It is always disheartening when you discover, despite years of use and blissful obliviousness, that you’ve managed to voluntarily mispell a word without notice or slight suspicion. You claim yourself a grammar Nazi, a dedicated editor and spelling specialist, and yet sometimes, the English language and its nonsensical spelling manages to elude you. Curse you, odd spelling. Curse you, irregular verbs. Let us restart the language from the bottom-up, and make it more “sensical.”
Oh, if only.
But to share my embarrassing realizations over the years, a slew of words commonly mispelled, by both me, dedicated word smiths or casual users alike:
definitely – often spell definately. I was guilty of this transgression until sixteen years of age, when spell check flagged this misnomer until my misuse finally clicked in my brain. The culprit? Attempting to spell phonetically, which is the most common yet most unforgivable part of writing the English language.
foreseen – also known as forseen. The e is not necessary in the word for, and it is pronounced in the same way regardless of its presence. In other languages, such a spelling would sound out as so: “for – eh – seen.”
pronunciation – often spelled as pronounciation. I am terribly guilty of this, and am attempting to drop this grammatical faux pas much like an addictive habit. I will personally blame variations such as pronounce for this common mistake, as well as the natural attempt for us English speakers to phonetically type out compound words.
publicly – or the incorrect variation, publically. Oh, how I’ve transgressed so. Another phonetic spelling, and the frequency of my phonetic typing attempts lead me to wonder how brother and sister writers in other regions spell things in embarrassingly incorrect manners.
a lot – more of a phrase than a word, this is more of a peeve on my part than personal mistake – alot. I was absolutely guilty of this grammatical crime until twelve, and perhaps it is the deep, embedded embarrassment as well as occupation as an English instructor that immediately throws me into a frenzied fit when this word crosses my path. A phrase, not a word! A plague upon you!
all right – the war wages between casual use versus formal use, the informal version is alright. I was once vehemently struck down by academia for using this word in fiction, and now I meekly approach alright like a naughty child expecting a spanking. Is the informal version warmly adopted enough into our lexicon that my painful memory can be erased, or will the pain strike again the next time I dare? It is operant conditioning gone wrong, and now I expect an electrical shock at any point in time. And yet, “altogether” is acceptable… no, no! Don’t rationalize, just go with it!
The above is just a smidgen of lessons and observations, there are many more mispelled words and bastardized phrases in the English language to share. Perhaps I will return again and lament another personal grammatical mistake on my part, and perhaps in the future I will eventually script a lengthy letter of apology and send it off to the void:
English, I’m sorry. You’re a difficult language, and try as I can, I cannot understand you, despite how much I try, try, try.
January 25, 2011 edit: I do not possess the same satirical wit of as writers past, and cannot claim innocence. Mispell is also misspelled, and it is added to my list of gratuitous spelling crimes.
Year twenty-four, dear diary: the English language ever eludes me, but I can’t tell who or what is more silly – me, or the words with spelling that forever confuses. I’ll leave this page open and blank, because if today is any indication, I will add to this list for the rest of my lifetime.
I better start scripting that lengthy apology letter.