This Week’s Words

Tomorrow?

This has probably never happened to you.

It was the late 60s.  I was a freshman English major in college.  My department chairman asked me to put a note on the chalkboard in his afternoon classroom saying that the class was cancelled for that day and that something (I forget what) would take place “tomorrow.”

On this most important mission, I went to the classroom, picked up a piece of chalk, and started to write the message . . . until I got to the word “tomorrow.”  I couldn’t remember if it had two M’s or two R’s (no combination of M’s or R’s looked right.)

I was stuck.  It would be decades before I could “just Google it”; the students would be arriving in ten minutes; and where “tomorrow” should lead to the rest of the sentence was a blank slate (which, in the days of chalkboards was quite literal).

While I intensely remember the Purgatory of not remembering how to spell “tomorrow,” I don’t remember how I solved the dilemma.  Surely, I didn’t just “take a guess” (risking the ridicule of the arriving students), but I don’t remember asking anyone how to spell it either.

This has happened to me on more than one occasion.  I’ll be about to write/print/type a most ordinary word—one that I have successfully spelled 59,754 times—and no combination of letters looks right.  When this happens now, of course, I do “just Google it.”  If I enter the search term correctly, the search results will reward me with a definition.  If I misspell the word in the search engine, Google will kindly, tactfully tell me, “Showing results for [correct spelling of the word].”

Either way, I’ve got the correct spelling of the word without risking public disgrace.  Unless a future corporation, government, or bored IT person mines past word searches for less-than-successful attempts.  I’ve heard that nothing on the Internet ever disappears.  That probably includes disgrace.

17 thoughts on “This Week’s Words

  1. This reminds me of the first lecture I ever gave at a university. As the professors left for a professional meeting, their Graduate Assistants( I was one of them) were to take over their lecture classes. I was to cover an introduction to the Federal Reserve (FED). The day before, I over prepared my lecture. So, I wrote on the board three characteristics of the Fed: Banker’s bank, Central bank, and quasi- public bank. My problem, much to the delight of the students, was I left out a letter on the third characteristic. Not noticing my oversight I continued to explain what this term meant: privately owned but publicly used. This brought the house down, so I dismissed the class thinking I had no control of this class. Later, I was told by a student about my misspelling. As I turned and looked at the board and beginning to erase it, I saw my mistake and learned an important lecture lesson. In those days,the chalk board had no spell check.

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    1. Hilarious! Your story is far better than mine! Thanks for taking the time to share it. TOOK me a moment to figure out “what possible omitted letter could make “quasi-public’ humorous?” No wonder “privately owned but publicly used” cracked them up.

      When I was a freshman in college, an English professor had something of a reputation for being a dirty old man, simply because he took care to explain all the sexual imagery in the literature we were studying. One day he said, “No one sees me when I’m doing something nice, like when I’m carrying my little niece down the steps out there playing with her.” THIS brought the house down, which made him angry. Well, HE was the one who taught us to look for double meanings

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  2. I have a brain fart on occasion as well and will have to “Google it” to get the correct spelling and I find myself forever grateful for spell check in my Word program. I blame it on age now… lol😉

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  3. Regarding your experience with the spelling of a word, it brought to mind something that happened to me in the early 70s. I was working for a company (a very good one, since I was there 28 years) and I needed to send a typed letter
    for some sort related business. I asked the owner of the company if one of the girls could type me a letter. He called
    one of our best order desk girls and said, Would you please type a letter for Ken? She froze in place, broke out into a sweat and tried to find a way to turn down his request. Not understanding why she panicked, I asked what was the problem. She said, “Can’t I use a word processor? I could never type a whole letter on a typewriter.” Well today,
    with spell check, and programs that will correct or guide you through that process, it all happens on machines that are taken for granted…and you don’t need a dictionary. It’s going to put Webster out of business

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  4. There have been times when I have sat and wondered with some words which letters are doubled and which are single. I just googled the most common misspelled words (which I misspelled haha – I only put one s) to see which ones I often misspell.

    Accommodate
    Maintenance (I used to spell it maintainence as it came from maintain)

    There are the words that are spelled differently in the UK, and I am not referring to dropping the U in colour and their ilk.

    Things like:
    UK: Judgement
    US: Judgment

    UK: Jewellery
    US: Jewelry

    UK: Cheque
    US: Check

    Found a poem which I will post and link back to you.

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