Our American culture is getting protest happy. I had just moved here when the WTO Summit protests took place. To me, the political point was lost in the street riots, tear gas, and that panic attack I had when I drove down Denney and saw a swarm of protesters coming toward me, and hoped that they didn’t take my Lexus as a sign that I was a bourgeois a**hat. I’m definitely not bourgeois.
I’m not making a political statement. I just prefer to make my opinion known by voting, and giving and withholding money. That’s just me. I say to each his own unless you are blocking traffic and making people feel unsafe. Or ruining something for kids.
Last week, Simplified Spelling advocates protested the Scripps National Spelling Bee. You know the event, where cute, nervous, fashion-challenged kids who are smarter than you show their stuff onstage. The weird ones get video clips on YouTube. The best ones probably get advance admission to the Ivy of their choice. Then we all admire the winner and discuss that word they spelled correctly to take the trophy. And some of us pretend we knew that word. Yes, totally knew that word.
Last week, I heard someone at my trapeze class say that trapeze is not a sport, it’s a performance art. And I think of the English language the same way. There’s beauty in it. Spelling words phonetically turns it into a sport. The idea that someone could advocate phonetic spelling is lost on me. I love that words are derived from Latin, or German or whatever. That there is a root and by understanding the origin or genus of the word, a speller can use logic to piece together not just the spelling but the meaning. There is something wonderful in the complexity of the English language. I appreciate the organic nature of language. Mandating spelling take so much of the fun away. I understand the concerns that the Simplified Spelling movement is trying to address. But I want them to find another way. Nobody is trying to take away “Hooked on Phonics”.
I realize that I have done as much as, if not more than, the next guy to butcher our English language. But I appreciate it. What I don’t appreciate? Sucking all the fun out of the mother of all spelling bees for some hard-working kids.