Friday, June 16, 2017

Big Deal

The only woman I knew named Kamela spelled it with an "e".  If you think I'm going to be shamed by not having noticed that Senator Kamala Harris spells it with an "a" you're going to be disappointed, Simps.   I'm told that he posted about it at Duncan's or I wouldn't bother with it. 

I don't remember who it was who called Hilton Kramer the "tireless metermaid of the arts"  I think it was Vidal but the memory fades.  I guess Simps, as befits his lack of ambition will settle for being the tiresome metermaid of orthography.   Funny, I don't remember him noticing the not infrequent typos and lapses of Duncan Black.   I noticed them, I just figure that's life without an editor.  I don't hold it against someone who doesn't make a big deal of it when it's someone else who lapses from the artificial dictatorship of standard spelling and the mid-brow snobs who make something of it*.  I'd go over Simp's blog to find his lapses but that would mean I'd have to look at it and the lapses in thinking and fact would really be painful.  I'd certainly rather read many of the authors who, it has been rather snarkily noted, were indifferent to standard spelling in their manuscripts.  I've read academic paper writers sniffily look down their noses at Emily Dickinson for hers, for example, when it was her genius in her poetry that gave them the subject of their mid-brow level paper to start with. 

Mastering standard English spelling (which version, there are several) is a minor skill which a minority of English speakers accomplish.  It's mostly based in a knack for visual memory which I don't have, being more aurally oriented**.  As I said, recently, I've known several people who were champion spellers who were pretty stupid and ignorant people.  I don't see why it's supposed to be any more impressive than memorizing baseball statistics or why it would be considered more high class than the far greater sophistication involved in mastering the details of being a working farmer, plumber, or any number of blue collar jobs.   When your plumbing isn't working try calling in a orthographer and see where that gets you.   Though, I should mention, the champion speller in my class went to work for a chain of laundromats, I suspect he found any plumbing skills he had were of more use for him than to get way into the official word list in the Scripps National Spelling Bee.  If he were still alive, I'd ask him. 

*  The almost always acute mind of Thorstein Veblen - the true master of subtle snark, well before the term was invented - nailed the reason that observing standard spelling came to hold the place of repute that is all out of proportion to its importance.  He identified it as being all about class standing, not about intellectual content.  In the penultimate paragraph of On The Theory of the Leisure Class, he said:

As felicitous an instance of futile classicism as can well be found, outside of the Far East, is the conventional spelling of the English language. A breach of the proprieties in spelling is extremely annoying and will discredit any writer in the eyes of all persons who are possessed of a developed sense of the true and beautiful. English orthography satisfies all the requirements of the canons of reputability under the law of conspicuous waste. It is archaic, cumbrous, and ineffective; its acquisition consumes much time and effort; failure to acquire it is easy of detection. Therefore it is the first and readiest test of reputability in learning, and conformity to its ritual is indispensable to a blameless scholastic life.

** I always, always spell my chords right.  The spelling of chords really does matter to coherence and sound in ways that merely standard spelling of English most certainly does not.

1 comment:

  1. O noes! You misspelled a personal name? O the humanities! How will you not hang your head in shame?