Spell-Right (Part 1)

scan0005I’m a very visual person. I can’t help it. I see things that many don’t. As Monk says, “It’s a blessing … and a curse.” Over the course of several years, I’ve snapped photos of signs I encounter in my travels that contain a misspelled word (or two). My unusual pastime even prompted the editor of my local newspaper to interview me for a human-interest article. Come along with me as I share some in my collection.

This first photo was snapped while in Charlottetown, PEI.scan0004

Strolling along the street downtown, I stopped to window shop in a jewelry store. The first thing that caught my eye was that “jewelry” was spelled with one “l” on the door, and two “l’s” on the window! No doubt, an American sign maker was responsible for the former, a British one for the latter. And then I looked up to see this on the awning. I approached the owner and shared with her the different spellings on the window and the door. “Oh, yes, she said, in America it’s one “l”, in England it’s two.” I called her out to the street and pointed to the awning. She was surprised and upset. “My husband bought that six months ago for $5000 and no one’s noticed it in all this time!”

Here’s a lovely advertising sign I found in a shop selling many different items. So eye-catching and colorful. But wait, something’s wrong. Oh, well, what’s the difference?scan0008

scan0010On the way to attend a funeral, I passed by several signs, all clearly showing which road to take. Helpful? Certainly. Spelled correctly? Nuh uh! And the Puerto Rican Day Parade? Surely someone should have taken the time to proofread the spelling of the country it is honoring. McDonald’s is not immune to creative spelling either; take a look at the sign I snapped here. Or, perhaps it’s a new kind of burger?scan0009And finally, my favorite: a card I received from a grateful student wishing me a Happy Valentine’s Day. Look closely. I missed it the first time in my rush to look inside. I guess it’s the thought that counts. Sweet.

So, am I just being picky? McD misspellIntolerant? An old fuddy-duddy? Should we even insist on proper spelling? Once, while teaching 5th grade, I attended a lecture by a then well-known spelling expert who promoted “creative spelling.” It mattered not how easy the word was. If a student wrote “dogg” her advice was to ignore it; we get the meaning. I raised my hand in the seminar and said, “What about when it pervades our world? I was in the city the other day and a sign in a window proclaimed ‘dinning room closed,’ shouldn’t we expect public signs and notices to model good English, spelling and grammar?” Her answer was, “You knew what it meant!” Enuf sed.scan0011


  1. I’ll have to check out that sign the next time I’m in Charlottetown (I live in PEI). When were you here?

    About spelling and grammar: The fight is almost over, Arlene. The writing is on the wall, and as sloppy as it may be, its meaning is clear. We’re on the Titanic, and we’re going down with the ship. It’s nice to know the band is still playing.

    • You live in PEI??!! We were there many years ago….I’m gonna guess about 10 ….. then why are you called “bronxboy?” I was born in the Bronx. Thanks for your comment. I look forward to reading more on your blog.

      • Another Bronx child?! I was just telling him how I lived on Morris Park Ave as a baby and on Fteley Ave until we moved to the Midwest when I was five.

      • I myself lived on Boynton Ave!

      • I was born in the Bronx, too, just off Bronxwood Avenue. We lived there until I was almost eleven, then I went back for college (Fordham University).

      • Oh, according to Google Earth, you were very close! About five blocks away.

  2. Add me to the list of those that despise the idea of “creative spelling!” That English is a dynamic, evolving language is one thing, but to willfully allow the sloppy, imprecise approach that “creative spelling” suggests is, to me, just another symptom of our downward slide into mediocrity and sheer stupidity. Maybe I’m a hard case on this, but I consider writing and speaking well a sign that one is fit to be considered a real human being.

    This idea that, “You know what I meant,” is wrong-headed. Yes, perhaps most of the time I can make the effort to figure out your fumbling, pathetic attempts to speak like a real human, but there may come a time when you need to be precisely understood, when you need to express an idea that is nuanced or difficult. If you have no command of the language, then how will you make your real meaning known?

    It’s like people with poor driving habits. Most of the time they get away with that without killing anyone (or themselves). But sometimes having those good habits turns out to be a matter of life and death.

    Proper English: It’s a matter of life and death! 😉

    • Whew! Now tell us how you REALLY feel. Don’t hold back. LOL

      • How I really feel? Oh, you know,… whatever. ‘Sall good. 😉

  3. Marge

    A subject so close to my own heart. Perhaps it is because once a teacher, always a teacher.

    • Of course! Sad to say, but I’ve even seen teachers who can’t spell!

  4. I could not agree more however, I do believe it is a reflection of the amalgamate that is our English, perhaps? Not an excuse-just a possible rationale.

    Thank you, once again for the astute observations!

    • Well, I’ve heard said that our language is a living, evolving entity. Perhaps it is evolving into something unrecognizable to grammarians like myself!

  5. Madeline T


    >________________________________ >From: (A)Musings by Arlene >To: mtrck312@yahoo.com >Sent: Saturday, September 22, 2012 7:33 AM >Subject: [New post] Spell-Right (Part 1) > >arleneyolles posted: “I’m a very visual person. I can’t help it. I see things that many don’t. As Monk says, “It’s a blessing … and a curse.” Over the course of several years, I’ve snapped photos of signs I encounter in my travels that contain a misspelled word” >

    • I’m sure one of your words is spelled incorrectly; not sure which one 🙂

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