A Slice of Fried Gold

The Suffering of a Word Nerd

Monday, August 25, 2008

I'm a bit of a self professed word nerd. I pride myself on my ability to spell correctly and to use those words in sentences that are both conversational and technically accurate. Poor spelling is a very, very frustrating thing for me to see. In a recent article from Time however, it was revealed that the people who should be the ultimate sticklers about spelling are not only forgiving these transgressions but encouraging them.

"Making an Arguement for Misspelling" (their misspelling, not mine) is the title of the article, and it's mostly about a senior lecturer in criminology at Bucks New University in England named Ken Smith. Smith is said to see "so many misspellings in papers submitted by first-year students that he says we'd be better off letting the perpetrators off the hook and doing away with certain spelling rules altogether" He encourages the idea that words should not be labeled as incorrect, but rather be tagged as "variant."

To get this out of the way, I do like one concept that Smith proposes. He states that there is the tendency to overlook great ideas because of spelling errors, and that is an unfair situation to put intelligent people in. I agree that you should not look past these ideas, however the care to spell correctly can not be underrated.

This may seem overboard to some but when I think of the path this article could take us down I think of the movie Idiocracy. While the movie overall is flawed (but still good), it is great conceptually (somewhat like the great ideas masked by poor spelling, perhaps?) and the primary concept behind it is this: what if the dumbing down of America continues on its current trajectory? It hypothesizes a world full of morons, where simple tasks (such as feeding plants water instead of a knock off of Gatorade, regardless of how badly the plants crave electrolytes) are made near impossible.

If we start down this road then what is next? Sentence structure being deemed unimportant? School being thought of as an overrated concept? Why encourage people to strive for mediocrity? To me, it seems like this is the most surefire way to bring the degradation of our language as a whole. Granted, it isn't a flawless language, but it's ours and we should treat it right.

As a fan of the written word, I do not want to think of a future highlighted by criminally misspelled articles and horrendously written stories. That isn't a very savory thought to me, and I really hope this is not something that catches on. Shame on Time and the writer of the story (Laura Fitzpatrick, you're suspect) for encouraging it by giving this concept the time of day. This type of thinking may seem harmless, but it is the type of thing that could lead in other directions quickly.

Next thing you know, we'll have a Secretary of State sponsored by Carl's Jr. and the number one TV show in America will be a show off the Violence Channel called "Ow! My balls!" Then we'll look at Mike Judge like some sort of freakishly prescient genius.

Or maybe not. But I think you get my point.


Raechelle said...

I couldn't agree more! I heard this story on the radio the other day and it made me so angry. You're exactly right - if this is accepted, it would only be the beginning. The rest of the world already thinks that the U.S. is stupid. Why give them more reason to think that?

sheri said...

First off, I thought Idiocracy was a good movie (although depressingly true at times... especially talking to people that didn't "get it"). But that's not really the point here.

You are very right, and I am very scared. The thing about education being not important is already starting to come true, although it's thinly veiled by masquerading it as help for struggling students. Basically, public school teachers can't fail people anymore, so regardless of whether you learn (or even try to learn), you move on. This pushes people that aren't ready through the school system, and eventually pops out incompetent young adults.

Even a portion of the ones who go on to college (meaning they were not at the bottom) amaze me with their incompetency. I spent two years grading papers and tutoring students (sophomore level college papers and all levels of math), and I was utterly amazed (in a bad way) at the quality of work / comprehension of some (if not most) students.

Tyler (Y Machina) said...

D00d, wut r u talking abt?

You did nail it right on the head, though. Last year, for example, I walked out on a student's presentation because he had so many misspellings. Did I overreact? Mayhaps... But I'm like you in the sense that I become frustrated with incorrect grammar.

Damn n00bs! They're in my Webster's, takin' my spelling!

divid happer 1 said...

wat are yu taking abut. most pepple in the us now how to speel. sometims pepple just dont now how to red.

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