English – on the list of -Things I Don’t Know

in Entertaining nonsense and profound thought

Great way to start a post, don’t you think? Things I don’t know! Oprah has things she knows for sure. I have a whole bunch of things I don’t know. So doesn’t that make us twins? Me and Oprah? You should be smiling and nodding your head.

Unfortunately, I was inturrupted while writing this and now I’ve forgotten what it is I don’t know. Oh! Yes, got it.

What I don’t know is anything at all about English. Did you know that when I was in high school in North Vancouver, BC, the English teacher sent me to a special spelling class (Title One or something like that I suppose) because I couldn’t spell the simplest words. The spelling teacher did all sorts of testing and couldn’t find out why. I know now, I was lazy. Huh! (okay this is not really true.) (The Lazy part, not the special spelling class. That was humiliating.)

Anyway, I could read a story in the required amount of time, recall the information, retell the story, make inferences, pick out the discriptive words used.  Yada, yada, yada. I swear I’m not bragging. Oh yeah I am, but hey everyone needs a little self love once in a while. The upshot was that the specialist thought I was reading paragraphs, not so much individual words or sentences, and so spelling was not sinking into my brain. I love my special brain!

I’ve been able to memorize a lot of spelling in the last million years, mostly because I was tired of looking everything up, but I still have problems with the parts of sentences and what they do and all that. I can tell you what a noun is. And a verb, and if I sing the Conjunction Junction song there are a few other things I can tell you, but mostly not. I have to go by the way things sound to me. The rhythm of the words. Cadence. I’m from a very musical family, and I had a lot of British influence early on – musical and otherwise – and that figures in there somewhere too.

I write dialog by listening to people’s speech patterns and try to recreate them when I write. I’m not entirely successful, but I do think I’m pretty good at it. Some times I wish I knew the science of writing. Why do I say things the way I do. It’s a function of my upbringing – at least partly – but beyond that? Jenny Crusie (Look at the last half of the 24th comment) is incredibly knowledgeable about this stuff, but it doesn’t sink in for me. I listen in awe and then promptly forget. Should that lack of knowledge stop me writing? Nah, what would be the fun in that? And I think I’ve heard Jenny say that it’s the story telling that counts.

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