Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Life Before Spell Check

Does anyone remember the Ayres Spelling Test? I’m not sure if it was used universally in elementary schools in the 1950’s and 1960’s or only in Catholic schools. I was reminded of this test as I was driving home from work the other day. I spotted a truck with a picture of an open flame on the side. It looked very official, like it was carrying flammable material. Which brought my brain to the Ayres Spelling Test. One of the words on this test was “inflammable”, which curiously meant flammable. Go figure. Even at eight years old, I thought that was a dumb way to run a language. I wonder if the word “inflammable” has been fired, shelved, or simply gone extinct. Kind of like St. Christopher, Purgatory, and the planet Pluto. The Ayres Spelling Test came in a yellow rectangular paperback book. The words in the front of the book were easy, getting progressively harder until the last page. I remember on that page was the word “miscellaneous”. It was the grand-daddy of all the hard spelling words. We taught my younger sister that word when she was in kindergarten, just to blow people’s minds. Several times a year the Ayres Spelling Test was administered to the entire elementary school via intercom. Since this was Catholic school, we had to write the words in pen, with no cross-outs or corrections. You had to get it right the first time. No pain no gain, right? I guess I shouldn’t complain - I’m now a kickass speller. We also diagrammed sentences until our eyes crossed. I wonder if that is a lost art as well. I don’t believe my kids were taught spelling in school. They do pretty well, though, even without Spell Check. Maybe a bit of the Ayres Spelling Test is coursing through their pen...right the first time.

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