Spellcheck can save us from embarrassing errors – as long as the mistake isn’t a real word. But its vocabulary is quite limited. It’s American, for a start, and although I’ve finally convinced it that I want British English, its knowledge of this foreign tongue is limited.
Words that are common in some areas of life and work are unknown to it. If you’re involved in any kind of academic or public sector discussion about politics or administration, you’ll be familiar with the word DISEMPOWER (take power away from some people, usually with the implication that they have a right to the power). I’m writing a philosophical sort of book about Liberalism, UK version. I wrote something like,
“Unresponsive bureaucracies sometimes disempower citizens”. Spellcheck didn’t like “disempower”. It didn’t believe the word existed. It offered just one alternative: DISEMBOWEL.
Not in the UK, surely?
Now just a short poem I wrote recently on a short break in Norfolk.
THE STAR INN, LESSINGHAM
Over the vast pub fireplace hang the horse-brasses
So many I have never seen
Figures of horse, fox, crown
Snowflake, cross, shapes I do not know
All glinting from the light, wavering from the fire.
Cunning and care made them
Clever thought, steady hand
The landlady polishes them.
Outside the night sky is stark
Slow-burning bright in black
And I am off the land and out of time
And speak with a voice of others who saw the stars.
These things together tell me
I am human.