My childhood memories are few and far between. I’m not entirely sure why, just that they are. But a couple of things stand out from Primary Schooling: learning how to thread a sewing needle in Grade Four, and – even more significant – spending several weeks in Grade Five, copying down spelling rules from the board and listening intently to my teacher as she explained them, and gave us examples. I remember thinking, “This is it! The key to getting things correct from now on! This is what I need to know!” I was so pleased. I’d figured it all out – and I was only 10 years old.
Those lessons were so clear, so concise. “I before E except after C” and so on. Later, in University, when I realised I’d need to teach grammar to my high school English students, oh! How I wished I’d had similar instruction in grammar!
Well, wish no more. I’ve found it. Short, easy, and – most excellent of all – a detailed study of the parts of speech. And the best bit? It’s an online textbook which my students already have access to! So I’m kinda mandated to teach from it, so the parents get their money’s worth. Cool, huh?
So here I am, week by week, learning about classifying adjectives and participles, gerunds and articles, so I can teach them with some authority… and I’m loving it! Finally, something in the world makes sense again!
Now I know you’re all thinking: well, sure. “I comes before E except after C”, except…
… except when your foreign neighbour Keith leisurely receives eight counterfeit beige sleighs from feisty caffeinated atheist weightlifters. Weird.
… unless the efficient concierge of the priciest Ancient Glacier Hacienda serves a society of proficient scientists studying a species with insufficient consciences leading to racier piracies. Lunacies.
… unless you leisurely deceive eight feisty caffeinated foreign heirs to forfeit their heinous sovereign conceits, and (of course)
— unless you’re an eight-year-old planning a heist to seize a surveillance sleigh owned by a sheik at a reindeer farm. [@jjhartinger]
So yes, I agree: there are many exceptions to spelling rules. And little KRidwyn wasn’t to know that the dozen or so spelling rules I was taught in Grade Five weren’t the be-all and end-all to life. That disappointment came later.
So until this crushing disappointment arrived, I was happy in the knowledge that regarding the correct spelling of all words, there was boundary line there; that I knew where it was; and the learnings I’d been taught fit nicely and neatly inside that area. It was good, life was good, and the world made sense.
It was only afterwards I realised exceptions existed. “I comes before E except after C” often… but not always. There were limits to what I’d been taught. The learning was adequate, but it didn’t cover all possibilities, all potential situations. There was more learning there which I needed to know.
Aside: according to Kris Spisak:
At the moment, I’m sitting in a similar ‘sweet spot’ regarding the online grammar program I’m teaching my students. I don’t yet know its limitations; it seems comprehensive enough, and that’s just hunky-dory by me. If I don’t know it, I don’t miss it… until my horizons expand again, either willingly or unwillingly. But at the moment, I’m happy – and that’s enough for me!
Have a happy day yourself, dear Reader!