Spelling Test Discrimination

It is with renewed bitterness that I recall the first stain on my spelling reputation. I was a goobery 4th Grader in Mrs. Stanbridge’s class. I didn’t know whether I wanted to be a marine biologist, a ballerina, or an attorney, but I knew I had to work hard. I’ve always liked words, and until 4th grade, I assumed it was a reciprocal relationship. At my first school-wide spelling contest at Geronimo Road Elementary School, I burned out on the second word I was asked to spell. I have no idea what the word I spelled correctly was. “Scum”, maybe. Or perhaps “robbed”. They say you learn more from your mistakes than from your victories. This adage is certainly true for the second spelling word I was asked to spell. This particular word has a sneaky “i” in it. This rapacious word has been indelibly branded into my brain for all eternity. Spelling became my unrequited lover that day. I will never, not ever, misspell that word ever again.

I was a Letters major in college. Go on, make a wisecrack. It is a Liberal Arts/Humanities degree. It involves a lot of book learning, and English with an emphasis on languages. Mostly, it’s a non-math degree. I’m also a lawyer, which means that words are the tools of my craft. So, it is with humility that I confess that there is one modern invention that has literally saved my reputation. Spellcheck. I have been living with the stigma of not being able to spell my whole life.

My spelling suckedness was crystalized in 6th grade when I was an army brat living in Newport, Rhode Island. I hadn’t spent a lot of time around Easterners or Northerners. Are you aware that they can talk funny? Almost incomprehensibly at times? Like what country are you people from? Because it can’t be the same one I’m living in. My 6th grade English teacher asked us to spell a battery of words, one of which she pronounced, “stringth”. I had no idea what “stringth” meant, but thought it might be a nautical term or some such. When I got my test back, she had marked it wrong and wrote “strength” next to my “misspelled” word.
“But that’s not what you said!” I protested.
“I said the word stringth,” my teacher replied.
“Exactly. And that’s what I wrote down.”
“No, you wrote down stringth.”
“I know. Because that’s what you said.”
“Yes, but it is spelled s-t-r-e-n-g-t-h.”
Balls. Maybe this is when I decided to ditch being a ballerina and become a lawyer instead. Justice needs an advocate!