a little learning

As a reasonably bright child raised by people who valued intelligence, perhaps to a fault, I spent much of my early life thinking I was smart. The most valuable revelation of my adulthood was the simple idea that I don’t know everything… or, indeed, very much at all.
Some little things I learned this week which overturn what I thought I knew:
– It’s Sir Walter Ralegh, not Sir Walter Raleigh. Oh, I see. I learned to spell it from a children’s book at age 8 or so, and never investigated further, apparently assuming (without much thought) that all those historians and art historians were, what, making typos?
baleful means menacing or hostile, not sorrowful or miserable. Apparently, I’ve been using its obsolete meaning my entire life.
– Christopher Marlowe wrote The Passionate Shepherd to his Love, not John Donne. I suspect that, somewhere around age 12 or so, I confounded one poem with another, and never bothered to straighten it out.
In the words of The Fella, “Yay! You’re smarter now!” And he’s right… but the exposure of little-but-big lifelong misapprehensions fills me with a healthy mistrust of other things I think I’ve learned.
Which is all to the good, I think. It’s wise to be skeptical of one’s own knowledge. That much I have learned.

3 thoughts on “a little learning

  1. I always point out to people that I am not actually smart. I just know where the knowledge is kept.
    Also, I cannot shake thinking baleful means sorrowful or miserable (with some disapproval thrown in) because of Edward Gorey. That’s not very menacing or hostile, if you ask me, and Gorey knew some stuff about menacing and hostile.

  2. I’m with you on all accounts and am now the wiser. As an ardent fan of Gorey though, I think we can cling to the outdated version a bit longer…

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