the right word

I played a couple of games of Scrabulus today on Facebook. While I love word games I’m not really great at them. Most people find this surprising, since you know, writers are supposed to breathe and eat words.

I suspect I have a slight kink in my brain when it comes to words. When I was a kid I was a bad speller. My teachers couldn’t understand why, because my reading skills were excellent.

For me, words have a whole entire shape, and I find it hard to know the break points and how they assemble. Which means sounding words out doesn’t work so well for me. Often, I know words and their meanings, but can’t grasp how to spell them. They are lodged in my head as context, but not as component.

I have an odd quirk where I sometimes swap words. I’ll know what I mean, but I’ll say the wrong word. This mostly crops up with people. A wire crosses in my head and I’ll call someone by the wrong name, even though I know who they are. The problem is that once it happens it’s hard for me to correct this repeating error. I have to hesitate to verify the word in my mind before I speak it.

When I write the words flow and I accept them. It’s not that I don’t rewrite, but I don’t pre-think my choices too much when I’m in a draft mode. When I’m writing quickly my spelling tends to deteriorate. Unlike some people I like spellcheckers, even the ones that underline the incorrect word as you type. If I don’t know the spelling I approximate what the word looks like in the blind hope that the spellchecker will intuit what I mean.

When I rewrite I’m picky about word choice. What I love about English is the variety, and the ability to evoke, with precision, what you mean. Sometimes, there are sentences that I will circle around for ages because I can’t recall the correct word that it needs. It’s an almost physical relief (and joy) when I uncover it.

So, in a Scrabble game words exist without context. They are mere letters that can be combined in a myriad of potential words. I suppose I find it hard to think of words without a supporting narrative.

Still, these games are useful because they challenge me. You only improve through consistent effort. My spelling is much better than in the past.

I love learning new words. Today, I chanced upon vugh (also spelled as vugg or vug). It’s a geological term for a small cavity in a rock or vein that can be lined with crystals. It’s suggested that it comes from the Cornish word vooga for cave. Another variation on it is vogle. I like the vugh spelling, and its sound. It’s also a great Scrabble word, and one I’ll remember for when I test my temperamental brain again.

(And let me just add that I’m making a conscientious decision to learn to spell temperamental – like the “n” in lightning, I tend to drop the “a” unless I pay attention.)