The Meaning of Bridal

Flickr-User: danish.

When I moved from New York City at age 7 (1952) to Bayonne, New Jersey, I was supposed to go into the second grade. Sadly, the first grade in New York City schools at that time did not cover spelling or even the alphabet. It seems the school administrators in Bayonne knew this because they asked me to spell apple.

I knew the meaning of apple but I had no idea what they meant by spell. I could eat an apple, draw an apple, but what the heck was spell apple? So I was put back to the first grade. I recall that my tiny 7 year old brain promised itself that I would never again lose a grade because of spelling. Whenever I learned a new word, I made permutations of the letters and variations of the first and last letters as a game.

When I saw a word like 'book', I wrote down onto a paper the following array changing only the first letter:
down to zook

then I changed each ending letter:

down to booz

then I would look up each line in a dictionary to see if the array of letters actually existed as a word.

In this manner, by the time I got to the third grade I could read any textbook up to the 8th grade level without running into a word the meaning of which I did not know. When I finally took my Scholastic Aptitude Test I got a ranking in the top ¼ of 1% of all scores at that time.

It wasn't enough that I learned the definition of a word, I had to understand where it came from, how it sounded through the centuries, how it changed its wrappings and meanings through different cultures.

When I first came across the word bridal, the first thing I noticed was that it sounded just like bridle. How would I remember to spell the word when it referred to a wedding or a bride and when it referred to a horse's headgear? Its etymology helped: from the Old English brydealo meaning "marriage feast or literally "bride ale". It later became bridale and finally settled in at bridal. Before the 12th century in merry Old England those hosting wedding feasts often offered beer or ale to the bride, hence bride ale.

When one learns words as if they were close friends with a history and a face and connections to other words then one will rarely make a spelling mistake or use that word incorrectly.

Schools fail their charges by making the spelling of words a matter of rote. Words are not a random jumble of letters. Words should be enjoyed and savored as one would a fine meal. Where they came from, how they got there, their opposites in sound and meaning, their synonyms, how they look graphically as in


for understanding. Turn them backward, upside down, have the students look at the word in a mirror, add letters to the front or back to change the meaning (turn mile into smiles), write them in red or green or spell out cookies using real cookies but for God's sake don't have them memorize the spelling of words. Just have them play with words. Children do not memorize ballistics equations to determine the path of a baseball; they play with baseballs until they just know where a ball is going to land once it is hit. Let them play with words; the spelling will come naturally.

Hopefully in this way white people will not get fired for using the word niggardly around a black man (Read Chimps, Democrats - They are All Dangerous).

### End of my article ###

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