Recreating (and advancing) pk’s censored domains:
Knatz.com / Teaching / Scholarship / English /
Particularly Spelling of Family Names
Dr. Johnson published a dictionary, giving authority to how he spelled things.
Colt innovated interchangeable parts. Ford instituted the assembly line. And the world is a very different place.
Before that, Thomas Jefferson had said that he didn’t trust a man who knew only one way to spell a word. We have three signatures from Shakespeare: in which the man spelled his name three different ways.
But we’re “educated”: meaning we all come off the same assembly line, made by interchangeable parts, to live as interchangeable parts, disposable tissues.
Personally, my spelling is “better” by far than average and has been since September of 1967: the year I began teaching and had to correct others’ spelling. I learned it overnight. I’d never felt any need for conventional spelling before then. These days I spend some attention on the spelling at Knatz.com because I don’t want assembly line readers to be distracted by irrelevancies: like spelling. Other than that, I do not confuse “standard” with “correct.”
Some decades ago I had an experience that I was better qualified than most to appreciate in this context: my family (my sister or mother) asked me to check the availability of grave sites at the family plot (family on my mother’s side). My grandmother had worked at that cemetery. She was buried in it. How much room was in her neighborhood? The Evergreen Cemetery in Queens New York was very cooperative. And I’m very glad their report passed under the eyes of this rebellious English teacher.
My mother’s maiden name was Feudtner. The Feudtners intermarried with families named “Jens” and “Wolf.” A bunch of Feudtners, Jenses, and Wolfes were buried in the same community of grave sites owned by the families. People died at all ages: the baby might precede the mother: or visa versa. One family member was buried on three successive occasions, first the eye, then the leg, then the rest of the person. Very interesting, very amusing. But that’s not why I was glad to map the history. Few names were ever spelled the same way twice! Papa Wolf was buried, then his daughter: so-and-so Wolffe. Then his brother: so and so Wollf.
The Jenses were buried as Jens, as Gens, as Jenz, as Genz … And the Feudtners …? Any combination you want to guess at.
I quote part of an email from bk:
Huck Finn I read and loved my senior year in high school. I quoted it in the year book: “But I reckon I got to light out for the Territory ahead of the rest, because Aunt Sally she’s going to adopt me and sivilize me, and I can’t stand it.”
I was sick the day yearbook proofs came in, but I phoned Molly and asked her to go in and double-check that “sivilize” was (mis)spelled (in)correctly, which she did. But then the yearbook editor (who was an all-A student in my English class, and was supposed to have read Huck Finn at the same time I did) incorrected it back to “civilize” — making me look less illiterate to almost everyone, but more illiterate to anyone who mattered. She wasn’t allowed to change the proofs after they had my official approval, but she thought she was doing me a favor, saving me from embarrassment.
pk comments: We are the same people who believe we are competent to record God’s Bible! Shouldn’t we get something human right before we dare to try to get God’s word right?
2014 11 27 I just got a great email from bk:
|Let me ask you a question. Has it occurred to you that your assembly line is not merely a stroke of industrial genius but a projection of organic truth? After all, the interchangeability of parts is a rule of nature. Individuals participate in their species and in their genus. All mammals reproduce in the same way and share the same designs of self-nourishment, with digestive and circulatory systems that are recognizably the same, and they enjoy the same senses. Obviously this is not to say all mammals have interchangeable parts, as your automobiles. But shared design is what allows taxonomists to classify mammals as mammals. And within a species— man, for example— the rules of nature operate so that our individual differences occur on the basis of our similarity. So that individuation may be compared to a pyramid in that it is only achieved by the placement of the top stone. Ford pondered this. Exceptin the Jews, he muttered. Morgan didn’t think he had heard correctly. I beg your pardon, he said. The Jews, Ford said. They ain’t like anyone else I know. There goes your theory up shits creek. He smiled.|
The novel referenced is Ragtime, Doktorow. bk has always known that I love it, especially that bit with Ford & Morgan. What I don’t know is whether bk was referring to any particular writing of mine: it could have been this post above. Maybe he’ll tell me, maybe I won’t ask. Meantime, here it is, whatever the context.
2017 06 03 Sixth graders compete at spelling words most people have never heard of. One, kerfuffle, everyone has heard of and recently, ’cause Steph Curry made fun of the journalist using it during the playoff season. My reactions was: it’s not a long-enough, well-enough established word to have a regular spelling: indeed I don’t believe it has a regular form. I don’t say that as an authority; I say it as a resistor of authority. Research it, find earliest uses. I had a use or two here at Knatz.com.