The Spelling Test

For my 6 long depressing high school years that I thought would never end, the so called “best years of my then miserable life”, each week commenced with a spelling test of 20 words, assigned by the authorities the previous Friday.   This tended to ruin my Sundays evenings as I would be desperately trying to remember how to spell each of them, with varying degrees of failure.  Anyone mis-spelling a word in the test had to stay behind and write out the word one hundred times.  For me, I rarely spelt them all correctly and often many were mis-spelt, resulting in tedious and painful writing after the test, while the others left to play outside, laughing back at me with my head down trying not to notice their humiliating gestures.

I usually had no idea what these words meant, having never seen them before.  So my method was to remember the letters in each word.  For twenty words with an average of 10 letters for each word, this amounted to having to learn 200 letters.  This was not the problem though, as I had a good memory even though this had not at all dawned on me back then.  The hideous problem for me was that I also had to remember the orders of each of these 200 letters.  What I also did not know back then was that I was somewhat dyslectic.  So I became resigned to having to write out great long lists of each word after the class test.  Looking back, seems to me I would have been better off not even bothering Sunday afternoon with my attempts to remember 200 letters, though perhaps this was good for memory building, even if completely useless for me in remembering how to spell 20 random words.

Thinking about all that now, why I hated english with such a silent passion, perhaps I could learn to spell a few words now, having long survived high school.  After all, there are not really that many words in the English language, not compared to say, the number of variables in a computerized general ledger internet banking program.  To start my new method, never being too old to learn, I decided to find a random word and first learn its meaning.

Opening the oxford dictionary in the middle, the word I first see is “Countenance”.  I read up its meaning and learn that this word, like many English words, has many different meanings, some more different than others.   I learnt for example that the word could mean someone is pretending.  The word could also mean someone is giving support.  Obviously, this particular word is going to take some more research to master.  50,000 more words to go and I have made a start.  I feel I am already making some more progress, at the least, more than my agonising weekly attempts at high school.  I don’t remember any of those words from those lists of 20 words and I already know dame well I will always remember the word “Countenance” for the rest of my life.  Such countenance I now possess.

© 2016, James Harry Burton. All rights reserved.