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How The World Wags

Vox Populi
By Dave Kiffer


October 16, 2004

Ketchikan, Alaska - An astute reader recently called me on the carpet for misspelling "nurture" not once but twice in a previous column. My only defense is that I'm a graduate of the Ketchikan school system and judging by the creative spelling in signage around these parts poor spelling is not an uncommon affliction.
jpg Dave Kiffer Ketchikan, Alaska

On South Tongass, we are instructed to "Yeild." In the Carlanna area, we are warned about "Slow Childern." One of our grocery stores recently had a special on "Asparagis" and last Spring, the Parks and Rec brochure advertised taekwondo classes under "Marital Arts."

Then there are those intentional "misspellings" like "Ped Xing." Don't even get me started.

Oddly enough I was a pretty danged good speller in my youth, even taking the Houghtaling 5th Grade Spelling Championship (okay it was just one class, but a win is still a win, and I still remember the word: s-a-t-e-l-I-t-t-e). It should also be noted that a lot of folks wouldn't be able to use the word "nurture" correctly anyway but I should have at least clicked on the spell check function to make sure. Funny how, we've sort of fallen back on electrical devices to do our spelling for us, rather than learn it the hard way. I knew that would happen when they started letting us use those old four-function calculators in school!

Easiest class I ever had at Kayhi was a spelling mini-course in the old Humanities Program. The teacher - who shall remain nameless but once was a Kayhi sports icon - decided to teach the class because he couldn't spell very well. Needless to say, everyone in the class had to help the teacher along. We all got As and he learned to spell better. Who says there is no value in education?

Unfortunately, as we get older the skills we learned in school begin to deteriorate. We can't remember the words we used to know, let alone how to spell them. At the same time, we can remember phone numbers that we used for two weeks back in college and all the words to idiotic songs like "Seasons in the Sun." We also get lazy and stop using those helpful mental crutches like "I before e, except after..." and "30 days has September..."

The sad truth is that, like a lot of skills, if you don't use spelling, then you lose spelling and we're not talking about a former 90210 actress here.

Another reader took offense at my characterization of the "new" Methodist Church as being not as good looking as the old one (pre-1950). The old one, she noted, leaked and was a building that had outlived its "usefulness." That definition pretty much covers just about every building in town of a "certain age." The new building also leaked - at least back in the 1970s - when I was the president of the Methodist Youth Fellowship.

Why did it leak? Because in an effort to make it more "useful" they built it like a box, because a box is the most useful shape in the modern world (although the box was really first created so that we could then utter the cliche involving "thinking outside it."). It also has a flat roof. Like many other new and useful public buildings in Ketchikan the flat roof serves as a useful pooling point for raindrops. Eventually, they rot their way through the roof and create indoor atrium waterfalls.

Over the years, my head has grown flatter with time. Rain has pooled on my cranium and rotted its way inside. That's why I can no longer spell.

Another reader suggested another possible slogan for Ketchikan to go with the ones I came up with a few columns ago.. Ketchikan: "A whole other place." That's not bad, sort of like Santa Fe's "The City Different," or Texas's more grandiose "a whole nother country."

A while back, I was wandering downtown wondering just what Ammolite and Tanzanite really are (that'll be a future column!) I noticed that a lot of our summer retailers seemed to be promoting something called "loose" diamonds. Well, that perked my ears up pronto, even if I wasn't really sure exactly what it meant.

Is it like those signs in gambling communities that proclaim that Casino #1 has "looser slots" than Casino #2? Maybe so.

But it also occurred to me that there was a connection to Ketchikan's Red Light days. Those halcyon days of the "Barbary Coast of the North" and "Wickedest Place on Earth."

We could truly trade on our history with "Ketchikan: First loose women, now loose diam..." Oh, never mind.

Dave Kiffer ©2004


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