What Word Did Mr. Barclay Misspell?

“The only stupid thing about words is the spelling of them.”

Laura Ingalls Wilder

Ain’t it the truth. My competitive, perfectionist daughter gets angry when she spells a word wrong, and I’ve found myself saying to her more than once, “Sweet thing, you’re just going to have to memorize it. It’s a crazy language out there, and spelling rules don’t always make sense. Get used to it.”

Me, I love spelling. I love the spelling bee in Little Town (even though I’ve never heard, let alone known how to spell, xanthophyll outside of that context), I loved spelling bees as a kid, and I still love spelling bees. I pretty much think that with more spelling bees, the world would be a better place. I still remember the word I misspelled TOTALLY RANDOMLY in my sixth grade classroom (raspberry, with the darn errant P), the word that earned me the middle school spelling title (grandeur) in eighth grade, the word that I lost on at the subsequent regional competition (emissary) and even the word that the clinched the winner of that competition (numismatist).

I also love grammar, and consistency of style, and ferreting out any errors in both — aka copy editing. I’ve never held a professional copy editing position, though I’ve copy edited as part of my job for businesses, and now I’m a professional proofreader. But copy editing for a newspaper is serious stuff. There are all kinds of errors that don’t have anything to do with spelling or grammar that the copy editor is responsible for fixing, and his or her eyes are typically the last to see the copy before it’s printed. It’s a lot of pressure, and copy editors are worth far more than they make. Just ask Gene Weingarten, author of this fabulous column in my favorite national newspaper, the Washington Post.

I always thought the “Spelling Bee” literary would be an absolute delight of a Little House story to reenact on stage.


6 Responses to What Word Did Mr. Barclay Misspell?

  1. Dakotagirl says:

    You know, a spelling bee might be just the ticket at our conference next year.

    I admire editors and copy editors and grammar professionals. I would love to take some journalism classes to help improve my writing and grammar skills. English 101 was many years ago.

  2. Rebecca says:

    Yes, those Scripps-Howard spelling bees were one of the highlights of my childhood. 🙂 I never agreed with Laura on that one comment. It always bothered me that she thought of spelling in that way.

    I was a grammar freak too. I was the only kid in class who would cheer when the teacher would say, “Get out your Language books”, and I LOOOOOOVED to diagram sentences and would even sit and do it for fun in my free time. 🙂

  3. That’s the ticket! Let’s have a spelling match! With our toes on a crack in the floor. Shall that be our Friday night “literary”? And then we can have a “Resolved:” topic …

  4. sgaissert says:

    Sandra, we must be “psycho” — my 95-year-old aunt’s word for “psychic.” here’s an article I’ve been saving about the same topic: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/16/opinion/16mon4.html?scp=1&sq=Copy%20Editors&st=cse

    By the way, I probably won’t make the conference due to distance, but I did win the Lion’s Club spelling bee in 7th grade. : )

  5. Amy says:

    Resolved: That John Adams was a greater man than Thomas Jefferson? 🙂

    I love the idea of a spelling match, and an evening debate!

  6. Laura says:

    Play, spelled paly in first grade the day my father visited school. Why do I remember that 41 years later?

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