OK, I'm going to boast now. I am very good indeed at spelling. It's not a great achievement, and it's not half as important as those people who can't spell like to think it is, but it's what I do well. It's about the only thing at school that I was actually good at, as opposed to being good at seeming to be good at. Lousy at sport, average in all the subjects, B-stream throughout, moderately well-behaved, not bad at music - but if there was any spelling to be done, I creamed it. I could spell better than most of the teachers, which did not win me many favours if I pointed it out. I learned to keep schtum.
Ask me to spell any word, and I will tell you. And I will be completely and utterly confident that I am right. It's possibly the only area of my life where I can say that, which is a bit pathetic really, but there you are.
Good spelling is not a mark of intelligence, any more than the ability to ride a bicycle is. But it is one of those things that people take as evidence of education, and I can't say that I am not happy to have the talent. It's one less thing* for people to beat you up about, if nothing else. I'm sure it's mainly a visual thing with me, as I am fairly good in tests that involve shapes, patterns and sequences. If I am ever unsure over which of two or three spellings is the right one, I just write them down and the correct spelling leaps off the page at me, shouting "Pick ME! Pick ME!" The right one looks right; the rest just look odd. No intellect involved.
There are a couple of problem areas. With words like 'weird' and 'shield', I can never remember whether they follow the rule or the exception. 'Sheild' always looks wrong, but 'weird/wierd' are about 50/50. I just have to remember that 'weird' is a bit weird, like Neil and Sheila. But there is one word I always have to look up. Always. And that is ...
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It's a horrendous word - letters hardly relating to the sounds they represent, consonant and vowel clusters that are decidedly foreign (and, while we are at it, the American spelling missing the letter 'o' - diarrhea - improves matters by exactly three-fifths of bugger all and serves merely to confuse things**). The word is a speller's nightmare.
No longer. Tonight I was browsing through Sickipedia in an idle moment and I came across this gem:
Doesn't It Always Run Really Horribly Over Each Ankle?
Problem solved. I will never forget that.
Does anyone else have a spelling bête noire and a way of conquering it?
* That should be 'one fewer thing', I am sure, but that just sounds wrong.
** Yes, strictly it is the replacement of the 'œ' ligature or digraph with a single letter 'e', but let's not get testicle, shall we?