PATRICK MCVAY

WRITER

My Musings

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Petit Mass

Many years ago, when I was fresh out of school, I thought it would be worth fishing for jobs that I wasn’t exactly qualified for, and immediately found several to apply to. One was to be a proofreader at Fidelity (or maybe it was Putnam – I can’t recall). There are jobs out there you can talk your way into – sandwich guy at a sub shop; clothes washer at a Laundromat – and I’d held several of these. But this job wasn’t like those. You had to possess specific skills, such as being able to spell.

In grade school, I was a small-time champion speller, vying with 2 or 3 other kids for top honors in my class of about 25 . Occasionally, I’d even win a bee, unless the teacher threw a curve ball at me and only accepted “racquet” as the correct spelling for the piece of sports equipment you swing at a tennis ball. But this was the real world now, and getting paid required that I be able to spell “annuity,” and know that “benchmark” was one word, not two. Actually, it wasn’t the real world. The real world allows you to use reference works like dictionaries to help with spelling. But in this case, I was given a page and a half document to edit with no dictionary nor access to the internet (anyway, it was like 1987). The one thing I can recall vividly from that pop quiz was pondering for quite a long time the question of how to spell Massachusetts. I’d lived in the Commonwealth for upwards of 5 years at that point, and couldn't amble through town for a minute without seeing the word printed everywhere, but the more I looked at it, the more it looked wrong.  So I decided to cross it out and spell it "Massachusettes."  Approximately two minutes after walking out of that "interview," I pulled out of my jacket pocket a pack of -- oh no! -- cigarettes!  The state I lived in would surely rhyme with these lung snacks if that extra "e" I added belonged in the word, I thought.

Little surprise that I didn’t get that (or any other) proofreading job.

The Power of Persuasion
Classic Signage
 

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