I was commenting over at Katherine’s excellent Intermittently Rational blog (what do you mean you don’t read it? You must! It’s wonderful), and I managed to spell the word bureaucracy straight through, without pausing, and without getting it wrong. (Obviously I had to check the spelling to be sure I had got it right, but still…)
I realise this will not seem particularly impressive to many of you, but the thing you have to understand is that my spelling always has been terrible. With bureaucracy, for example, I’ve often managed to mangle the spelling so badly that even a spellchecker hasn’t been able to work out what I was trying to write. I’m pretty sure there have been times when I’ve had at least one z in it. Looking it up in a dictionary has always been tricky, because I’ve never been 100% clear on what the second letter is. (And why this basic flaw in the concept of a dictionary – that you have to know how to spell a word in order to look up how to spell it – has never occurred to anyone I really can’t imagine.)
My spelling has improved a huge amount over recent years, thanks mainly to writing using a word-processor that highlights the words I’ve got wrong. I always try to go back and correct the word for myself, rather than using auto-correct (and not just because the auto-correct suggestions are almost always wrong), and so I have, slowly and painfully, worked out the correct spellings for most words.
I still have to stop and imagine a newspaper headline about a public transport disaster when I want to spell business – the headline is ‘Bus in Ess!’, with the Ess being a river, naturally. (Be kind to me, I was about 10 when I came up with this particular mnemonic.) Still, I recently mastered privilege, which was another cause for celebration – I always wanted to put at least one d in it, for some reason. (In the interests of full disclosure I should admit that my first attempt at spelling it there came out as privelige, which suggests I still have work to do.) But still, if I’ve got a handle on bureaucracy, then that means there aren’t any words I use at all commonly that I am completely incapable of spelling, and that’s got to be worth some kind of a small sense of smugness.
[In the further interests of full disclosure, I should admit that I have gone to extraordinary lengths in this post to avoid using the words spelled (or possibly spelt) and learnt (or possibly learned) because I have, basically, bugger all idea when you use which spelling. Words are hard…]