“Pittsburgh”

I’m dyslexic. I had it rough before I got diagnosed as a little kid, but then I went to therapy and got a lot of tricks to help me read and write. Now I only have problems if I’m really tired. Or if I read very quickly, sometimes I can tell I’m reading the words out of order, but it still makes sense. Anyway, I am a terrible speller. I’m just not that good at it. A lot of words I just had to memorize when I was little, because I can’t remember how they go, organically. I’m sure that’s true of a lot of people. However, some words always look completely wrong to me. Like “Pittsburgh.” Every time I see that guy I think, “That can’t be right.” Yet it invariably is.

Foreign is another one that looks wrong. And I always spell it the wrong way, first (and did here, and then went and looked it up).

English is a tricky language. In Made in America: An Informal History of the English Language in the United States (which my husband calls The Great Big Book of American Whatever), Bill Bryson discusses a bit how we have a lot of words that have inconsistent spellings, like Pittsburgh and Gettysburg, and the myriad towns that end in “-berg.” And let’s not forget icebergs! He dives in a bit more than I will here about how these inconsistencies arise. We have such a mishmash language with bits taken from so many different languages and dialects. And, of course, when America was first getting settled, there was limited communication between some areas, so different spellings arose.

Anyway, my bad spelling has made me a pro at looking words up. Which actually has a wonderful consequence; it gives me a stronger grasp of the original meaning of the word, so that I can use it more correctly. It’s lovely to know the right word for a given scenario. And sometimes I get the thesaurus involved and I can lose 20 or 30 minutes chasing down interesting words. It’s not truly lost time, I suppose, since I learn something and enjoy myself.

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