Some time ago, my blog was visited by the well-known language arts teacher, Miss Pronunciation. She helped to clarify proper articulation of commonly mispronounced words, such as library and et cetera. I was recently contacted by her colleague, Miss Spelling, who wanted her turn on Amaze-ing Words Wednesday, to correct commonly misspelled words in the English language. Today I am happy to oblige. The floor is now yours, Miss Spelling.
February. Having read Ms. Glover’s lovely post on the origins of the names of the months, I know that February derives from the Roman festival of Februata. However, it is rather challenging to get that first r into the pronunciation, and before you know it, you’re writing “Febuary.”
Whether you are an Aquarius, a Pisces, or another zodiac sign with no relation to this month, it is important to learn this spelling. You might someday have an important event in the month of February — like a birthday, a wedding, an anniversary, or the apocalypse. Be ready to mark your calendar with the correct spelling. Example: “End of the World, February 16, 2031.”
No, no, my friends. No self-respecting paranormal creature would settle for such nonsense. You will find your vampires, zombies, and ghosts in a cemetery. Remember, they may be dead, but good spelling isn’t!
Lightning. For heaven’s sake, do not tell me about bolts of “lightening”! There is no such thing. If you wish to lighten an area, turn on a lamp. However, if you are watching flashes of electricity trail across the sky, remember that it is “lightning” — two syllables, no e.
Thus, the Olympian Percy Jackson’s first quest is for The Lightning Thief. If instead he had chased the lightening thief, Percy might have merely found a poor schmuck who stole someone’s Yankee candle to add a little ambiance to a dark room.
Pastime. Doesn’t it seem that the two words “past” and “time” would make the compound word “pasttime”? For reasons I cannot explain, the t is simply unnecessary here. One t gets the job done. If anyone feels so inclined, they can make it their pastime to figure out why we dropped the additional t.
As for me, my pastimes include correcting such misspellings and shopping for various colored reading glasses to coordinate with my cheery wardrobe.
Privilege. Some wish to make this “priviledge.” Perhaps they believe that there is some “edge” to being privileged. I suppose there is. However, recent personal disasters of the rich and famous (Charlie Sheen, Kim Kardashian, Demi Moore) do make one wonder how much privilege one wants. Silver spoons and celebrity status aside, your command of the English language will help you to hob-nob with grace among the academically and socially privileged class. If only you could get the privilege of being invited to a party where said hob-nobbers will be.
Shepherd. How often you even use this word may depend on your proximity to goats and sheep. How often you write this word depends on . . . well, I don’t know. Yet I have written this word several times in my life, and often with prolonged head-scratching as to how to do so. It is not “shepard,” “shephard,” “shepperd,” or one of the other variations I have seen. Take “sheep” and “herd”; stick them together; remove the first e; done.
Now sheep are rather doltish creatures who wouldn’t know whether you could correctly spell “baa.” They are happy to have nurturing shepherds of any spelling ability. Yet, this shepherd, my friends, is leading any willing sheep into the fold of proper language.
Surprise. This is another case of saying a word improperly which leads to writing it incorrectly. Thus, too many have tried to spell “suprise.” Two r’s, please. If you throw a party and your invitations say “Suprise Party,” you will be surprised by how many invitees shake their heads with pity at your poor spelling.
Admittedly, if you add the words “open bar” to the invitation, you may still have a rather nice showing at your soiree. While we’re at it, make sure you serve “hors d’oeuvre,” not “orderves.” And no surprises there, please. All appetizers should be reasonably identifiable on sight. Asking your guests to nibble on pig’s eyes pate is bad form of another sort.
Every single word that ends with -ent or -ant. How many of you face words such as “dependent,” “redundant” or “malevolent” and find yourself asking a or e? You are not alone! This is tricky in English because there isn’t a simple rule like “a before e except after c.” It’s largely dependent on memorizing each word or writing it out and staring at the word to see if it looks familiar. Good luck!
Thanks for clarifying these problematic words in our English language, Miss Spelling. Of course, we all have our spelling weaknesses. For instance, I must rack my brain every time I spell “pharaoh” and “deodorant.” I can’t seem to memorize them once for all.
Which words do you have trouble spelling? What other words do you see commonly misspelled?