Some moods are easy to spell. Others, not so much.
Look closely at the word angry. Smack dab in the middle of “any” is the growling “gr-r-r” sound you make when you’re mad. Any little denial like being told no chocolate before dinner or no tying your little brother to the ceiling fan to see if he can fly is enough to make any child angry. Denial is the river children are constantly being thrown into, so remembering how to spell angry is the orthographic equivalent of dog-paddling.
By the age of six or seven, a child has learned the grammar of the language, how to hide Lego pieces so cleverly only the bare foot of a parent can find them, and the delicate art of whining until one or both parents must choose between insanity or giving in to the child’s demands. These skills give a child confidence, and when you’re confident, it’s easy to remember how to spell the word. See the little “I” standing in the middle of the word flexing those tiny little biceps?
Then consider that birthdays know just one adjective and shout it out every chance they get. Unlike other special days like Valentine’s Day or Labor Day, which have the good sense to limit their celebrations to one time a year, birthdays happen every single day of the year. Receive enough birthday cards and you’ll never forget those five happy letters.
Even its antonym sad is memorable. It starts off with that soft “s-s-s” which is the start of a child’s every sniff and snivel. Next is the short sound of “a,” which is not only the first sound the mouth makes to bite into the word apple, but is the only vowel needed to cry out “Ack!” once the child discovers half of a worm in the part not yet eaten.
Being frustrated is something altogether different. There are levels. Maybe the small person can’t find the talking dog with the annoying bark which mommy accidentally hid in the basement. Okay, a clever child will still be able to spell the word. But what happens when the innocent goes to school and comes face to face with a language that has over half a million words. The student eagerly learns a few spelling rules, and then discovers the lie about the so-called rules. A spelling rule is like the speed limit – most words ignore it. Words disguise themselves in letters like false moustaches and ill-fitting toupés, so the child has no way of knowing who they are and what they sound like. That level of deceit could make anyone frushteraded.
No longer trusting the teacher, the child looks at a spelling word, saying it over and over until he or she falls down the rabbit hole, where the word turns strange, an object never seen before. And is so often the case, what the teacher calls a silent “e” or magic “e” (but what the child knows should be called sullen “e”) sits in the corner of a word saying nothing, mouth agape, staring back with a blank look. That’s makes a child feel not only werde, but also terrified of using an “e.” Once the sense of “e’s” is lost, one experiences the horror felt by the truly scard.
At first, sound-shifting letters such as “g” and “c” may merely baffle a child. One day they speak softly to the child telling tales of giraffes and circuses. The next day it’s all goblins and cannibals. Over time, the inconsistency and inability to rely on the sounds lead to such a level of disgust that the child can only express the feeling as dicustid.
Spelling in English is a map drawn half with comprehensible and sensible words and half in runes, or possibly ruins, with unhelpful signposts that cheerfully tell you to follow the road called “I before E, except after C.” Along that very road you notice signs for towns named Feisty Pines, Seize de Dayville, or Yurso Vein. A few children will find the map useful, follow the map, and end up in a spelling bee. The rest will end up at a crosswords with a sign in one corner marked Too, Two, and To, and a sign in another marked There, Their, and They’re. It’s enough to exhaust a grownup. Imagine a small child so spent, he or she can barely speak let along spell, too weary to know where the sullen “e” goes, so it’s pushed to the end of the word because that’s where it so often sulks, leaving just the I of the small child’s self lost in the middle of tirde.