A play by Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest, A Trivial Comedy for Serious People was first performed at St James’s Theatre in London. It was a farcical comedy, the opening night of which almost landed Oscar Wilde in hot water. Lord Alfred Douglas, the son of the Marquess of Queensbury, was Wilde’s lover and he planned to disrupt the show on its opening night – Valentines Day in 1895. Although his plans were scuppered, Wilde’s double life was revealed in court and he was sentenced to imprisonment for his homosexuality. His notoriety caused the play to be closed after eighty-six performances, despite its early success. After Wilde’s release from jail (gaol in those days), he published the play from exile in Paris but he did not write any further comic or dramatic work and died destitute at the age of 46.
I wonder what Oscar Wilde would have said about the way I have written his play title? Maybe he wouldn’t have cared? Maybe he would? Bill Bryson said:
“Most people throughout much of the history of the English language have seemed remarkably unconcerned about the niceties of spelling – even to the point of spelling one word two ways in the same sentence. People were even casual about their names. More than eighty spellings of Shakespeare’s name have been found. Shakespeare himself did not spell the name the same way twice in any of his six known signatures and even spelled it two ways in one document, his will.”
But to me and many other people in this century I am sure, spelling our names right is important. Not quite so much if it’s only for your own records…. but if you are referring to someone else in a document, email, online or something, then checking the accuracy of your spelling is crucial. How do you think people would react to having their name written wrongly? If you aren’t sure what the right way is, there are usually plenty of ways of verifying it! It would be such a shame for your communication to fall flat (or worse, really annoy the subject of your correspondence) because you fail to check the basics.
[And by the way, I am Gray with an A and my first name is Scottish in origin, written Kirsty…. and for the record, it really does irritate me when the name Ma & Pa FWL gave me is written wrongly….]