We had an English teacher when I was about twelve. He didn’t last long. I don’t know why. He had a beard. We were reading something in class, probably Huck Finn or something, and the word lichen came up. He lookesd inquisitively into the class, screwed his face up and said ‘what is this stuff? Lichen (pronouncing it like-in) or lichen (pronouncing it lich-in)? I think we were astounded because teachers didn’t often avow their ignorance. Some boys put him right.
When the word lichin comes up today, my memory is only of that moment. The moment resonated so much that I don’t ever really know how to pronounce it and have to rehearse both pronouncitaions on my tongue. And when I am reassured as to its correct pronounciation I think of a way to remember. I say lichen like the word like, and I I say ‘I like lichen’ . That way, I’ll remember. But then I think I could be saying ‘I like lichen’ (lich -in), as if there were a fun verb ‘to lich’. That could just ss easily be the thing I remember. When you have a ludic turn of mind there is no most logical way to remember something. You might just as well remember the most illogical or nonsensical phrase as the one that most thrills. And once you start trilling the word lichen (lich-in) round in your head it starts to feel the natural way to pronounce the word. So one is destined to find progress in the correct pronounciation of words halting. I wonder if this extrapolates into life and moral choices somehow. You may go the way that is least equipped to empower you or make you wealthy or happy for strange ludic reasons. Contrariness.