When I was still in junior high, that was a headline in my local newspaper. I read the article eagerly, because I was so excited to read about the poor person who’d been mauled to death by a g.d. bear–in my hometown!
As I read, I slowly began to realize that no, no one had been eaten by a bear. It was just the “journalists” in my home town did not know the difference between grizzly and grisly. It was quite the moment in my youth, realizing that at fourteen I knew more than the adults who were working at the town newspaper. (Were you one of those kids? One of the smart kids, but not smart in an IMSA way, but still, too smart for your teachers?)
I always have to look them up to remember which is which, but I love homophones and homonyms (I believe grizzly and grisly are homophones, but feel free to correct me in a pleasant manner if I am wrong). I love looking things up, too, because then I get caught up in the wikipedia article on the topic, and find myself led to read about eggcorns, oronyms, and Thomas’s Under Milkwood.*
Now, I don’t fancy myself a genius, not by a long shot. But I am a reader. Any success I have had or will have is tied to this fact. I didn’t learn how to write a research paper in high school (rather, I wasn’t taught to), but since I was such a voracious reader I had enough of a grasp of how to write that I quickly turned my freshman English comp course papers from failing works marked all over in red pen to papers that garnered comments such as “I do believe you are the nascent creative writer in this course.” I loved that my professor used the word nascent, which I didn’t know, and had the chance to look up. If I wasn’t a reader, I wouldn’t have managed to get into college much less graduated.
I think about this sort of thing when kids limit their reading to the AR list, or when parents force their children to read what they think they should be reading rather than what the kid wants to read. I wish for these kids the freedom to read with abandon, and joy, and choice, so that they, too, can some day feel superior to a small town journalist who doesn’t know about homophones.
I feel like I’ve wandered far afield. That will happen sometimes.
* Here’s my favorite quote from Under Milkwood:
Alone until she dies, Bessie Bighead, hired help, born in the workhouse, smelling of the cowshed, snores bass and gruff on a couch of straw in a loft in Salt Lake Farm and picks a posy of daisies in Sunday Meadow to put on the grave of Gomer Owen who kissed her once by the pig-sty when she wasn’t looking and never kissed her again although she was looking all the time.
Isn’t that just absolutely heartachingly beautiful??