January 3rd, 2006

Vanitas desk


I used to pride myself on my good spelling. Sure, my typed writing contained errors, but most were typos, the product of fingers which sometimes type entirely different words than the ones I intend to type.

Then came the confusion of living in multiple English-speaking countries, where correct spelling differs from place to place. At that point I still figured I was a competent speller, just a bit disoriented as to which correct spelling was appropriate in every case.

Now, the more I edit my dissertation, the less I think I can spell at all. Nearly all of my "crucifixion"s lack an x. All of my "commission"s lack the second s. I somehow never knew there was an "e" in "paraphernalia". Is it timetelling or time-telling? Reworking or re-working? Off the top of my head, I have no idea. Having established that I ought to put "medieval" and "early modern" in lower case letters, I've lost track of whether or not the "Middle Ages" require capitalization - especially if adjacent to an "early modern period".*

I may have misplaced my spelling competency, but at least I still care.

* I've settled most of these dilemmas through judicious use of the OED, the Chicago Manual of Style, and Google-polling.