“I had to ask how to spell it three times,” Mrs. Bowman said, “and I might still have it wrong. I was going to order a personalized blanket, but now I’m afraid to.”
“I can’t help thinking,” Mr. Magundi remarked, “that parents who give their children’s names unorthodox spellings are doing their children a great disservice. An unusual name may be a boon; at least it’s a distinction. But a name spelled creatively—which is to say incorrectly—is a kind of orthographic poison that taints the child’s whole perception of the language. English spelling is far from perfect, but it does largely follow certain predictable laws. A child’s name must be one of the primary filters through which she sees English spelling. If her name violates the rules of our orthography, that filter is broken, or at least badly smudged, and it will take her some considerable effort to overcome the handicap. In fact, she may never overcome it, since the effort would demand an admission that her own name is misspelled, an idea that may well be psychologically impossible for her to form. Yet if the child with the misspelled name cannot see that her own name is misspelled, then the orthographic rule it violates must remain invisible to her. And one rule can hardly be lost without taking the others with it. The lack of an essential piece will obscure the whole pattern, and learning to spell will cost her enormous labor, because she will have to learn the apparently arbitrary spelling of each word separately.
“I should like to see every place of birth employing a competent proofreader to help mothers and fathers with the spelling on the birth certificate. But I know that the parents who most stand in need of that assistance are the ones who would most resent the interference.”