See Spot. See Spot Run – Old Words, New Meanings

In the early goings of Grade 1, my teacher hung up a large piece of heavy construction paper with the words “Books I Have Read” printed across the top. The paper was ruled off in boxes, with the top row listing each student’s name, and the left column listing the names of all the books. Once a student had successfully read a book, a piece of colored paper, with the book’s name printed on it, was glued in the appropriate box under the student’s name – glued with that clear LePage’s mucilage in the bell shaped bottles with the pink rubbery tops.

Dick, Jane and Spot © Addison Wesley

The books came from the Dick and Jane series. Though the words weren’t overly difficult and the stories not particularly exciting, the illustrations were warm and friendly.

We learned to read using both whole word recognition, and phonics. Both techniques have been employed over the years, sometimes one more than the other. Today, however, the material that is available in the early years of reading is far more varied and interesting than what we had. Teachers likely have more sophisticated methods of keeping track of the progress of a child’s reading too! Instead of a construction paper chart on the wall, there is likely some computer generated report that looks much more professional!

With the advent of computers, a whole bunch of new words have entered our vocabulary (RAM, megahetrz, gigabytes). And old words have gained new meanings. The sentence from the Dick and Jane reader that said “See Spot. See Spot Run. Run Spot run.”  showed up many years later in this slightly altered sentence –


If a person is not somewhat fluent in “computer” it is entirely possible for them to read a sentence, understand all the words, and have no idea what it actually means. As in:

Who is General Protection Fault and why is he reading my disk?

Back up my hard drive?  How do I put it in reverse?