Marjorie Gottlieb Wolfe Marjorie Gottlieb Wolfe
Marjorie Gottlieb Wolfe Marjorie Wolfe
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by Marjorie Gottlieb Wolfe
OY, VEY! MY COMPUTER’S SPELL CHECK WON’T LET ME CURSE

“Oy, gevalt” means something like “good grief.” The Yiddish word meaning “to curse” is shiltn” or “zidlen.” This word should not be confused with “shlitn”—a sled.

Who said that “no one needs a dictionary any more because spell check catches errors and fixes them for you”?

How do YOU spell “Hanukkah”? Khanuke? Hanuka? Chanukah? How do YOU spell “noodge”? nudzh? nudnik? noodnik? The late Ann Landers defines a “noodnik” as “a person who spreads good cheer wherever he DOESN’T go.”

Albert Einstein, Walt Disney and Winston Churchill were bad spellers. President John F. Kennedy was ousted as a bad speller by his own wife. But he would certainly have had a secretary or assistant to proof- read for him.

These four lines are part of a longer poem that was written by Jerrold H. Zar in 1992:

Eye have a spelling chequer, It came with my Pea Sea. It plane lee marks four my revue Miss Steaks I can knot sea.

I’ve just finished reading Paul Reiser’s new book, “Familyhood.” He writes, “My spell check won’t let me curse. Not only won’t it allow it, it apparently thinks so highly of me that if I try to curse, it presumes I’ve made a mistake, and furthermore couldn’t possibly know what those words actually mean.”

Reiser uses the word C*!#sucker…and heard the little warning bing. Word spell asked if he meant “coquettish,” “crocodile,” “cauliflower,” “conquistador” or the Yiddish word, “cockamamie.” (Note: spell check finally accepted the word, but the computer has never looked at him the same since the relationship has been irreparably strained.)

Dan Quayle couldn’t spell “potato.” During the 1988 campaign, the New Republic described the Bush/Quayle ticket as “999 points of light, and one dim bulb.”

And on September 5, 1996, The New York Times had an interesting and embarrassing correction:

“Because of a transcription error, a dispatch from Tel Aviv on negotiations for a new Israeli government referred incorrectly to Yosef Burg, leader of the National Religious Party. It should have described him as a veteran (not Bedouin) in Israeli politics.”

Now suppose I’m quoting Joyce Eisenberg and Ellen Scolnic (“Dictionary of Jewish Words”): “shtuppa” or “shtupping.” “Shtup is a vulgar word for sexual inter- course. Immortalized in the mother’s word for warning phrase: “No huppah, no shtupah.”

Will spell check accept the word “shtup,” or will they say, “Did you mean schlep, schlock, schmatte, schmo, schmooze, schnoz, shtikl, shtunk, shtuss, simcha, shpilekhl (toy), shtern (stars), or shraybtish (desk)?”

Sometimes spelling mistakes can lower expectations, even if they were not very high at the outset. Paris Hilton wore a custom tee-shirt that read “Thats hot!” on the front. The punctuation error alone was a real downer. However, as Paris turned away from the paparazzi, the rest of the story was revealed. On the back of the shirt, printed in all capital letters, was the phrase “Your not!” Paris may need to direct her fashion designer to an internet spell check program.
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Marjorie Wolfe’s favorite Yiddish curse: “A groys gesheft zol er hobn mit shroyre: vus er hot, zol men bay im nit fregn, un vos men fregt zol er nisht hobn.” (He should have a large store, and whatever people ask for he shouldn’t have, and what he does have shouldn’t be requested.)

Marjorie Wolfe
  Marjorie Gottlieb Wolfe