Why We Can't Spell
(Oh! That reminds me! Global Bazaar has gone 30 percent off!)
Anyway, I think the fault partially lies in marketing. Let's make a cute little play on words and misspell a word on purpose to sell our product. But the problem is that these misspellings creep into our subconscious. Suddenly, we can't spell.
One example is the Stephen King classic, "Pet Sematary." Ever since this book came out over 20 years ago, no one can spell "cemetery." A-ha! You thought it had an "a", right? Nope. It never has. But don't feel bad. You've fallen victim to subliminal spelling disorder. It's not your fault.
Those of us who have read the book (or suffered through the gosh-awful movie), know the book's title is spelled that way because the sign at the pet cemetery in the book was made by children, who spelled it "sematary." But because the word was emblazoned across the front of a best-selling book and on display in bookstores across the nation during the mid-'80s, we are a nation forever confused about the spelling of "cemetery." Even people in the funeral home and cemetery business struggle with this. My dad works for a large funeral home in Houston, and he can't tell you how many times a memo or some letterhead has crossed his desk -- from higher-up, important, corporate-type people -- with "cemetary" printed on it.
So am I blaming Stephen King, a celebrated American author, for ruining the word "cemetery" for generations of Americans?
Of course I am.
And now, my beloved Target. I've been a little annoyed when I've gone in there lately. It's because the word "Goodbuy" is hanging all over the place. I know, I know -- it's part of their "Hello Goodbuy" marketing campaign. Another cute little play on words so we will buy stuff. But I know what's going to happen. All those "Goodbuy" signs are going to creep into our subconscious, and next time we go to write the word "goodbye," the "goodbuy" version is going to pop into our brains and try to tell us that's the right way to spell it. Our Target also has "Fabuless" signs hanging all over the place. Yet one more marketing ploy that will chip away at what's left of our literacy as a nation.
Of course I'll keep buying stuff at Target. The day Global Bazaar hits 75 percent off, you'd better get out of my way. But I think those of us who care about preserving the English language should send a message to corporate America, and that message is this: Literacy sells.