More Wayward Words: Principle vs. Principal

Funny how Miss McAndrew’s voice keeps coming back to me. She was my fourth-grade teacher at Robert F. Kennedy Elementary School in Providence. She stood 4’10”. She was tough, but fair. And she had a knack for corny phrases that helped you remember how to spell certain words. So when I came across the phrase “the principals of liberty and freedom” in an online article today, I heard Miss McAndrew’s voice again, speaking to me across the decades: “Always remember, a principal is your pal.” While many of us in her class may have debated Miss McAndrew on this point, there was no doubt that her trick was an effective way to distinguish principal from principle, which of course means a fundamental truth, rule, or belief. Another Miss McAndrew classic helped us get the vowel sequence right in friend. Instead of the clinical “i before e except after c” dictum, Miss McAndrew told us to remember that “a friend is a friend to the end.” Ways to remember how to spell, plus a touch of wisdom for a bunch of ten-year olds. Thanks, Miss McAndrew.

Any wayward words to share?

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