Shut Up Spell Check, I’m Communicating!

by Kevin Burton

   Though I write the Page 7 blog alone, there is someone who talks back to me about its content from time to time.

   No, I don’t mean my wife Jeannette who proofreads the copy for typos and tone.

   I’m talking about spell check.  Spell check has saved my literary bacon more than once. But spell check can be a bit of a “Miss Thistlebottom.” 

   Miss Thistlebottom is a creation of the late Theodore M. Bernstein.  She’s a fictional 8th grade teacher who clings to outdated rules of grammar and usage and demands that others do so. 

   Bernstein wrote seven books, including “The Careful Writer,” the one I keep close to me in my home office. He is the word arbiter of choice for me and he has named that teacher appropriately. 

   Spell check has a list of words and if I form one that doesn’t appear on this list I get a screaming red line. 

   Sometimes I take her advice, sometimes I don’t. 

   I think of spell check as a female.  Why is that?  Constant correction? Telling me what to do? 

   Imagine if William Shakespeare had spell check. 

     Ask Google how many words Shakespeare invented and it will tell you 1700. Others beg to differ, including which credits him with only 422.  Still, that’s a lot of new words. 

   And I invent words too, sometimes.  A few examples:

   In discussing animal behavior I used the word “screamiest” to describe a hypothetical loud cat.  Spell check said I couldn’t use “screamiest,” but I told spell check to shut up. Nobody misunderstood my meaning

    I said orange “may be the flyingest of flying colors” in our series about music with colors in their title.  Spell check said no. You knew what I meant, I was communicating.

   I coined (I think) the pejorative term “flutterhead,” meaning a person whose few brain cells move around a mostly empty head, not finding a place to land.  

   Here is a new one, “Vanvleeting,” or in the infinitive “to VanVleet.”  That’s a verb meaning to bet on one’s self. Former Shocker great Fred VanVleet is known for that. He’s taken the notion to the bank for generational wealth, generated by being really, really good at basketball. 

   I used the word “tweener” in a story about Scrabble, talking about people who dominate casual players but are word fodder for the semi-professional types who play in these high-powered Scrabble tournaments.  Spell check, objected nobody else did.

   I didn’t coin that one.  I have seen it in several places I think.  I’m am very much afraid though to find out what that word might mean in urban dictionaries these days. 

  Well I’m no Shakespeare and I’m no VanVleet. But I bet you five dollars I’m not taking any lip from spell check any time soon. 

   Do you remember Rich Hall doing sniglets?  That was a recurring segment on a Reagan-era cable comedy show called “Not Necessarily The News.”

   A sniglet was Hall filling a void that said “there ought to be a word for that.” Some examples:

   “Pupkus,” the moist residue left on a window after a dog presses its nose to it.

   An “ignisecond” is that period of time between locking your car door and realizing your keys are still on the inside. 

  “Krogling,” is the nibbling of small items of fruit and produce at the supermarket, which the customer considers free sampling and the owner considers shoplifting.

   My Belgian friend who visited me when I lived in Alaska used to do that. 

   Hall said “profanitype,” is the special symbols and stars used by cartoonists to replace swear words (points, asterisks, stars, and so on).

   How about “doork,” a person who pushes a door marked “pull.”

   You are “aquadextrous” if you can turn the bathtub faucet on and off with your toes.

   So I’m glad the English language is alive, growing and breathing, as long as it’s not hyperventilating. 

   Say, with my proofreader being a card-carrying female do you suppose I’ll get by that crack about spell check being a bossy-pants female? 

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