A Lesson with Miss Spelling

Ready, class?

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.”

Cemetery. The final e in this word has come to be pronounced by many with an a sound, thus causing us to incorrectly spell the word “cemetary.”

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.

Pic from http://www.ritzyreaders.com

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.

Pic from http://www.partyamerica.com

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!

Class dismissed.

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.

Miss Spelling would also like to remind everyone of the Spell Check function available in most computer software programs, including blogging sites. “Remember, students, Spell Check is your friend.”

Which words do you have trouble spelling? What other words do you see commonly misspelled?

29 thoughts on “A Lesson with Miss Spelling

    1. There are several words with g only (privilege, tragedy) that are tempting to add a to. English is the biggest hodge-podge language, borrowing from everywhere, so our spellings are not straightforward. Go figure. Glad you enjoyed the post, Natalie!

      1. Spell check isn’t always available, nor is it always correct. And, this especially goes for the spell checker in things like the WordPress editor, which makes rather goofy assumptions about the things you are trying to say.) 😉

        1. Indeed that’s true, Eden. Spell check is one tool among several one can use to ensure proper spelling. Whenever a word comes up wrong, but I think it might be right, I double-check somewhere else. Thanks.

  1. I struggle with quite a few of these. I can offer a silly rule for surprise, though. Remember how Gomer Pyle said it? For whatever reason, hearing him in my head keeps me on track. For the rest of them, I pretty much have to rely on spell check…which is not always your friend.

    Hope you are feeling better. 😀

    1. That’s a great reminder! I had forgotten how Gomer Pyle said that word. Thanks, Catie.

      (I’m up and down with the mono. I’ll get back to 100%…eventually. Appreciate the well-wishes.)

  2. I always have trouble with maintenance. Why? I have no idea and it drives me up the wall! I usually just abbreviate to “maint” because I’m lazy and furstrated. Another a few words, calendar and camera. I have no idea what is wrong with me!!! Thank goodness for spell check. 🙂

    1. There are too many vowels to keep straight in “maintenance”! Plus, you would think that the word “maintain” would still be in there somewhere, but nope. Thanks, Tiffany!

  3. Love this! I always screw up cemetery and privilege, and exercise (both in the word form and real life, lol). I always think it should be spelled excersize.

    1. Now that I see it, it does seem like “excersize” makes sense. Honestly, my worst repeat problem is trying to spell like a Brit: “labour, honour, colour.” I think it comes from all of those Dickens and Austen novels I read!

  4. carry on please do with the British spelling – personally I just think it’s the best – well I would wouldn’t I:) I am hopeless at spelling with or without those up above – but a word of warning in – the spell checker does not tell you if the word is a correct spelling but an incorrect word. Three ways of spelling weather after all!!

    great post tho’ – if spelling lessons at school had been as much fun who knows maybe I could have. . . no prob. not (guess what I have trouble with?)

    1. Indeed. The spell checker only goes so far. You can’t determine whether, weather, wether and their, there, they’re with it; you must use your noggin. Thanks, Alberta.

      P.S. My heritage is British, so I suppose I can throw in that lovely “u” now and then. 😉

  5. One of my favorite bands has a song called “Existance.” Drives me nuts! I want to correct it every time I see it pop up on the car stereo or computer!

    A couple I always have to think about are “religion” and “schedule.” I still get confused about words like “fortunately” or “judgement” that seem like the ending e should be dropped, but it isn’t – or sometimes is, sometimes isn’t, depending on the spellchecker.

    1. Well, I know that “judgment” is the preferred spelling, but over time “judgement” has become accepted. It does get confusing, doesn’t it? Thanks, Jennette.

    1. I’ve heard that intelligence and spelling capability are not linked. Personally, I think the intelligent check their spelling however works for them — memorizing it, using spell check, or getting another set of eyes to look at it. Good for you, Alica!

  6. Funny post…What I hate is when I spell a word I’ve written hundreds – or even thousands – of times, then look at it, study it, unsure of its spelling. On these occasions, I resort to googling it or grabbing a handy dictionary. I wonder why that happens? Ha!

Comments are closed.