Thursday, February 04, 2010

The Road Less Traveled can be isolated

I've always been, well, different. I have always been aware of this, and many times I have wished that I could fit in here or there, but alas, most of my life I've felt like a fish out of water - or at least one dumped in the wrong aquarium.

Don't get me wrong - I've had a remarkably happy life. Thank goodness one can be different and still be content.

I am different because, for one, my interests are not conventional. I can't even read People magazine anymore because I have no idea whose these "celebrities" are. I would rather listen to Mozart or big band tunes from the 1940s than what is considered "popular" music. I'd rather enjoy a black-and-white movie from 1935 than see Avatar. As a girl, when my classmates had posters of the latest male teen idol on their bedroom walls, I had a giant poster of Abraham Lincoln. When others were bemoaning English class, I got my kicks by diagramming sentences.

It's that latter part of my personality that keeps me out of the mainstream of society. You see, I love anything to do with words - spelling, grammar, construction, punctuation - the whole lot. I migrated to a medical transcription career due in part to my love of language. I have my favorite words (cream is one) and words I can't stand (puce is one). I have favorite authors (Agatha Christie) and authors whose writing put me to sleep (Thoreau).

See? Just imagine it - all of my favorite composers and authors are dead. Does this mean I'm an old fogey at 55, or does this just mean I've been out of the loop for a long time? Does this mean I am self-righteous about what I consider to be good music or good writing, or does this just mean I started stagnating at about age 14? Considering the fact that I wasn't a typical 14-year-old, that wouldn't explain it either.

This feeling of my being outside the mainstream culminated this week with some dire news: SPELL is going out of business. SPELL will be no more within the year.

Now, because you readers are probably popular and good-looking and wealthy and all the things I'm not, I'm sure you don't know what SPELL is. If you did, you would be weird like me, and, man, in that case, I'd feel sorry for you.

SPELL is the Society for the Preservation of English Language and Literature. They send out a newsletter every couple of months for us word junkies. They have clever articles on puns and word origins, and invite members to send in their language pet peeves. In the middle of the newsletter, there are two full pages of items that members have submitted showing grammatical and punctuation errors from all sorts of signs, magazines, newspapers, and other media. Yes, we SPELL members laugh and roll our eyes and make fun of all the mistakes. My husband Ed thinks we're all judgmental and quite insane. But in that SPELL group, I feel that I belong. Why, I've discovered folks just like me! Folks who care whether it's peaked or piqued! People who double over in agony at a "tomatoe" for sale! Individuals who realize there is a time and place - and not - for an apostrophe! I basked in acceptance.

But the latest SPELL newsletter said they would have to stop publication. Why? The number of subscribers had dwindled too much to make SPELL financially viable. Which, of course, puts me smack in the minority - again.

I can't say I would want to change, even if I could. It can be quite pleasant in my little world. But it seems as if it is getting lonelier every year.


Kathy Nicholls said...

Carol, what a great blog! Another MT with a blog and I love it! And oh my, I did not know SPELL was closing its doors. That one is sad for me too.

Carol Tiffin James said...

Thanks, Kathy. I heard about SPELL originally from someone on MT Chat and I joined shortly thereafter - it's been quite a few years now. I always was so delighted to see it in the mail box.

Matt James said...

If it's money they're trying to save, they should switch to digital publishing - super cheap and it doesn't matter how many subscribers you have!

Luke @ said...

Hi Carol, this is my first time at your blog, and it's pretty interesting because based on this post we have a few things in common - I would much rather watch a 1935 B&W movie, and I wrote a blog post on last night listening to a big band internet radio station! :-)

I would encourage you to keep on trying to find your community online - there are lots of people like you out there, you just have to know where to find them. For instance, there's a weekly segment on our local talk radio station about the English language, spelling, grammar and such, and it's one of my favorites - the host, Prof. Mike Sheehan, has a blog too,

Plus there's a large and growing community of people who are trying to simplify their lives. So while you may not be getting SPELL anymore, you can certainly find that community and acceptance.

Hope this helps you in some way!

~ Luke

Carol Tiffin James said...

How very interesting, Luke. I will try to follow your blog. It's amazing how one goal for simplicity can encompass every aspect of our lives, and how it can mean so many things for so many different folks. Congratulations on your recent marriage!