Tuesday, April 18, 2017

The answer: Jeopardy. The question: What is a word I can't spell?

Are there words you just can’t spell? There are a few that always give me fits. And now, of course, with spellcheck I just type an approximation of the word and it fixes it. So there’s no real imperative to learn except that it bugs me.   This isn't the final round of the international Spelling Bee.  These are words high schoolers should know how to spell.

One of those words is privilege. I put e’s where i‘s should go, or vice versa, or drop letters, or sometimes add a d. Let’s just say it – I have no idea how to spell that word.

Jeopardy is another one. And you’d think after seeing the damn word on television for all these years – in big block letters, that I’d know where the vowels go.

Graffiti – double f’s or double t’s or double both? I spell it differently every time. Same with assassin. How many s’s both times?

Even though I know better, I will sometimes write perscription instead of prescription.

I always want to include a d in alleged.   Or an e in unbelievable.  Or drop the e in judgement

UPDATE:  And now commenters are saying the e is optional in judgement.  That's how all words should be spelled -- with at least two correct versions.  
 
And forget about Albuquerque.

Meanwhile, other words that people have problems with – like satellite and subconscious – I spell those correctly with ease.

Like I said, we all have these words we can’t spell. What are some of yours?

72 comments :

Mike Barer said...

Especially, apology, Consequently, Apologize, and a few that I don't remember.

Jeremiah Avery said...

Until this post, I thought "graffiti" had two "t"s, learn something new every day! For me, I kept misspelling "independent" and "independence" for years, kept putting an "a" where the last "e" is. I still screw up prescription (I typed "perscription" in this reply and got spell checked, I did it again!).

ChipO said...

Definate. No... it is finite with a de.
Seperate. golf, par, separate.

de minimus. Don't miss the little things, de minimis.
non sequiteur. non sequitur. linking unrelated things is a bit like a turd.
Alzhiemers. (you can see this coming, right?) Never mind, I can't remember.

Paul B said...

"Or a d in judgement" - did you mean "Or an e judgment"?

Anonymous said...

The d in judgment is fine (unless you want to place it other than before the g. Now that e after the g...

Xwordz

Paul Gottlieb said...

Because the English language contains words imported from so many different languages, each one with its own set of spelling and pronunciation rules, spelling is either a guessing game or a matter of brute memorization. A French colleague of mine once remarked that if they held a national spelling bee in France or Italy, after 10 years, 90% of the contestants would still be in it, because their spelling rules were so logical and consistent that it was almost impossible to miss a word!

Anonymous said...

Judgment

Covarr said...

Recent news has gotten me trying—and failing—to spell "reaccommodate" correctly. One M and two Cs? One C and two Ms? Actually it's two of both, but I've managed to forget that loads of times just in the past few days.

Roseann said...

All of the ones you can't spell are exactly the ones that I can't spell.

Joe Walters said...

Albuquerque! I live here, so I get to spell it a lot. I've got it down! It used to be one letter longer, Alburquerque (after the town in Spain), but when the railroad came thru in the 1860s, the station master misspelled it in his paperwork (quite understandable), and now we spell it this way.

My spelling albatrosses: Parallel and personnel. We hates them, my precious.

Gary said...

I was in charge of proofreading industrial sales literature in my job, and those types of spelling questions would keep me awake nights. One of my favorites was the word "maneuverability."

Regarding your example of "judgement," the accepted spelling has somehow evolved into "judgment." But I much prefer the way you spelled it, with the e. Also, though not a spelling issue, it drives me crazy how the word "hearty" has now become "hardy," which makes no sense.

Corvus Imbrifer said...

Necissary... Neccess... Nessicar... Nestle sari

It's like Porky Pig.

Anonymous said...

Hey Ken,

I could never spell "convenient"
took me years, -LL

Barefoot Billy Aloha said...

Somehow I always stumble when I try to spell the name of the Hawaiian state fish, humuhumunukunukuappuaa

Howard Hoffman said...

I always forget the second "i" in missile. And these days, we're going to be using that word a lot.

Howard said...

According to more than a few sources, "judgment" is the preferred spelling over "judgement", although both may be accepted:

http://grammarist.com/spelling/judgment-judgement/
http://blog.dictionary.com/judgement-vs-judgment/
https://english.stackexchange.com/questions/1623/is-the-proper-spelling-judgment-or-judgement

So your instinct to want to drop the "e" is a good one.

Howard said...

Sorry for not aggregating, just remembered this: http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/013957.html

Interesting article about commonly misspelled words from a well known (at least in sci-fi/fantasy circles) book editor.

Michele L said...

Occasion gets me every time!

Wendy M. Grossman said...

It will not sound good to say this, but I don't have any. So either I write professionally with a very limited vocabulary or I'm really good at spelling. Take your pick.

wg

Gwendolyn said...

queue

James Prichard said...

Judgment *is* spelled without that "e" after "g." Sorry, professional editor here.

bigdgib said...

Hi, Ken. As a wordsmith you might find "Word by Word," written by Kory Stamper, interesting. She's a lexicographer and editor at Merriam Webster. A fascinating look at how words are accepted and defined. She wrestles with "it's" vs. "its," "irregardless," etc. And just who are these people who decide what words to accept? She also includes one of my all-time favorite words: sesquipedalian! Dave Wilson

Jon88 said...

US spelling: judgment. UK spelling: judgement. ("Primarily," hedges Random House Unabridged.)

Relying on spellcheck is not a safe choice, as evidenced by yesterday's reference to the playwright Chekov [sic].

Fred Vogel said...

Sergeant. Occasion gets me as well.

Jahn Ghalt said...

Paralell, parallel - let's call the whole thing off.

Some words I mis-phonetically-pronounce as a spelling aid - but just now, I can't think of any.

Then there are words into which formerly silent letters now intrude:

Often - "OFF-en" not "OFF - ten"
Almond - "ah-mund" and a variant with a different ah-vowel.

Old dictionaries do not include "AL-mund" - which leads to a theory:

Folks who spoke for radio and TV ads inserted the "ell" until it was admitted by dictionary-writers as standard.

ScottyB said...

Cincinnati always gives me fits. And spellcheck lies -- there's a wkrp in it.

Anonymous said...

Necessary is always the one. I flip the s & the c or only put one s.

Pam, St. Louis

Dave Creek said...

In my news days a reporter once asked me how to spell "inoculation." I told him, S-H-O-T.

Jim Hudson said...

The pronunciation of "elegiac" is a surprise... ell-uh-JAY-ick

Julian Brown said...

i have a deathless urge to spell calendar as calander. the upside is that i can accurately gauge [not guage, which i always screw up] how tired/stressed is am by how difficult it is to remember the mnemonic {which somehow i always get right] device of choice.

Jawaman said...

commemorate - I switch the e and o, after I add a liberal dose of m

Chris said...

Peninsula. Which is kind of embarrassing since I'm from Michigan.

Mark said...

I know how to spell it but it never looks right: bible Everytime I put that title on a book I have to look and make sure that is, indeed, correct. To my defense I part of my confusion stems from having lived in Sweden for a bit and they spelled it "correctly:" bibel. It is Bib-el isn't it?

Steve Bailey said...

I still remember losing the spelling bee in the sixth grade (I was first runner-up) with the word "contemptuous."

tb said...

Silhouette, Renaissance, tomorrow, rotisserie, all the words with two pairs of letters

Buttermilk Sky said...

Tucson. What the hell is that silent "c"? Was it once pronounced "tookson"? Is it Greek, like Phoenix? Arizona, get it together!

Kidnaped - or kidnapped? Spellcheck is not helping me here.

It's "bible" from "biblios," Greek for "papyrus." The Swedes are wrong.

Thanks, Jim Hudson. Now, how do I pronounce "presentiment"?

Anonymous said...

Sergeant allow comes out sargeant, because nobody ever called their NCO "Serg."

Vacuum usually comes out vaccum.

Separate always comes out seperate when I'm using it as a verb

-30-

Dean Calderwood said...

That piece of paper that proves you passed your drivers test. And you get one for your dog. And Bond has one to kill.

Anonymous said...

I also have trouble with privilege. I finally learned that it is 2 i's, then 2 e's.

Scott said...

@Gary

Hearty/Hardy are separate words with separate origins (heart, hard(ened)) but with enough overlapping meaning to be synonymous in many cases... I suspect one is not becoming the other but they are often just being used interchangeably.

Also, if I speled 'separate' correctly I'm surprised. Also 'sacrament' is hard for me.

Anonymous said...

I'm doubly handicapped. I can't type, and I can't spell.....

Breadbaker said...

Since I first learned to type, I have spelled "government" as "governemtn". When I was writing my college thesis, where you couldn't use correctype, I threw out a lot of sheets of paper from that one typo. I should have written about something that didn't require that word, but it was a study of the French governemtn in the eighteenth century, so I couldn't avoid it.

Eric J said...

"Peninsula. Which is kind of embarrassing since I'm from Michigan." [Chris]

Yeah, THIS! Oh, not peninsula. That's easy. But embarrass? One r, two s's. Or two r's, one s. Turns out its two of both. Or maybe one of each. I'll go with yours.

Tom said...

Until death or dementia take me, I will never forget that the only word I misspelled in all of fifth grade, on every spelling test put together, was "subterranean."

thirteen said...

Thanksgiving. I almost always leave out the "k." I remember getting marked down for that on a second-grade spelling test, and I haven't gotten any better about it during the nearly 60 years since.

Cap'n Bob said...

I hate to brag, but I can spell all of the words the other posters have trouble with. Or "with which the other posters have trouble" if you want to be pedantic. Fifty years of fanzine production has helped me become a gud speller.

Brian Stanley said...

Privilege is my top one too!

Roger Owen Green said...

I was ON JEOPARDY!, but, in part to spell it correctly, I say GE-o-PAR-dee

Anonymous said...

The "e" is not optional in judgment.
Judgment is the American spelling.
Judgement is the British spelling.
Yes, you will see it in the US as judgement on occasion.
It's wrong even if people do it.
It's not Judgement at Nuremberg (Nuremberg is a hard one by the way)

MikeN said...

Albuquerque is named after the Duke of Alburquerque, so either spelling should be OK. There was a state legislator that tried to correct the spelling in the 90s.

Greg Thompson said...

For years I spelled restaurant resteraunt, I confess.

Dodgerdawg said...

Ohh, lost the spelling bee on "judgement" and still can't get it right...

Souvenir (or whatever)...

My favorite misspelling on student papers: "in it for the long hall...." spell check never catches that one!

VP81955 said...

A memory hint: Just remember that five-way Cincinnati (one "t" at the end) chili includes spaghetti (two "t" at the end). And it's delicious, as any devotee of Skyline, Gold Star or Empress will tell you.

Andy Rose said...

I find it interesting the way British grammar and lexicography are starting to merge with the American rules in online writing, "judgement" being a perfect example. Also, the way most people seem to put a period outside a concluding quotation mark (British syntax), instead of leaving it inside the quotation marks (American syntax). Americans should write "Cheers." Brits should write "Cheers". But Americans increasingly do it the British way.

I also occasionally see Americans using plural verbs with collective nouns (British grammar), although that's mostly with words that look plural. For instance, "The United Nations are voting." You still wouldn't hear an American say "The committee are voting."

I blame a lot of this confusion on Wikipedia. The main English articles are edited by both Americans and Brits (and Canadians, etc.), and there's never been a decision made on what should be the house style. So their articles are all over the map.

Judy Hughes said...

I'm one of your Canadian fans and often have a difficult time spelling Tramp. Tromp. Trimp. Tremp. Trymp. Tripe.

Also have a problem with pronouncing your name. Now that you have the podcast I understand the 'vine and not the 'been but I keep asking Google each day for your website and she gets me there either way. Great question!


Judy Hughes said...

That one is a b*tch. Agreed.

Pseudonym said...

Back when I worked as a nanotechnician (really!), I had to use the word "gauge" a lot. I still have to double-check that word because it still looks wrong.

"Fluorescent" used to get me.

Markus said...

Learning English as a second language, you tend to not have that many problems of this nature because you had to hammer all this stuff into your brain as vocabulary, and you got bad grades if you didn't. Some things that native speakers tend to struggle with are never a problem if you really had to consciously work to learn the language. Your vs. You're, no problem. Same with ei vs. ie, Alzheimer's and Frankenstein. Believe, retrieve, conceive, perceive. Piece of cake. Boggles my mind why some of that seems to be so hard for other people.

I used to use "wether" a lot in communication, until someone pointed out to me that this is probably not what I meant. I've added an h since then, but still have to think hard about it from time to time. Not thinking about it and just going ahead and using a word usually works better, the difficulties come into play only when you start to think about it and grow increasingly unsure.

What keeps striking me as odd is this seemingly perpetual inability of many of my American friends to use certain words particularly of Germanic origin. It's VandenBERG and HindenBURG. (Dammit.)

Alan C said...

Barefoot Billy Aloha: you forgot the apostrophe. It's humuhumunukunukuappua'a. :)

I'm an excellent speller, which I attribute to my last name being spelled about 12 different ways. Also that I grew up living on Llewellyn Street in Milwaukie (Oregon--the "ie" is correct). But two words I always have trouble with are "sieve" and "seize". The first of those, especially, never looks right to me.

Betty said...

Vacuum. Is it two c's or two u's? I know it's not both. I think I've finally gotten a handle on separate. I also try to throw that d in privilege. I was also going to recommend the book "Word by Word" by Kory Stamper, but I see someone above has beat me to it!

Julia Littleton said...

Harass and embarrass. One has one "r"; the other has two. I correct spelling for a living, and I still have to look those ones up. But the key to getting these things right is knowing (or at least suspecting) what you don't know. Otherwise, you could have a "potatoe" moment.

Z said...

Here in Albuquerque (never Alburquerque unless you specifically mean the Duke) we just spell it ABQ.

Pete Grossman said...

For a long time, "restaurant" and "intriguing" I still have to stop for a moment for the latter. Too many "i's" and "g's" Hell.

Bart said...

I notice this when the airlines are having trouble...

Cancelled or canceled.

Johnny Walker said...

Receive... I'm nearly 40 and still I write recieve all the time! Argh!

Johnny Walker said...

Also, fun fact: In other languages, eg. Spanish, there's no weird letter/sound variations. Letters always follow the same pronunciation rules. ALWAYS. So saying a word out loud literally means you can spell it... you just write how it sounds.

When my Spanish girlfriend first came to London she saw a clip of a spelling bee and wondered what the hell was was with these children. Just HOW mentally challenged were these kids?!

Sarah said...

Eligibility and convenience. Which are two words I type out multiple times a day in my job.

Roger R. said...

Privilege, knowledge and definitely. They might be right this time. Oh - and acclimate. Yet "acclaimate" makes more sense: of or pertaining to acclaim.

Scott said...

Vowels with the schwa sound, like in pleasant and separate.

Wayne said...

Bill O'Reilly is hard to spell. First because proper names are more idiosyncratic than common names. The English convention for double vowels usually makes sound of the first vowel long. That would mean he should pronounce it Bill O'Really. And maybe he should.

Stuart Raish said...

Available..Thank for spell check. For some reason it gets me.

Jon H said...

I agree with Johnny Walker's comments about Spanish, though certain words could be spelled differently and sound the same, such as "jefe" (chief) could be spelled "gefe" and "sed" (thirst) could be spelled "ced". The opposite, though, is true, that any Spanish word, except perhaps imported words from Native or other languages, is pronounced just one way. I find I can pronounce any Spanish word, including the emphasis on the correct syllable, just by the spelling of a word.