In Spelchek We Don’t Trust

by Ellen Notbohm

Originally published in Ancestry magazine, November-December 2006

Love it or hate it, Spelchek is as here-to-stay as computers themselves.  This Janus of contemporary writing is invaluable for saving you embarrassment when your fourth grade grammar skills fail you.  But woe unto those whose faith is blind!  Spelchek will not save you when your flying fingers add “double garbage” to the new home description instead of ‘double garage.’ It won’t come to the rescue when you offer to bring “threats” to the neighborhood potluck instead of “treats,” or tell the boss you ‘hate to talk to him’ rather than ‘have to talk to him.’

And Spelchek is most certainly not a genealogist’s friend.  In fact, Spelchek can seem unnervingly hostile and even downright bigoted.  I must, I simply must come to the defense of all our dear departed ancestors who have been unfairly defamed, denigrated and deprecated by Spelcheck.

First of all, enough with the stereotypes!  Great-grandmother Yetta (from Russia, not Nepal) might have been a Yenta, but she certainly wasn’t a Yeti. Grandmother Winsberg did love to talk with her family members but that’s no reason to call her a Windbag.  Ditto for Grandmother Methe, rudely tagged  by Spelchek as Methane. And let’s pass on the profanity – Great Uncle was a Goldman, not a Goddam!  Great Aunt Gittel did not hail from the Gutter, nor did she Glitter.  Aunt Friedel was not Fried, and being born in Wilno doesn’t make her a Wino.

Clearly puzzled by European surnames, Spelchek cops out by converting them to more contemporary Latin fare.  I doubt Great Grandmother Margarethe from Hattstedt bore any resemblance to a Margarita, nor did Great Grandmother Takson from Russia ever partake of Tacos.

Is your Spelcheck, like mine, a Star Wars fan?  The Force is with us!  Great-great grandfather Yosef was actually Yoda, and his brother Jehuda was a Jedi!

I’m offended by just how presumptuous Spelcheck can be.  How does it know whether our Orner ancestors were Ornery?  That the Brodersens were Brooders?  That great-great-grandfather Fyval was Feral?  We thought he was a blacksmith, as was his brother Yackov, who was no more Yankee than Cherokee.

No, my ancestral allies, computing compatriots – Spelchek cannot be trusted.  For all we know, its real name is Spearchuck.  It doesn’t know a typo from a taco, let alone a Takson.  A word-o to the wise:  proofread your own family histories, width know hemp form Spelchek.