Monday, August 11, 2008

Your Basic Dumbing Down of the Basics

A lot of people cannot spell correctly. You can find misspelled words every day, everywhere you look. It tends to make me insane, so I try not to pay attention, but that's not always possible. Like today when I was sitting in traffic waiting for the light to turn green. There was a truck in front of me with the business name "Mexicali Glass Works" on the tailgate. Their slogan? "You tell us where. Will be there." Um, I think that's supposed to be "We'll", as in "We will be there." They're NOT the same! (Don't even get me started on the incorrect punctuation.)

Oh, but you knew what they meant, right? Sure! So who (besides me) cares?! Spell whatever you want, however you want! We'll figure it out! We'll know what you mean! Phonics rule! Er, I mean, foniks rool! Hell, let's all just go back to hieroglyphics! At least that way, a bird is a bird.

Really, I just don't get it. Are these people unaware of spell check? How are they writing all of these things that contain these misspellings? Are they carving them on a rock? I just don't understand that part of it, but that's not my main concern at the moment. At the moment, my main concern is that rather than holding people to a basic standard (that is, the correct way to spell words) a college professor in Britain is so frustrated with the inability of his students to spell "common English words correctly" that he is now advocating that "variant spellings" of words be accepted as legitimate. Are you freaking kidding me?

Ken Smith, who is a criminology professor at Bucks New University, argues that as long as it can be understood, like accepting "arguement" for "argument", then why not accept the incorrect spelling as being correct? Why not? I'll tell you why not. Because it's...wait for it....NOT CORRECT!

Smith says, "Instead of complaining about the state of the education system as we correct the same mistakes year after year, I've got a better idea. (Oh, I'll bet that you don't.) University teachers should simply accept as variant spelling those words our students most commonly misspell. (See? I was right. You DON'T have a better idea.)"

He doesn't give any reason for this, nor does he appear to take into consideration what this implies overall. I mean, if it's OK with spelling, why not make it OK to accept that which is incorrect for other things as well? Oh, sure, you're driving on the wrong side of the road. But you're going in the direction that you need to be going in. I know what you mean. I know you meant to be on the right side of the road, even though you're driving on the wrong side of the road. So that's OK. No problem. No ticket. You won't even get pulled over. Carry on.

Can't remember those basic math equations, can you? I know that you meant to write that 2 + 2 = 4, but instead you wrote 2 + 2 = 5. Now, since it doesn't appear that you meant 5, I'll just let it go and assume you meant 4. Oh, and continue with those incorrect calculations in all other mathematical functions you perform. I'm sure the numbers will come out OK in the end. (Think of NASA's Mars Orbiter that was lost. See, just because some of the calculations were in English measurements and some were in metric measurements and that's what caused the craft to fail, it's OK because everyone knew what everyone else meant. It was different, but it was still the same, so no harm, no foul, right? NO!!! WRONG!!! That's why the freaking thing smashed into the planet instead of landing on it. Morons.) Besides, if you didn't really mean the wrong answer, well then, how can you be held accountable for it, right? There, there. (Pats moron on head.) Here's your helmet. Go sit down now. Don't trip.

I might even be not so outraged at this whole moronic concept if the words that this guy gives as examples weren't moronic as well. I mean, I think we can all agree that the ways that some words in the English language are spelled are a bit confusing. (Even moreso confusing when one attempts to apply those particular spellings to the principles of speech. George Bernard Shaw liked to point out that the word "ghoti" could just as well be pronounced "fish" if you followed common pronunciation that was based upon certain spellings: 'gh' as in "tough," 'o' as in "women" and 'ti' as in "nation.")

This Ken Smith guy suggests accepting "ignor", "occured", "thier", "truely", "speach", "twelth". He really has a problem with "twelfth" because it's a variant of "twelve" and he doesn't understand how that "f" got in there. Now, why he wouldn't suggest "twelvth" instead is beyond me. It doesn't follow his "phonetic" schemata he's laid out for us. Included in his list of "how to make sure that no one is held to any standard at all" are all words which violate the "i before e except after c" rule. That would include words such as weird, seize, neighbor and foreign. He also cites "mispelt" and "varient".

I'm wondering why not just get rid of the rule? I mean, it kind of renders it useless anyway if you're just going to be spelling words however you damn well please in the first place. It's like having a sign that says "Keep Off The Grass" and instead of making people stay off the grass, you just go and buy a bigger sign. OK, it's not JUST like that, but it's all I've got.

Seriously, if you think that "ignore" is spelled without an "e" on the I'm sure this guy meant well. But there are so many things wrong with this sign, it's just sad.end AND you spell it that way AND you're in college AND you keep spelling it that way time after time after time, you are, and follow me here, a moron. That's one of those words that even if you're "not sure" how to spell it, you can look at it and it just doesn't look right. But what really has me confused and disturbed is why these people are not using spell check. This guy is a professor in the UK. It's not like he's teaching the natives in Darfur. I know they eat weird stuff over there in England and they drive on the wrong side of the road, but what is with the not using spell check? And if they can't quite navigate the complexity that is the spell check, what about that other thing? Yeah, I know it's kind of old school, but it worked. What was it? It was square and had a bunch of pages and was really, really heavy. It was fairly well organized and you could just...look...something...up... wait. It's coming to me! Oh. That's right! What about the frigging DICTIONARY?!?!

A standard is supposed to be just that. Standard. When you start lowering the standard rather than fixing the problem, you're setting yourself up to be surrounded by idiots (and in this case, Professor Smith will be the leader of the village). Sir, if you'd like your students to spell words correctly (otherwise known as "spell words correctly") simply inform them that papers with misspellings will be given a zero. You'll be amazed at how quickly their spelling improves. It will be almost as if they have some sort of an incentive that matters to them. Shocking, I know.

But, hey, let's just try things Ken's way, shall we? The photo below from Jon - The Ignorant Photographer over there at Flickr shows the Bucks New University sign during the redevelopment of the University. Ah, but we know what they meant, right?

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