Saturday, June 23, 2018

What words kan't you spell?

Thank God for spellcheck. There are some words I just can’t spell. For whatever reason my brain refuses to learn the correct spelling of a few words – words that are fairly common and you dear readers have no problem with at all.

One is jeopardy. Even as I typed it just now the squiggly red line appeared underneath. I keep putting a’s where there should be o’s or o’s where there should be a’s. And again, it’s not an obscure word. I watch the TV show all the time. The word is displayed in giant letters.

Another is privilege. I don’t even come close on this word. At any given time I may write privlige, priviledge, priveledge, privlige, privelige. None of these look any more wrong that the actual spelling.

For a long time I wrestled with guarantee. Somehow I mastered it. And I’m afraid to list the ways I misspelled it for fear that that will confuse me again and I’ll be back at square one.

In the case of pigeon, I want to always write pidgeon. And don’t get me started on pidgin.

I’d like to think I’m not alone in this brain cramp. So let me ask you – what are words that you can’t spell?

Imagine losing the final round of the National Spelling Bee over jeopardy?

62 comments :

Jeff Weimer said...

I can spell it now, because it eliminated me from a spelling bee - Microcosm. I previously had difficulty with commission; it took me about 30 seconds between the two m's to decide I needed a second one.

Jeff Alexander said...

Sheriff.
It's a childhood trauma.
No, not because I was arrested.
It's from a school spelling bee in sixth grade.
I honestly couldn't figure out at the time whether it was one "r" and two "f"s - or two "r"s and one "f."
So, I decided to err on the side of caution -- spelled it clearly and loudly as "sherriff."
WRONG!
Thirty years working at a newspaper hasn't cured me. I still have to stop and think which is it?
Oh, well, better than the following year when I got nervous and spelled "streth!"

Ted O'Hara said...

I find that pronouncing jeopardy as "gee - oh- pardy" to myself helps.

For me "occasionally" is hard. Always.

Gwendolyn said...

Yougurt... I mean yogurt. Any word with the ue (eu) combination.

Carol said...

Equivalent. Never get that one right.

Cowboy Surfer said...

fucking necessary

Mork said...

Necessary. Every single time. Either "neccessary" or "neccesary". Even looking at it right now, with squiggly red lines under the two in quotes and nothing under the first, it still looks wrong to me.

And I was the 5th grade spelling champion in my school.

Greg said...

definitely

Mike Barer said...

Autocorrect is another thing altogether. It should be named "autoincorrect"!

JC said...

I'm a privilege bad speller too. I always mess up broccoli. I want to put two l's in, but I know it's wrong when I see it, but I can't stop doing it.

Robert Forman said...

Separate, which I constantly spell "seperate".
And speaking of "brain cramps" I also have one when reading Chick-Fil-A. My brain pronounces it Chick Fill Uh not fillet. I was very pleased to find out others have this problem.

Marv Wolfman said...

Bureaucracy. Even when typing it here I misspelled it. But then I asked Alexa to spell it for me and I corrected it. Fortunately, she's alays right.

Andrew said...

The first two words that came to mind: Restaurant. Hors d'oeuvres.

I hope this isn't cheating, Ken. I looked at a couple of lists of commonly misspelled words, and asked, "Which ones do I still get wrong, after all these years? Which ones do I only correct after spellcheck catches them?" Here they are:

Accommodate. Aficionado. Bellwether. Calendar. Cantaloupe. Carburetor. Caribbean. Commemorate. Daiquiri. Defendant. Deterrence. Embarrassing. Gauge. Incidentally. Judgmental. Lieutenant. Maneuver. Nauseous. Noticeable. Occurrence. Parallel. Perseverance. Precede. Questionnaire. Sacrilegious. Separate. Supersede. Tendency. Threshold. Weird.

When I was in my 5th grade spelling bee, the word I misspelled was "naughty." I left out the "g."

Dee Scott said...

Trump supporters may not know anything about politics, science, history, civics, economics, religion, climate change, literature, law, geography, sociology, renewable energy, philosophy, psychology, statistics or grammar, but at least they don't correct other people's spelling. :D

Chemo Comic said...

Vicinity. Usually spell it Vincinity.

The Silver Fox said...

I pride myself of being a fairly good speller, but I used to have a problem with "across," which I tended to spell as "accross." Also, years ago, I spelled "figment" as "figament." (Maybe I was confusing it with "filament?") Nowadays, "exaggerate" can still trip me up, and I'm finally remembering that "embarrass" has two Ns. It's not "embarass."

E. Yarber said...

I must admit that James Joyce being my favorite author hasn't always made my life easy. I have enough trouble writing about Scylla and Charybdis, let alone sentences like "By arraignment, childream's hours, expercatered."

Peter said...

The word that always trips me up is Mediterranean. And the only reason I've spelled it correctly just now is my phone's auto complete.

Peter said...

Oh, and accommodation. I can never remember how many cc's and mm's it has.

Tudor Queen said...

My grandmother used to say she could spell 'banana', but she couldn't stop.

Mike Bloodworth said...

You and Dan Quayle, huh? But, seriously there are so many words that I still can't spell. They are too numerous to list here. Needless to say, I have a WEBSTER'S sitting next to me as I write this. The worst is when I've spelled a word correctly and it still doesn't look right. And then there's the old, "How can you look up a word in the dictionary if you don't know how to spell it?" Sometimes I have to look up a word in the thesaurus when I can't find it in the dictionary. Of course, one of the hardest words is "Levine." Is it Lavine or Levyne or Luhvaign? [major deja vu right now] Fortunately, its right at the top of the blog. ¡GO MEXICO!
M.B.

Vera said...

Balloon. I often forget the second L.

Anonymous said...

I used to misspell congratulations and definitely. I work at a newspaper, and frequently have to type "public library." For some reason I tend to type "pubic library." I always double check myself. Having pubic in the copy tends to really irritate the editors. Julie, Burlington, Iowa

Dr Loser said...

Odd timing, this. I just had a friend down the pub ask me how to spell "queue." This provoked quite an interesting discussion (and I never got round to admitting that sometimes I have difficulty with spelling the present participle of the thing ...) We tried it out on another friend, who insisted that there was an 'i' in there somewhere. No, we repeated, it's spelled "q-u-e-u-e." Oh, yes, he said, "q-u-e-i-e." Nope, no 'i': "q-u-e-u-e." Right, "q-u-e-i-e...." and so on.

My point here is not to make fun of my friends. It's simply to stress that the spelling part of the brain is, surprisingly, far more ornery (had to spell that twice!) and cantankerous than you think. It's very, very, sticky.

On an equally fascinating side-note, the original friend admitted that he has problems deciding whether a word ends with "le" or "el." I, of course, pointed out that it's "le" in 99.9999% of cases. To which another friend offered the (insanely dubious) rule that it's "le" after a double consonant -- thus, "apple," "puzzle," etc. I was shouted down, because ... well ... nobody likes a smart-arse.

Thinking on this for ten minutes, the original friend said, "Oh, OK then ... so, 'tunnle!'" And then realised that this was not really a working rule.

Food for a sit-com para or two, I think. (Not this particular discussion. Just in general.)

Incidentally, to un-stick your mind, try to make a different association. For "jeopardy," think "a coat that looks spotty -- aha! leopardy!"

Mind you, if you spell it "leapord," then I guess this doesn't work so well ...

Dr Loser said...

@Peter

Pursuant to my (immediately earlier) suggestion, just think "two double beds." It's what I used to do. Job basically done.

Dr Loser said...

@Andrew:
Here's the one that kills me every time. "Restaurateur."

How on earth did that happen?

Buttermilk Sky said...

Lavender. I always want to spell it "lavendar." Fortunately, it doesn't come up very often.


Kidnaper. Or kidnapper?


Tucson. What language is that?

Frank Beans said...

It's just a linguistic fact that the modern English language is torturous--or is it tortuous?--when it comes to rules of spelling and grammar. Kelsey Grammer. Sigh.

I know that good spelling is a sign of intelligence, and I have generally been lucky enough to possess that cognitive ability. But man, even the smartest people can fuck up once in awhile (a while?), and end up looking like idiots. It seems like there (or is it "their"--just kidding) is just no way out.

gottacook said...

Here's a useful list from Tor Books editor Teresa Nielsen Hayden's website:

bazaar, bizarre, accede, precede, supersede, barbecue, acquaint, accessory, necessary, desiccate, Cincinnati, occurrence, inoculate, accommodate, recommend, harassment, espresso, embarrass, corollary, grammar, hemorrhage, artillery, battalion, broccoli, guerrilla, iridescent, abattoir, miscellaneous, millennium, vermilion, millenarian, dilettante, minuscule, parallelism, a cappella, commitment, committed, committee, satellite, poinsettia, counselor, calendar, cemetery, stratagem, sorcerer, restaurateur, sergeant, prophesy, pharaoh, camouflage, pronunciation, fluorescent, suede, eulogy, pseudopod, bureaucracy, prophecy, fuchsia, feud, silhouette, jodhpurs, liaison, hierarchy, sovereignty, sacrilegious, deity, sieve, frieze, receive, seize, siege, weird

Duncan Randall said...

I used to have a problem spelling diarrhea, until a recent bout of flu.

VP81955 said...

A brand now spells it "yoghurt," which may be a less-accepted spelling but just doesn't look right.

VP81955 said...

I was my school's spelling champ for four consecutive years (fifth through eighth grades). Should've known I was destined to be a copy editor.

My word kryptonite? "Exhilarating." For some reason, I always want to make that first "a" a second "i."

And one reason I believe people misspell "judgment" is that when Gerald Ford was president, he invariably pronounced it "judg-uh-ment." Ford was Ann Arbor-educated (though curiously, no one ever seems to use that term when referring to a public college), but I suppose public speaking class at Michigan was an elective.

Donald Benson said...

Scissors, because it looks wrong even when it's right.
Maintenance and restaurant, because I have to remind myself they're three syllables long.

But my real problem is a multitude of words I can spell with ease but botch the pronunciation of.

Matt in Rhode Island said...

Maintenance is a great example for me - mixing up the e's and the a's is a recurring problem for me. I finally conquered "separate" when my brain recognized the geometric balance of the vowels - E's on the outside, and A's on the inside.

"Vicinity" was mentioned above, and while it wasn't a problem for me, it was for the phone company. Back in the 80's, the Rhode Island phone book came out and the cover read, "Providence and vinicity". I was proud to be the one in the family to spot it first!!

Tom said...

I moved to the USA from the UK; that conveniently obscures whether I can spell.

That said, even when I'm trying to write in American I refuse to spell the word 'maneuver' on principle; it's too ugly. Manoeuvre or death!

Anonymous said...

It is devestating that I have little, and can't spell, rhythem

Mibbitmaker said...

I always thought of "a lot" as one word: alot. A lot! It was only recent years that spellcheck/autocorrect set me straight (unless there were moments in school as a child that I've forgotten). It's one of those things that I never even think to check my dictionary to check up on.

DetroitGuy said...

Occasionally is always hard for me to.

DetroitGuy said...

I’ve always remembered this hint: “There’s A RAT in separate.”

And as for principle versus principal: “The Principal is always a PAL.”

DetroitGuy said...

Two Ns? Now THAT’S embarrassing.

DetroitGuy said...

Not to mention the librarians.

Angela Niles said...

I always trip up on "convenient". I try and remember the old "I before E" rhyme, but I still always somehow mix it up regardless.

RealDonaldTrump said...

I take great care to spell every word right, but sometimes I mispell 'LOSER'.

Loosehead said...

The country that is now known as the Czech Republic, and thank christ they changed it.

jean satzer said...

For me it’s not spelling errors as much as typing errors. One hand is dominant. I always spell and as nad on a regular keyboard. The is always teh.

On my phone the is almost always tge. That’s why I proof read. If I didn’t, what you are reading would be such a wreck.

sueK2001 said...

I've developed a fondness for the word "eatery" because I can never spell "restaurant" correctly. I also hate the word "rhythm"...I used to have an issue with "tomorrow" but thanks to the old Kingston Trio song "To Morrow", I no longer do.

I am so glad others have some of the same issues with some words..."recommend" is a word I lost with in a spelling bee..still get shivers when I have to use it...so I just use "suggestion" instead. There is one name I still have an issue spelling..Michael...the a before the e does not look right.

..and Robert Forman..a huge THANK YOU to your admission of "Chick Fill Ugh"...as I do that all the time and it drives me mother nuts.

Ken is right. That squiggly line under a word is painful to a writer.

Myles Warden said...

"Guarantee" and "restaurant" get me every time. The "au" vs. "ua" conundrum.

Alex Bell said...

So, VP81955, you’re a snob? What University did you attend? Harvard, Yale, or Princeton? Or is any University that isn’t in the Midwest acceptable?

Doug Thompson said...

I once lost a spelling bee in high school because I couldn't spell the word antidisestablishmentarianism. Spell it? Heck I had never even heard of the word before. I learned to spell it immediately after though and I've never forgotten how, even though I've never needed to in over 50 years.

How many of us learned to spell encyclopedia from The Mickey Mouse Club (the original) "e-n-c-y-c-l-o-p-e-d-i-a".

Cap'n Bob said...

Pseudepigrapha. I always want to start it with psuedo-. But Mark Twain said, "I don't care a damn for a man that can only spell a word one way." Or words to that effect.

I collected toy soldiers and spent a lot of time on eBay looking for mounted soldiers, i.e., cavalry. After seeing entries for calvary, cavalery, and many others I started a list. Eventually I recorded 29 different misspellings of cavalry.

VP81955 said...

I am a University of Maryland alumnus, with two years of graduate study at Iowa State University. (Ames is still in the Midwest, last I heard.) I merely was saying the suffix "-educated" almost always is linked to elite private institutions; I mean, when was the last time (if any) someone was described as "Berkeley-educated"? (Conversely, I bet the term "Stanford-educated" is fairly common.) Sorry if I came off snobbish.

Oh, and my two favorite Ivy institutions are Princeton and Dartmouth. Why? Neither has a law school.

Nolan Howe said...

Convenience and calendar trip me up nearly every time.

Maureen said...

Threshold. It should either be pronounced thres-hold or spelled threshhold.

Dan said...

occasionally

Philly Cinephile said...

I often have trouble with “remember”. When I type or write it, it usually comes out as “rember”.

The other word that vexes me is “what”. I work at the Wharton School and I’m so used to typing “Wharton” that when I type the word “what” I automatically type “whart”.

Pamela Jaye said...

Busing
Honestly I really used to be a very good speller. And honestly I still am. But yes there are a bunch of words that sometimes I speak to my tablet to get it to spell the word out for me. Sometimes it helps. Sometimes it's worse.
I can spell long complicated medical words and then I can't spell simple words. Unfortunately I can't think of them at this moment.

But I did want to say something about the fact that you can't spell pigeon - do you think maybe it's because of Walter Pidgeon? I think my problem with guarantee probably has something to do with the word warranty.

And I have finally figured out that Independence does not have an A unlike, say, pendant, which I'm sure comes from the very same root.

There really are a bunch of words that mess with my head.
I just can't remember any of them now.

Is it possible that one day we could talk about the reason why left and right are not as automatic to me as up and down? Without fail, if I do not stop and make sure that I'm choosing the correct direction: left or right, I could just as easily get it wrong. To the point of screaming at somebody that they should have turned left and why didn't they?? Because there was only a right hand, turn there. I still remember this, and I was 19 at the time. And I still have this problem.

Pam said...

not really a spelling error so much as mishearing or misunderstanding, but sometimes on craigslist I'll see ads for Chester Drawers. I used to think that was the name of the maker or a style...until I realized it was just how some people hear "chest of" drawers. I love that one.

Joyce Melton said...

I just did a book cover and showed it to the author. His comment was, "You misspelled Jeopardy."

Brian Phillips said...

Parallel. I have to double-check that every time.

The Silver Fox said...

@DetroitGuy: Yeah, two Ns. Ha. That'll teach me to send a comment without proofreading! I caught another error of mine, too. I began my comment "I pride myself of being..." when I meant to write "I pride myself on being..."

@Cap'n Bob: I also take advantage of misspellings when I do searches on eBay. For example, I've gotten some real bargains searching for "Orson Wells" items instead of "Orson Welles."

Mary Goff said...

Successful and referral.

Just now it took me about 10 times to get referral right. Is it two rs? Two Fs? Two Ls? All three?! Who knows!!

I've got myself schooled on successful that it's "double everything" so I always try to add an extra L...

Anonymous said...

Subpoena and Aladdin.