An aphorism is a pithy saying or quotation that stays in your mind and often guides you when you hit troubled waters. Many religious people live by aphorisms – sayings that are inspiring, wise and carefully considered.
I am fortunate enough to receive a great many of these quotes from readers. These I store, and some I pass on to others.
It was Australian national airline’s (Qantas) 75th anniversary and the following is adapted from a flight operations newsletter. It is ostensibly a memo from a captain answering the chief pilot’s “Request for further information”.
An old friend tells me her newly retired husband has “even taken to disagreeing about the colour of the kitchen bin liner”. And Pam Czanik, whose husband is about to retire, asks, “on behalf of all women whose husbands are nearing retirement age”, for some advice I dispensed many years ago about “retirement – the final episode”.
When I was a schoolboy in the Early Pleistocene, I used to get good marks for composition. Good marks for grammar too but, often, zilch for spelling. One day my English teacher, Alice Earnshaw (the men were busy fighting in Europe), said to me in a conspiratorial whisper: “Spelling doesn’t matter. Just write.”
She pointed out that even Shakespeare couldn’t spell.
The memory came back to me after reading last week that Sriram Hathwar, 14, and Ansun Sujoe, 13, have become the first schoolboys to share the Scripps National Spelling Bee in America – the competition’s first tie in 50 years.
It amazes me that these two chaps can spell their names.
They drew because there weren’t enough words left on the competition’s list for them to continue until only one was left standing.
In the bee’s final round, Hathwar, an eighth-grader from a town called Painted Post in New York, correctly spelt the word “stichomythia”, a word whose definition would take up too much of this column’s space ration.
Then Sujoe from Fort Worth, Texas, correctly spelled “feuilleton” (the entertainment section of a European newspaper).
I liked Sujoe’s comment afterwards: “(The result) feels pretty good because not only do I get the victory, but I get to share it with someone else. So it means a lot to me.”
Hathwar called the English language “brutal” because it incorporates words from other cultures and languages.
Even President Barack Obama tweeted his praise: “Congrats to Ansun and Sriram, the incredible co-champs of the Scripps National Spelling Bee. You make us all proud! – bo.”
There were 281 competitors from eight countries competing for the title.
The youngest was eight, the oldest 15.
Tejas Muthusamy, 11, came close, but misspelled (misspelt?) “hallenkirche”. The word is not in my two-volume Shorter Oxford or Collins dictionaries. It’s not even English and I would have objected. It refers to a church (“hall church”).
Years ago, Lionel Gordon offered “a challenge to all Stoep Talk readers who think they can spell”.
His challenge was unlikely to pose a threat to me, of course, having never been able to spell.
“As a quick test of your spelling ability see if you can tell which of the following words are misspelled: supercede, conceed, procede, idiosyncracy, concensus, afficianado, accomodate, impressario, rhythym, opthalmologist, anamoly, caesarian, diptheria, grafitti.”
I guessed that six of the 14 were wrong. Then I switched on my computer’s magic spellcheck facility and found they were ALL wrong, including – as Lionel pointed out – the word “misspelled” – it should be “misspelt”. (Yeah, you see, I was right!)
So you still think you can spell? Well, try this. This spelling test was devised by Melissa Stocks, an Independent Newspapers sub-editor while on The Star. Melissa compiled a list of 70 commonplace words traditionally misspelt by journalists.
I have picked out 33 of the toughest.
Read them out to somebody whom you enjoy irritating and see how few he or she gets right.
Before you read on, I dare you to hand this newspaper to somebody and ask them to read the words out to YOU and see how good YOU are. If you get them all right, you are probably unique. If you get only five wrong you are very good.
I won’t tell you how many I got right because you might be overcome by smugness: Abattoir, Height, Accommodate, Hygiene, Accumulate, Impostor, Ageing, Inoculate, Battalion, Integrate, Buoyant, Buses, Liaison, Bureaux, Manoeuvre, Cemetery, Practice (noun), Couturier, Parallel, Pavilion, Desiccate, Philippines, Filipino, Dignitary, Privilege, Ecstasy, Questionnaire, Embarrass, Field Marshal, Ricocheted, Fulfil, Sacrilegious, Grievous.
Like the post office, I receive a lot of letters. I often place them at the end of my column. Here are a few that demonstrate the wacky humour of Stoep Talk’s special type of reader.
We had a power outage at the house this morning and my PC, laptop, TV, DVD, iPad and music system were all shut down. Then I discovered that my iPhone battery was flat and to top it off it was raining, so no golf.
I went to make coffee and then remembered that this also needs power. So I sat and talked with my wife for a few hours. And you know something?
I found she is quite a nice person. Tony D, Sandton