I spell. Obsessively. It's sort of a hobby, but it's also a bit of a neurosis. I must know how to spell a word, that word, any word, at any time.
When I watch a movie, if a character's name is unusual, I have to stick around for the credits so I can learn how to spell that name. (Truthfully, I think about it all through the movie, bouncing around different variations in my mind. It would be helpful if the characters wore Price is Right nametags. But then that's all I would look at.)
People who know me well can sense the uneasiness that comes over me when I hear a word whose spelling is not yet automatic to me. They stop mid-sentence to clarify the spelling, knowing I will track better with the conversation if we can get that issue out of the way.
You may notice sometime that I often mindlessly tap my fingertips, sort of rhythmically, but without a clear pattern. My mom does the same thing, but she is playing a melody on the piano in her head. Me? I'm typing in my head. Probably the sentence you just said.
When I cannot fall asleep, I play word games in my head. Lots of them.
Robb counts this is as a great reason to have married me; when he is drafting a business letter or email, he will shout to me from the far corners of the house: "Hey! Spell accentuate!" (Or the current word at hand.) And I do. It works nicely for both of us. He gets the correct spelling, and I get to spell.
I recently joined a very specific virtual community on Facebook; the name of the group is, "I Still Remember the Word I Spelled Wrong in the Spelling Bee." We are a mighty band of warriors, and every single one of us remembers the telltale ding that signals a misspelled word.
There are over 1,000 stories of misspelled words, of glory lost in the moment when it mattered most. Or seemed to. I am not alone.
In fourth grade, I went down on the word banana. Some of my friends had made up (or discovered) this silly little cheer that was the new favorite chant on the playground, and for whatever ridiculous reason, they spelled B-A-N-A-N-A-S. When I spelled my word, the cheer ran through my mind and took over my thoughts, and without thinking, I added an S. I was mortified. I spelled banana. But I made it plural.
In fifth grade, I went down on the word missile. I spelled it M-I-S-T-H-L-E. I think I was headed for mistletoe, but even still, I didn't need that H. It haunts me to this day.
In sixth grade, I lost on the word hygiene. I took out the I. It is very important.
In eighth grade, I won. Yep. I won on the word gastric. (And it was a "duh word." That's the name I invented in fifth grade for words that required no thought to spell. Isn't that a darling and genius name? "Please, Dad, give me a hard one. That's a Duh Word.")
Sadly, I lost the county spelling bee. I went down on the word wiseacre. And I don't want to tell you how I spelled it. I'm still embarrassed.
And do you know what is the very, very worst? When I had to sit in my seat, banished for an extra letter or two, only to listen to a competitor spell a word I knew. I knew that one! Are you kidding me?? I am disqualified, and he gets a Duh Word??
Oh, how my life's path would have been different, if only.