Tuesday, September 1, 2009
A as in Apple
If you ask Americans about what they consider national passions, they might say NASCAR, baseball, backyard barbecues, or even complaining about whichever party is in control of Congress. Ask them about the subject of spelling, and you might hear reminiscences about an elementary school spelling bee. No way would they put national passion and spelling in the same ballpark, much less the same sentence. But this week, the cover story of the weekly magazine Le Point is all about the French obsession with correct spelling. Much of it is devoted to excerpts from the new book, Zéro Faute, in which writer and TV producer François de Closets comes clean on his own miserable performance in spelling and that purely French exercise, la dictée. Closets argues for reform of the rigid system of spelling, explaining that spelling and pedagogical methods must evolve with the language and also that talent in spelling is predictive of nothing more than well, talent in spelling. Heresy? Perhaps. But my guess is that only an icon like Closets has half a chance with the educational establishment and the guardians of the French language. And since my spelling in French is the pits, I'm with him all the way.