Thursday’s Thoughts: Genetic Testing

I found a new blog at written by a youngish fellow, Jeremy Balkin, who works at Family Tree DNA, a firm that does genetic testing. While I clicked through to the blog because of my desire to better understand genetic testing, what caught my eye was something different.

In Jeremy’s profile, he brags about placing 7th in his 4th grade Spelling Bee. Jeremy, how’s this for one-upsmanship: I placed 2nd in my school’s spelling bee when I was a 6th grader at P.S. 174 in East New York, Brooklyn. The boy who won went on to compete in the borough spelling bee. His surname was Hamburger, a name not easily forgotten. On second thought, maybe it was Frankfurter? He was eliminated in the first round with the word ‘mathematics’. What a waste! I knew how to spell ‘mathematics’. I could have aced that round. I could have been on my way to Brooklyn spelling bee champion.

It’s true. I’ve always been a good speller. I was an avid reader as a youngster and saw how all those words were spelled in all those books. I have a better than average vocabulary too, but there’s a downside. When you learn so much of your vocabulary just from reading, you might end up light on the pronunciation side. I’m often surprised to learn that I’m mispronouncing words, that I’ve mispronounced them forever. I usually find out when Harold so generously corrects me.

Besides pronunciation, I fall a little short in another area. While I knew how to spell mathematics, I’ve always felt a little mathematically-challenged. I recently found affirmation of this fact while perusing some old photos and documents saved by my mom. There was my 7th-grade final report card, with Mr. Panefsky–my homeroom teacher in class 7P2 at George Gershwin JHS 166–saying, “Math grade must go up.”

I’m hoping that I haven’t passed the mathematically-challenged gene on to my grandchildren. I’m pretty optimistic. My 11-year old grandson happened recently to ask about the age of an ancestor when he died. I didn’t know off the cuff, but I remembered the year of birth and death. He looked puzzled, but then quickly did the computation. Without pen and paper, like I would have needed to do.

I don’t know for sure if Family Tree DNA has a test for the spelling and arithmetic genes. I haven’t gotten that far in Jeremy Balkin’s blog yet. Dare I hope for a spelling bee winner among my grandchildren?  Maybe I should have titled this post ‘Wishful Wednesday’ instead of ‘Thursday’s Thoughts’.


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