Thursday, August 16, 2012

How Do You Spell "Transistions" Again?

by Ernessa T. Carter

It's funny that this cycle's topic is "Transitions" or as I like to call it before spell check gives me a red line, "Transistions." It's mostly funny because I'm currently going through so many transitions: second agent, second publishing company, second book edit, moving house, finishing up an almost promotion-free year of content generation -- that I don't think I could possibly do justice to this topic without having my post go obscenely long.

So instead let's talk about random words we can't spell without the help of spell check. As you already know, "transition" is on the list for me. So is "separate" and "paparazzi" -- the latter used to be much more frustrating back when I wrote about celebrities for a living.

The only thing worse than words you can say but not spell are the words you can spell but can't say. For example I once embarrassed myself but good while walking to lunch with a former boss.

"What do you want to eat?" she asked.
Me: "Oh, I don't know. Lately I've had such terrible food in-u-eye."
Her: "What?" Me: "You know, I haven't felt that passionate about eating food in general."
Her: [laughing rather hard] "Oh, you mean ahn-wee!"

And that's how I learned to pronounce "ennui."

While out to afternoon tea (yes, seriously) with a fellow black Smithie (because who else would heartily agree to a full afternoon tea with a straight face?) and voracious reader, it turned out she had the same pronunciation issue as well. It was like many of the words we loved were just waiting for us to use them in professional situations, so that everyone could see through our current polish to our backgrounds, which involved a bunch of people who didn't use words like "ennui" or "roman a clef" or "short-lived" or "mature" (with a hard "T").

We both ended up giving much thanks to audiobooks, which has been an absolute boon as far as learning the pronunciation of the words we love go. Or as my friend put it, "It's like 'Gotcha, word!'"

Also, it was nice to realize that I'm not the only one who can't spell everything I can pronounce or pronounce everything I can spell. Maybe I'm not even the only writer who has this problem. What do have say, Girlfriends?


  1. I'm right there with you on the spelling and pronunciation issues. Spelling is certainly not my strong suit--I'm quite paranoid about it! A far as pronunciation goes...I remember reading a book in grade school with the phrase "she was the belle of the ball." Why would someone want to be the "bellie" of the ball, I wondered? :)

    1. What's funny, is that the "bellie of the ball" would probably sound quite nice with the French accent!

  2. There are some words -- like "occurrence" that I have to look up *every time* I try to spell them (including this time :). I don't know what it is about them, but my eyes just don't believe that the dictionary spelling is correct, LOL.

    1. That's the worst, when you want to write into the Webster's folks and be like, "This word would be better spelled this way..."