The Air at the Top of the Bottle

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Back to School (3)

August 23rd, 2008 · No Comments

Spelling Book Poetry

The Sadlier’s Dominion Catholic Speller (by a Catholic teacher, 1883), is much more than a spelling book. It encompasses spelling “oral and written,” including detailed explanations of phonetics, pronunciation, syllabics, grammar and syntax, Latin and Greek etymology, and common abbreviations and titles. I’ve never seen a modern speller this comprehensive – then again, it’s Canadian. I heard once that Canadians have always been notoriously good spellers.

The beautiful cover engraving depicts a young boy demonstrating his newly-acquired understanding of orthography to a young girl (his sister? a sweetheart?). Note that he has chosen the word “infallibility.

Words are listed in categories such as “Exchange and Trade” (peddler, dime, wampum, gamble, forgery); “Provisions”(shad, nutmeg, hogshead, bullets, marmalade); “Vegetable Kingdom” (anther, twining, delicious, rootlet, mangrove); and “Words Relating to War” – quite a lot of these (ramrod, bulwark, chevron, pension, watchword).

Both the “Dictation Review” and “Read and Write” sections drill students in various vowel sounds by using as many words as possible with a particular vowel in each sentence. The result is oddly poetic, if somewhat nonsensical at times.

12. He wore a cape of cloth-of-gold. The flock of God is in the fold of the Pope. This is not a mere trope. Go, and sin no more. Chant the psalms of None. Whose stole is in the box.

13. Do not stop the clock. Sock the shop, or you will lose the floss. I am well shod. Have you not a spot on your frock? Hold fast to the rock. He drove to the grove and got a log to chop.

14. Prove whose plot it is. Two men, whom we saw, move on. To die in grave sin is to lose God. Place a stone at the tomb.

(Posted by Lisa Hirschfield)

Tags: Belief Systems · Education · Ephemera

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