No Good News – Athiests and Spelling Bees

It’s true that I give the Toronto Star less of a hard time than other dailies, but that’s only because they can suck the interesting out of just about any topic you’d care to toss out there. Occasionally however, something in TorStar’s water gets to an editor’s brain and they let something through their airtight boring filter that manages to be both readable and completely idiotic.

Gosh, he’s so dashing. Fan favourite Heather Mallick writes:

But atheism is an important phenomenon, and it is growing, the philosopher Alain de Botton now planning to build a $1.4 million (Cdn.) “temple for atheists” in London. There are a great many people like me but you rarely hear from us. Why would you? We don’t discuss this when we meet. It would be stupefying. Our lack of interest in religion bores even us.

There goes the interesting. You wouldn’t be crazy to ask why she’s writing about atheism when she finds it so boring. I find Alain de Botton boring, and I’m not going to mention him again in this article except to say: maybe Mallick finds it interesting that Atheists, like ADB, are organizing? Why would they do that? Isn’t lack of church one of the sensible, logical parts of atheism that atheists like to throw around when they get all smug about pro-theists?

Not as interesting as she finds her own (and her family’s) interests. Which nobody else would find interesting. Nobody with interests, anyway.

If you like to stay current, you can’t simultaneously juggle all the elements that make up the news of the world. I follow politics, the arts, memoir and European history, with a minor in Spanish novelists, British comedy and American popular culture. My husband does economics, the history of the English language, meat-based cuisine, the novels of Graham Greene and soccer. The children have assigned themselves music, American fiction, social media and legal issues.

Religion sits on the kitchen table, orphaned.

“Memoir”? I’m sorry, “A minor in Spanish novelists”? Her husband’s passion for “meat-based cuisine, the novels of Graham Greene and soccer” doesn’t sound so torpor-inducing that I would rather listen to the cool guys downstairs sing “Torn” by Natalie Imbruglia over and over again at midnight on a weekday, you can bet your boots.

You watched all of that video, right? One man with one voice.  The question remains: why is Mallick telling us any of this? Could it have anything to do with something that happened last summer?

Last summer I wrote a column about a Don Mills school where imams conduct Islamic prayers in the cafeteria, with the boys at the front, the girls behind them and menstruating girls at the back in a sad little huddle.

I genuinely believed that parents and education officials who read this would object to two things: females being treated as second-class compared to boys, and students missing class time that would not be made up later. To me, religion had nothing to do with it.

What a dolt I was. I fully expected little bands of parent-protestors to show up atValleyParkwith signs: Girls + Boys=Canada! We are the 99% for Grammar! End Tampon Shame!

Of course I was wrong. I was called a “gender Nazi,” whatever that may be. I heard from Muslims, any number of religionists who didn’t happen to like Muslims, incensed parents who put obedience over literacy, racists (many of these) and Angry Pyjamas (but I always hear from them) but I heard almost nothing from feminists or teachers.

Again with this Angry Pyjamas business! Google it! You won’t get anything! And nobody ever mentions it in the comments section! If you look up “gender Nazi”, I guarantee you get something, and she pretends not to know what it means. Then she tosses out “Angry Pyjamas” like that means anything to anyone but some apparent waking hallucination plaguing her day-to-day life.

I know, I know, a point in the pointless forest, please. Mallick’s point is this:

I shall try not to write about religion again, even inadvertently. For I am an atheist and we atheists have to keep our stick on the ice. We have no faith. We are polite. We do not believe. We are not interested in belief.

The world would be a better place if we made more noise.

What’s that? Not enough pointless newspapery for you? I need to hit up the Star again? Yes, I do read that in your hundreds of emails every week. And most of you spell like this:

Duz acurit spelling mattur 2 U?

Yeah. Does Correct Spelling Matter To Journalists? This is one of those journalism trick-questions, like when they talk about the news media on the news, right? No, it’s our old friend “Journalists don’t understand a thing that’s totally normal and everybody is doing”, and that totally, 100% normal thing is “Not knowing how to spell anyway and sending text messages”. Really, what doesn’t matter to journalists? Isn’t that there… I mean their job?

In a provocative essay published in this month’s Wired magazine, entitled “It’s Tyme to Let Luce” writer and professor Anne Trubek argues against the “outdated dogma” of standardized spelling. She contends it’s time to “loosen our idea of correct spelling.”

Language evolves, she said, “and spelling evolves, too, as we create new words, styles and guidelines.

“Consistent spelling was a great way to ensure clarity in the print era,” she said. “But with new technologies, the way that we write and read (and search and data-mine) is changing, and so must spelling.”

Wow, I have no interest at all! I’m going to leave that barrel of plainly stupid ideas well-enough alone. Did you look at her homepage on the Oberlin site? I’m starting to have some serious second thoughts about grad school, guys. The Star, on the other hand, looking to make the monochrome monotony of their turgid and soporific sleep-aid of a paper even more unreadably sense-dullening had to jump all over this and apply it to themselves. Their answer?

In her essay, Trubek asks: “Who shud tell us how to spel?” answering with, “Let’s make our own rules.”

But she also seems to undermine her own thesis: “Standardized spelling enables readers to understand writing, to aid communication and ensure clarity. Period.”

Indeed. That’s why accurate spelling matters.

… My kingdom for a Toronto Star article that matters.

About Matt Collins

Matt Collins is a musician (Ninja High School), cartoonist (Sexy), jock (Manhunt), and comedian (Matt Collins) in Toronto, Ontario. Please buy more Matt Collins. [Other Posts By Matt]