings. colour was now color; favourite was now favorite. at least they kept the crucial distinction between 'for' and 'four', although as my mother constantly reminded me, folks in the US (and not her children) pronounced the former word 'fer'. perhaps this was a way of getting around the confusion. I don't know.
so it is now that I have returned not to the commonwealth but indeed to a small principality, Wales, directly linked to the seat of empire, England, that I have to adjust back to my Canadian spelling roots. surprise, I think, stays the same (that's the confusing one). realise, analyse, favourite, colour...I haven't made the mental switch yet. it'll come. at least, thanks to my Anglophone mother and my Australian father, I can speak the language.

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