The Agreeable World of Wallace Arnold : How I gave a beggar a lesson she'll remember

Share
Related Topics
Occasionally, one must find fresh accommodation. Accommodation is occasionally available. Occasionally, accommodation avails itself. Three sentences, each one of which contains the two most difficult words to spell in the English language. Proof positive, then, that this morning you find yourself in the presence of a veritable master of prose. And Better English at that.

I am, as you will already have read by now, the President of the Better English Campaign, of which that most civilised of newscasters, Mr Trevor McDonald, has the honour to be Chairman. Early in the day, our eager beavers in the research department came up with the disgraceful statistic that 65 per cent of 16- to 24-year-olds are unable to spell "occasionally", and over half of those with a degree find difficulty spelling "accommodation". Shocking news indeed, particularly as another 18.5 per cent spell "spell", "spel". In order to recover from the trauma induced by these revelations, I have asked my fellow Board members to employ the two words "occasionally" and "accommodation" as often as they possibly can, thereby displaying their expertise for all to revere.

Our treasurer, my old friend and quaffing partner Sir David English, has been up to some excellent work in his editorials for the Daily Mail. Only this week, we had "occasionally, the Government must reach an accomodation with the Eurosceptics" (Monday), and "the accomodation of the Duchess of York has been occasionally vulgar" (Wednesday). Our aim is to have a full 75 per cent of all Britons spelling "occasionally" and "accommodation" correctly before the year 2000, so that by the year 2003 the Government will be able to put in place our special "Stop and Spell" campaign, in which highly-trained undercover police officers will be able to stop any individual in the street and demand that he spells five tricky words, with penalties for incorrect spelling ranging through fines for first- time offenders to detention for serial misspellers.

Meanwhile, youngsters and other hoodlums who are discovered to be deficient in their spelling of medium-hard words such as "Mediterranean" and "armistice" will be marched to special hardline spelling centres, where they will receive a short, sharp, shock of 20 increasingly tricky words a day, administered by a government appointee, under the general supervision of Sir John Harvey-Jones.

To me, good spelling is as important as the well-scrubbed fingernail and the firm handshake. On first meeting any stranger, it has long been my habit to look him - or her!! - straight in the eye before asking, in a deceptively casual tone, "You wouldn't by any chance know how to spell 'diarrhoea', would you?" If they should bluster, blush or prevaricate, I have them firmly nailed at once as non-spellers, and I know not to waste my time any further!

Oddly enough, at the very first meeting of our Better English Campaign committee, I found to my horror that both Sir David and Trevor McDonald looked askance when I put the "D" word to them, Sir David muttering something about "better things to do" and Trevor suggesting we might "move straight on to more important topics". How very strange that two such eminent personages should prove wanting over the spelling of "diarrhoea" when push came, as it were, to shove.

Nothing irks more than a misspelt word. Only the other day, I was walking down a busy London thoroughfare when I chanced upon a thin young woman bearing in her arms an obtrusively thin child who couldn't have been older than five years of age. The two were sitting any-old-how in an otherwise attractive underpass. The woman - let us call her "Sharon" (!!!) quite obviously had only herself to blame, as she was starving and homeless and riddled with fever. But what really struck me was the notice she bore in her withered (and grubby!) right hand: "PLEESE HELP. CHILD NEEDS FOOD".

I'm very sorry, but I'm not one to ignore such things. I approached her in a perfectly genial manner and made every effort to set things right. "Madam," I began, "I am much moved by the state in which you and your 'wee bairn' find yourselves. In fact, if you do not change that second 'E' in 'PLEESE' to an 'A', I have half a mind to call Sir David English!"

Such acts of charity cost one little in terms of money, yet I believe that young lady will remember my unpaid tuition for the rest of her born days. It was a victory for Better English - even if her accommodation remains only occasionall.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Manager

£35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity to...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Manager - Production

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Trainee Managers are required to join the UK's...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Manager

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You will maximise the effective...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + uncapped commission : SThree: Hello! I know most ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A picture posted by Lubitz to Facebook in February 2013  

Andreas Lubitz: Knee-jerk reaction to 9/11 enabled mass murder

Simon Calder
The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev Justin Welby, presides at the reinterment of Richard III yesterday  

Richard III: We Leicester folk have one question: how much did it all cost?

Sean O’Grady
The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss
Tony Blair joins a strange and exclusive club of political leaders whose careers have been blighted by the Middle East

Blair has joined a strange and exclusive club

A new tomb has just gone up in the Middle East's graveyard of US and British political reputations, says Patrick Cockburn
Election 2015: Meet the top 12 wacky candidates seeking your vote in May

Election 2015

Meet the top 12 wacky candidates seeking your vote in May