The Herald Bulletin

Evening Update

Community

May 7, 2013

Jim Bailey: If you’re going to spell Mississippi, spell it the way it looks

I guess kids these days have different ways of learning. But it must not be as much fun.

Daughter Ruth said Ronnie, 10, was spelling Mississippi the other day. That’s one of those interminable words that are easy to misspell, so people used to make a game out of it. That’s the way Bonnie’s mom taught her to spell it and how she taught our kids.

So Ruth said to Ronnie, “That’s not how it’s spelled. It’s spelled ‘M-I- crooked-letter, crooked-letter I, crooked-letter, crooked-letter I, humpback humpback I.”

Ronnie just looked at her with one of those expressions that screams out, “You must be crazy.” Was it really so strange, Ruth wondered. So she asked Ron how he spelled it, hoping for some reinforcement. He told her he had never heard anything so weird in all his life.

I suppose with all the changes in our society, some things don’t get passed down from generation to generation the way they used to. And I’m sure the fun way would not be acceptable if the word came up in a spelling bee. But you mean to tell me Ruth’s family had never heard of the crooked-letter I version before?

I even remember a popular song from the early ’50s, “By the M-I- crooked-letter crooked-letter I,” etc., “flowing down to New Orleans…” Google didn’t retrieve the lyrics of that one for me, but there have been a couple more versions in recent years.

The letter S, after all, is a crooked letter. And P has a humpback. I suppose that version would no longer be politically correct, at least in reference to anyone suffering from scoliosis.

Mississippi, an Indian word for “Father of Waters,” is one of those words you have to pay attention to spell correctly. I’ve seen it spelled Mississippy, Missippi, Mississipi and a bunch of other variations. Why couldn’t they have come up with something simpler, like Nile? At least Mississippi is pronounceable, unlike England’sThames (pronounced Tems).

One of the popular jokes when I was a boy dealt with the river’s spelling. “I’m not sure how to spell Mississippi,” somebody would say. “How do you spell it?” Invariably the other person would respond, “M-I-S-S-I-S-S-I-P-P-I.” “No,” the first person would say, “it’s I-T.”

Then you’d get stranger looks than Ruth did when she spelled the humpback version of Mississippi.

It’s a fun thing. You use the crooked-letter and humpback words in place of the letters as a catchy way of teaching kids to learn to spell it, er, uh, Mississippi.

But it won’t disappear from our family entirely. Daughter Rachel says her son Cameron has learned the same routine, and she says he can spell it either way.

Of course, Cameron, 9, has his mother’s knack for vocabulary anyway. During a conversation with his mom, he blurted out, “Mom, that is totally irrelevant.” OK, Cameron, but can you spell that one?

Jim Bailey’s column appears on Wednesday. He can be reached by e-mail at jameshenrybailey@earthlink.net.

1
Text Only
Community
  • NWS - HB0723 - Fair Food - JC 3 The 'fairest food of all' Rides along the midway and 4-H animals may be a big draw for the county fair, but there's plenty of food people look forward to and indulge in during the Madison County 4-H Fair.

    July 23, 2014 3 Photos

  • Community Briefs: July 23 A compilation of community news items as published in the Wednesday edition of The Herald Bulletin.

    July 23, 2014

  • FEA - HB0722 - SAVI - 1 Staying strong during adversity

    When doctors told Judy Best she had cancer she was shocked, but she never lost hope.

    July 22, 2014 2 Photos

  • Community Briefs: July 22 A compilation of community news as published in the Tuesday edition of The Herald Bulletin.

    July 22, 2014

  • Community Briefs: July 21

    A compilation of community news as published in the Monday edition of The Herald Bulletin.

    July 21, 2014

  • FEA - HB0721 - Rotary Exchange - JC 1 Foreign exchange program builds lasting friendships Paulina Berger returned to her hometown in Olpe, Germany on Friday, but she left something important behind: part of her heart. The 16-year-old spent a year living with three host families in Anderson as part of the Rotary Youth Exchange program.

    July 20, 2014 2 Photos

  • FEA HB0721 ISU Normal Hall Work underway to restore ISU's Normal Hall The sounds of heavy equipment, impact drills and even a large wrecking ball are evidence of a renovation underway at Normal Hall, Indiana State University's oldest academic building.

    July 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • FEA - HB0713 - Fire Rescue Houses - JC 6 Finding the light Life after losing a child is like waking up and seeing a hole in the ground. You spend all day circling around the edge, trying not to fall in. It’s a description one of Frank Caldwell’s friends explained to him, a feeling he’s known all too well since his only son, Eric, died in an auto accident in April 2010.

    July 19, 2014 3 Photos

  • NWS - HB0722 - morris - DP Seven 4-H members vying for 4-H queen title

    The following seven 4-H members will vie for the title of the Madison County 4-H Fair Queen at 7:30 p.m. this evening on the Kiwanis Stage at the fairgrounds at Beulah Park.

    July 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • Community Briefs: July 20 A compilation of community news items as published in the Sunday edition of The Herald Bulletin.

    July 19, 2014

Reader Pet Photos


We're looking for your best pet photos! Share your photos of your favorite non-human companions in our new photo gallery. Click here to upload your photos

Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
More Resources from The Herald Bulletin