Then there are the blamers, who point fingers at the English language and its convoluted rules and peccadilloes. A small faction of them appeared in front of New York's Grand Hyatt today -- site of the 2010 Scripps National Spelling Bee (televised tonight on ABC). They were dressed like bees and were cursing our native tongue.
"Our alphabet has 425-plus ways of putting words together [illogically]," said one particularly irate bee, who was representing the "Society of Literacy." Organization members were spotted passing out pamphlets suggesting a variety of phonetic spelling changes (a la "fruit" to "froot" and "slow" to "slo").
I couldn't agree more. Spelling is rough -- I have to spell at least 20 words a day. I have a preschooler who hears and understands EVERYTHING. And if she doesn't understand, she's not shy about asking. So spell we must, or we'd be up all night fielding questions like, "What's 'murdered?'" and "Who got sh**tfaced?"
It's not just scary words and swear words that need to get spelled out now, either. Preschoolers have a whole list of words that are deemed offensive. If you want to tell someone to shut up, for example, you'd better spell it, or you'll have to deal with tiny feet marching over to you and a kid accusing you of saying a "bad word" -- then trying to drag you into a timeout. Words like "ugly" and "fat" should also not be uttered within earshot of young "word police."
Another reason we incessantly spell things out is, frankly, to trick her. It's like spelling out l-e-a-s-h in front of a walk-loving dog. Let's put it this way: If you visit my home and you MUST talk about chocolate in front of my kid, please have the courtesy to spell it. My child, like most kids her age, is a sweets junkie. If she knew how to shoot up a chocolate bar, she would. We spell ALL desserts in our house -- including the word "dessert." (Although, considering my lack of spelling skills, I've more likely been spelling "desert.")
When this kid learns to spell -- and if she's anything like her mama, that will be never (more often than not, the only suggestion I get from spellcheck is, "Are you effing kidding me!?") -- we're going to have to change our style of conversation. Until then, though, I will continue our neverending spelling bee.
I commend those brave spellers tonight, for enduring protesters and for being able spell beyond the call of duty. One day, when they're parents, they'll really get to put their skills to use.
How often do you spell things out in front of your kids?