I am not a talented speller. Spelling is not “my gift” as I like to say. S versus C, two Ls versus one, E versus I or A or O. That neutral, yet deceptive sound known as schwa, usually in the middle of the word, is the worst. It is evil. How could it not be when it is represented with an upside down ə? I make a first stab at the spelling by penning the word on the back of a junk mail envelope. I stare at my attempt. Imagining substitutions here or there, I scribble three or four samples. In the past, I would resort to consulting one of my many dictionaries. I am nothing if not aware of this embarrassing failing, and own no fewer than ten. For Christmas in my twenty-eighth year, my parents bought me an unabridged Webster’s Third New International Dictionary. It resided in a place of honor on my desk at work. When in need of a break from editing software training manuals, I would peruse a page of words found at random. All of the other editors were jealous, I think.
Anyway, nowadays, I finally resort to typing my frustration in a blank MS Word document. At times I become so befuddled that my attempt isn’t even recognizable to the spellchecker. The suggestions are so far off the correct meaning that they make me laugh. Recently, the suggestions for emanate ranged from emirate to germinate.
When asked by someone how to spell a given word, I have been known to chuckle. Not at that person’s confusion. No, not at all. In fact, my empathy is at its peak at such times. Rather, I laugh at the idea that someone would actually trust me to spell anything, especially out loud. My mother can do so extremely fluently. In fact, she spells words so melodiously that my brain can’t keep up as I frantically try to transcribe the letters in the correct order. My son is also an excellent speller. Once many years ago I asked him how to spell elephant while we were driving thru downtown. He did so, correctly and out loud while strapped in his car seat. Shown up by my five-year-old. Fabulous.
So why am I such a genetic deviant when it comes to spelling the English language? Do so few people really share my disability? Or do they just hide it better? Is there something wrong with my brain anatomy? It’s not that I haven’t worked hard to overcome my problem. Countless consultations later and I can finally spell words like separate and definitely without having to look them up. So I have become a better speller. Or at least I know when not to trust my instincts. Being aware of this shortcoming helps me appreciate precision in my work. I double-check everything just to make sure.
What does all of this whining have to do with Ginger, the dog, you might ask? Not much, except that she has a very easy-to-spell name, unlike our parakeet, Cinnamon (damn those schwa sounds) and the late zebra fish, Agamemnon (what was I thinking?), and our runaway cockatiel, Commodore. Two Ms or one? O or A? Give me an envelope. Oh crap.