Thursday, October 14, 2004



The Maverick Philosopher tells the cautionary tale of artist Maria Alquilar, whose $40,000 mosaic commissioned by the Livermore Library contains the names of Einstein, Shakespeare, Van Gogh, and Michelangelo, all spelled incorrectly. Alquilar doesn't understand why people are so upset, and now she's demanding an apology from library officials for their insensitivity in pointing out her mistakes.

The incident reminds me of Lord Chesterfield's advice to his son (Letter CXXXIV, November 19, 1750, Old Style):
You spell induce, enduce; and grandeur, you spell grandure; two faults of which few of my housemaids would have been guilty. I must tell you that orthography, in the true sense of the word, is so absolutely necessary for a man of letters, or a gentleman, that one false spelling may fix ridicule upon him for the rest of his life; and I know a man of quality, who never recovered the ridicule of having spelled wholesome without the w.
There's a Jewish expression about someone who can't spell: "He writes Noah with seven mistakes."

My mother, who never went to college and whose native tongue was not English, worked for many years as a secretary in a high school. She spent a lot of her time correcting spelling errors in documents written by teachers and school officials.

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