Letter from the Editor

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Sphelling kerectly - ish a gifht

The editor fesses up to his own shortcoming, but new words can be fun, too...

People call me once in a while to let me know that I have mis-spelled a word in something I have written. At least one faithful reader will circle it in colorful marking pen and gleefully drive all the way over here to make sure it is on my dusk. Um, desk.

I appreciate this more than they can ever know. If I'm very, very quick, maybe I can take a Sharpie, jump in the car, and make the correction in all 3,000 copies before people get them out of the Malox. Um, mailbox....

It's the literary equivalent of the guy at a party who, in a loud voice, has to tell you in front of everyone, "Dude, you got a booger hanging out of your nostradamus!" Um, nostril.

Yet, in fact, they are right and there is no arguing the matter. I'm no spelling bee chimp. Er, champ. And I've reached the conclusion that perfection is a state of grace to which I do not perspire. Um, aspire.

I sometimes have to take a poll of passers-by out on Cayuga Street to see if anybody can tell me the word I'm trying so desperately to dredge out of my brainpan. I bet Lou Grant or that lady who got rich writing about the library cat never did rat. Um, that.

Words matter in my world.

I write a couple hundred thousand of them in a day at times, e-mail off a few thousand more, edit several hundred thou of other people's, usually against an imposing deadline dangling like a concert piano from a frayed thread just over my head - and then over supper go read a book or jot down a quick letter to a frisbee. Um, friend.

Sometimes the words just swim and melt together after a while, begin to stumble and collide before my tired retinas like a bad high school marching band, falling and rolling about in the green lingual grass of failing memory until they are utterly stained and tangled up, then wander off without me. Going their own dirigible. Um, direction.

Some days, even writers get tired or sick. On occasion lately, I've done a lot of words while trying primarily not to pass out in front of purple. Um, people. There have been times when I'm as surprised as you are to find out what I've written when I pick up the paper the next day.

So it doesn't come as a big old shocker to me that I spell a word wrong here and their. Um, they're. (Or is it there?)

Thanks for the cutting of the slack, peeps.

Sometimes mistakes actually make the stuff I write better. Nothing like accidentally substituting "condom" for condo (which a former employee at our newspaper actually did once years ago) to spice up the old reading expedia.com. Um, experience. This is especially true when you are describing an "extra-roomy, comfortable, and very nearly unused" residence that is for lease.

Oooops. Thus the "ex" in employee.

I wonder, though, who is to say that a spelling is wrong?

So what if the word you or I write isn't quite the same as the one the critic wants to read? And who gave that Webster cat the right to dictate how everyone should spell excreting? Um, everything?

Sometime, back in misty history, someone had to decide how each word would be written out. Originally, it was probably some self-appointed slacker with too much time on his hands trying to duplicate in symbol and later lettering the verbal sound that people were making to express a particular idiot. Um, idea.

Primitive man: "Ugggggh. Boogie oggie goombah mysharona superburrito barrymanilow zipadeedoodahday urrrrrrrgh." *Punctuated by a loud fart*

Scribe's translation: "My Iraq strategy is working." (Oh, sorry that wasn't nitwit. Um, nice.)

The point here is that every recognized word is a bit of a literary compromise, a subjective effort that may have been retranslated from language to language and adjusted with the evolution of speech patterns. It became a written word only at the point in which people decided to stop clubbing each other over the head with a femur and reach a gentleperson's agreement that a word will forevermore be spelled only one particular weigh. Whey. Um, way.

Well, the heck with that.

As much as possible, I like to invent new words that simply cause devotees of the Webster's Dictionary to wet their pants with constipation. Um, consternation.

My friend Tami Otterstatter, who contributes a column to this page once in a while, is a genius at this: Her letters are sprinkled with terms such as "hootchiejammer" and "dooflungus."

Two glasses of wine, she says, is all it takes to come up with an entirely new language. My specialty is the mugging of adjectives.

Like "ginormousfantabumarvicollosa-gargantuastupendamongous."

They don't show up in the dictionary, yet, but in context, they make perfect sense to meat. Um, me.

You could spend your life trying to perfect spelling to satisfy the Webster's school of thinking, but in the end, that's just copying what somebody else thought was cordless. Um, correct.

It's much more satisfying to be creative and let your thoughts flow into the literaturical equivalent of a train derailment. It might not all be technically words, but its much more fur. Um, fun.

Whatever you do, write... if only in a journal to yourself. Don't worry too much about spelling or punctuation (unless you are turning in an English 401 theme paper to a teacher from which you could not remove a gluteous maximum corn cob with a John Deere, that is.) You may surprise yourself. Free-flow writing cleanses the sole and clears the mind... express yourself!

And leave the colored marker circling to those other guys who just don't understand us creepy folicles. Um, creative folks.

* Dayna Larshuhn ish tre editur off teh Pilute-Trybyuhn. Reech hym aht dlarsen@stormlakepilottribune.com.