If a road trip ever takes you past Effingham, Illinois, you won’t be able to miss the 198-foot giant cross that looms over two interstates.
And yet, did that towering symbol of her religious beliefs inspire my mother to sing a rousing chorus of “Beneath the Cross of Jesus” as we drove past it? No, indeed.
That was because at the time, she was much too busy chortling over the name “Effingham.” To her, it sounded like a euphemism for THAT word—the one that, in her opinion, is the single most offensive utterance in the English language.
Labeling something “naughty” only makes it more irresistible. So from the moment we first spied an Effingham road sign, Mom sporadically repeated the name out loud, laughing anew each time. It turns out that “Effingham” is eminently glee-worthy to at least one grandmother of five.
Or maybe she’d just inhaled too many exhaust fumes that day.
One of the best ways to give student erasers a workout is to tell students to read their writing out loud. This is a surefire revision tactic; reading something out loud ensures that students will hear mistakes they have never noticed before. Or you can have students give a copy of their piece to a partner. As their partner reads it to them, the writer of the piece should listen especially for all the places where the reader stumbles, pauses too long, or looks confused.
These are all places where the writer will need to consider revisions.
Perhaps the founders of Effingham should have said their new town name out loud a few more times, until one of them noticed its potential for pronunciation humor.
Or maybe, in the end, they simply chose not to revise.