Oooh Doods, What Yer Like?

Did you really think I didn’t know? Did you? Did you really? Did you really? Did you? And more to the point, did you think my spellcheck didn’t know either? Did you? Did you really?


There are people who delight in pointing out non-standard spellings, aren’t there? Are you one of them? There are lots of them about. They’ve been getting on at me.


If you are one of those, you often call a non-standard spelling, a ‘spelling mistake’, don’t’ you? But, dood, that ain’t always the case.


I read of a greengrocer who always purposely added a spelling ‘mistake’ when he was chalking up the day’s bargains on his advertising A-board.


The root vegetable-loving dood’s reasoning was that lots of pedantic pedestrian passers-by loved to come into his shop to point out his ‘error’. And after pointing it out and receiving his grateful thanks, they didn’t like to leave the shop without purchasing a brassica or two.


As a creative writing tutor, I was never much disturbed by non-standard spelling. Writing is a means of communication, there is no moral issue here. Writing is simply a tool. A tool we did without for centuries; a tool some still do perfectly well without.


If your spelling happens to conform to the current (and, it has to be noted, ever-changing) agreed standard, it does NOT MAKE YOU A BETTER PERSON. Similarly, it DOES NOT NECESSARILY MAKE YOU THICK if your spelling is way out of line with the prevailing standard.


So long as a non-standard spelling is not unintentionally ambiguous and leading to any confusion with a serious consequence, no problem exists as far as I can see.


It has to be said too, that ambiguity is a tool of trade for a creative writer and can be delightfully and artfully employed. Accuracy and control are the things to be striven for and sometimes introducing multiple meanings is the very way of nailing a complex truth.


Some uni lecturers I have known were actually offended by non-standard spelling. Had it been that geography and time had come together to play an entirely different trick and brought Billy Shakespeare under their tutelage, the flexi-spelling bard of Stratford would not have emerged with a very good degree.


When Billy S. wrote ‘lonely’ as an inventive idiosyncratic development of ‘lonesome’. He would have found a blue line struck through it and, in all probability, a curt note cautioning him against forced rhymes.


Ah, but, as I implied in parenthesis a couple of paragraphs ago, like the spoken language, the written language too is consensual – it means only what we corporately agree it to mean, and what we corporately agree is the ‘proper’ way to represent it on the page or screen, on any given day.


There is evidence already that the language of texting is having an influence on mainstream English. Our language is in a state of flux and always was and will be.


Some English people a long time ago took the English language across the Atlantic in a boat and when they became Americans they unpacked it for their own use.


In doing so, they changed the way some words are pronounced by the English English. For example: we say ‘sem-mee’, they say ‘sem-eye’. ‘Tomarto’ – ‘Tomayto’ and so on. You’ll know loads of other examples.


And some words for which we have a shared agreed pronunciation, they spell differently. For instance: we write ‘colour’, they write ‘color’. ‘Traveller’ – ‘Traveler’. You’ll know loads of similar instances too.


I like a lot of what the Americans have done to our words, often simply writing them as they sound – phonetically. I find that admirable in its lack of pretension.


It therefore amused me to take what I see as an American word – ‘dude’ –  and appropriate it into my English English by giving it a phonetic spelling: ‘dood’. Geddit? I’m being ironic. I’m having a larf.


Did you really think I didn’t know? Did you? Did you? Did you really?



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