An Embarrassing Admission

Despite three degrees in English and being the chair of a department of such, I am a terrible speller. I blame the convergence of two phenomena:

  1. A lifetime of study of Middle English, that happy go lucky linguistic intermezzo when the rules of proper spelling hadn’t been invented yet
  2. My own hastiness, prompted these days by having to answer so much email that to do so efficiently would prove only that I am an automoton

Over the weekend I sent out an email invitation to our graduating seniors, inviting them and their families to an informal reception and champagne toast. The patina of poshness that “champagne toast” imbues to any invitation was immediately eroded by a subject line that included the words “English Deapartment Reeception.” Yesterday I was compelled to send a follow up email:

Those weren’t typos in the subject line of yesterday’s message. “English Deapartment Reeception” is the Middle English spelling. Those of you who have taken my Chaucer class will have realized that fact immediately; those who have not may now think I obtained my PhD from an online offshore institution.

Errors in typing or not, the reception for graduating seniors truly is on Saturday, 17 May from 1:30 to 3 p.m. in Rome Hall 771. The theme will be “Your BA in English Does Not Necessarily Make You an Able Speller.” I look forward to meeting your families and friends then … and I look forward to wishing you well at the CCAS Celebration immediately afterwards as well.

— The Deapartment Chear

Back to grading those papers. And yes, I will be deducting points for misspelled words … or, knowing me, words that are correctly spelled but do not seem so to my hasty, Middle English addled eyes.

[cross-posted to In the Middle]

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