‘An amusement in a weary world.’ How we spell our names and other words.

When it comes to writing, I’m usually with the pedants – as Lynne Truss says ‘Sticklers unite!’  But I love this apologia for non-standard spelling in Alison Uttley’s book, A Traveller In Time. Penelope, switched back several centuries, finds herself in the company of a Tudor lady who is reading a Book of Hours, and remarks on the different spellings she sees. Mistress Foljambe, the mother of Anthony Babington tells her:

‘’Spelling is a matter of individuality…I have my favourite ways of spelling words, and I choose my letters.’

‘If I make a mistake I am scolded.’ said I.

She said that one couldn’t make a mistake, for each spelt according to his whim. That was one of the delights of writing, one was free to invent a pretty word, and she was sure that I should not be such a dullard as to spell in the same way always. ‘Life would lose one of its pleasures if we were deprived of the power to write as we wish… I myself spell my name Alys or Alice or Alyce, and Babington is full of amusement for us in a weary world.’’

This was a new idea for me and I was delighted that I could spell as I pleased and decorate my words as I wished.’

An eye-opener for me as well as for Penelope! I still wouldn’t advocate random spelling, but how wonderful to think that people might have seen it as a positive freedom rather than as something no one had yet given much thought to.


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