Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Spelling: Lactate. Agonising. Bungee. Munchkin. Ahhhh. Only Google understands me. Ahh.


I've been reading Caitlin Moran's new book 'How to be a woman' and I have to say, I've been reading it voraciously. And possibly empirically and anaerobically. I don't know what those words mean but I'm inspired to use them by Caitlin's big vocabularly. It's a bit like when you read a Will Self article - you pretty much need a dictionary nearby to help you out and you need to stop yourself every time you look up the word from saying something like, "Oh. It means good? It means good! Well why didn't you say that then!!! For effs flippin sakes."

But you're learning. It's new words and you can use them to impress people when you're talking on the bus. You'll get them mangled up and use em wrong but that's what big new words are for. Misusing them. Developing and cocking up "the language". That's how it evolves. By crazy discoverers and explorers venturing out of the 1,000 word standard English into the hinterland of clever, wanky word choices and grabbing a few new ones and bringing them back to share with the rest of the population. They might laugh at you but they might give you top marks in exams when you use em. You'll be like Sir Walter Raleigh with his potatoes and tobacco. People will laugh at you, but eventually your discoveries will be the fuel that keeps the underclass going. Although the big poncey words (potatoes and tobacco) have transmogrified over time into chips n fags.

I had a similar philosophy to word userage when I was doing my English O level at age 15 (having a late July birthday makes me seem like I was a slight prodigy, I wasn't). Big words were where it was at. Examiners and teachers loved a big word.

I was Mr Rubbs at spelling though. I had a comfort zone when it came to spelling and it's the same one I have today when it comes to Scrabble - nothing bigger than 6 letters; nothing more than 2 syllables - or things are going to get messy. The sort of bad spelling that causes you to be so far off the mark that when you use spellcheck the helpful PaperClip Man just throws up his hands and goes, "Ooof. Phhht. Gadzooks! Fuck it mate, I fuckin give up." If you've got that many letters wrong there's too much of a distance. It offers you cue when you're writing a story about standing in the post office. It offers you envelop when you're writing about sending a letter. It says, yeah, loose is a good spelling, it's fine don't worry. You can have a loose parcel - if for instance it's held to the back of your bike with slack bungee ropes.

Nowadays Google will help you more than spellcheck ever has. It politely says things like, did you mean, 'post office queue'? We have searched for that. That's what you probably meant. It's a bit like a patronising older brother or a wife that has grown to hate your habits over time. It means well but there's an agonising, tired sense of menace to it. It might pick up a knife and kill you if you spell 'lactate' wrong one more time. But I enjoy that. At least Google understands me, usually. I do tend to use it now just to spell things - hence my Google search history makes for interesting reading: lactate, agonising, bungee, munchkin. It sounds like a Fall song in fact:

Lactate. Agonising. Bungee. Munchkin. Ahhhh. Only Google understands me. Ahh.


As a result of my spelling disease and also my lazyitis I memorised 20 words which were both clever and useful and also would get me Top Marks! In every poem or essay or plotless story I did wrote. Everything I wrote was posited on the idea that I would skip from one of the 20 words to the next, just to make sure I used all of the best words I knew. I would choose the 'write a descriptive scene about somewhere exciting like a fairground or a post office' option. Partly cos I was scared of writing something nice like a poem (I didn't know the rules - I still don't); or something imaginative like a story-plot thing - cos I didn't know if I was allowed to say daft things (I'm pretty sure I wasn't allowed.) So I kept it simple and just described places and things and nothing ever happened but I did get to use all my clever words.  It was a very clever strategy and I can still remember these words even now, several lifetimes later because they all began with the letter E:
  • exascerbate - John said that being late at the post office exascerbated his angerness.
  • etoilated - Jane had not eated for 6 weeks. She was etoilated in aperence.
  • exfoliate - Jane had nice skin tho. She exfoliated her earlobes regularly.
  • earlobes - John said to the man, "You have big earlobes. Wear is my parsel?"
  • excellent - "Excellent!" exclaimed the Post Office man looking at the big cue in the shop.
  • exclaimed - "Why is my parsel loose?" exclaimed John.
  • eminent - "I am a eminent man in this environment! People no my name."
  • eery - The silense in the shop was eery like a gost had eppeered.
  • ebullient - Jane was ebullient and smily faceed. "I am ebullient," she exclaimed. My earlobes are excellent today!"
Needless to say, I failed my English O level. A shame that I carry with me to this day. So I say to you kids of today think of Hemingway and Bukowski. KISS - Keep It Simple Stupid. And I give you this quote from Charles B:

""An intellectual says a simple thing in a hard way. An artist says a hard thing in a simple way."
Charles Bukowski

On the other hand. Forget all that. Recognise the truth of another from a man who changed his name from the hard to spell Stuart Leslie Goddard to the idiotically simple Adam Ant:

"Ridicule is nothing to be scared of."

No 1 nos how to to spel nowadays and it dosnt matter reely. So use all the words you like. Use em rongly n call it post-modern. Call it art. We hav entered a knew fase in our evolushon. Tis like the fal of the Romen Emphigher, the Chinese will take over as we fall like badly magnetised fridge words from the cold wall of our unplugged civilisation. Or y'know. Something, somthink, sumfink ...   :-)

1 comment: