‘you can’t help respecting anybody who can spell TUESDAY, even if he doesn’t spell it right; but spelling isn’t everything. There are days when spelling Tuesday simply doesn’t count…’
Rabbit, The House at Pooh Corner (A.A. Milne)
words you can’t spell
phy…psch…psychology; calander… calendar; consious… concious… conscious; contentious… contientious… conscientious
A baby begins to learn language in the womb, listening to the voice of her mother, the rhythms and inflections, the wonderings and discussions. By the time she is born, these patterns are imprinted in her brain like a hand pressed into clay.
words that always raise a question
affect or effect?
focused or focussed?
breath or breathe?
custard or cream?
You don’t remember learning to read or to write, but you do remember the books. The Aristocats, The Famous Five, the Bible. A novel about lost boys in the wilderness was the first novel you got lost in, all of you lost together. You read everything. The Beano, Jackie, cereal packets, the medical magazines your parents subscribed to. The Guinness Book of Records and books on ballet and birds were regular Christmas
words you dislike
treat, trope, gloat, moist, Scrabble, sad, bleh, blah blah blah…
You love the feeling of reaching for a word just beyond your grasp, the moment when it drops into your mind to complete the sentence you are constructing – like a bird landing on a branch alongside her rightful family.
words you love to say
serendipity, rhododendron, peach, articulated, nourishing, bibliography, hattifatteners, vexed, vexing, murmuration, gloaming, backscattering, diaspora, anticipation, echo… echo… echo…
If a child is never spoken to, she will never learn to speak. Hearing words is not enough, the TV or radio are merely passive sounds passing through the brain. Eye contact, questions, repetition, smiling engagement, all give meaning to the words, and then meaning becomes learning.
Words move through your mind like restless rats trapped in a sack, nosing each other to see who they belong to and how they might behave together. When you spill them onto the page or the screen, your mind loosens and lightens, you feel a liberating auphoria. You like it when they form families, when they discover they belong together.
Then something new is born.