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  1. #1
    stuartnz's Avatar
    stuartnz is offline Senior Member
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    Default Misspellings becoming accepted alternates?

    Last night I had a fascinating exchange on a question of idiomatic and natural word choice in Hindi. The person I was discussing it with mispelled a word by inverting a couple of letters, so that instead of laajavaab it came out as laajabaav (transliterated). I looked up her spelling in several of my dictionaries, both English-Hindi and Hindi-Hindi. None had it. A quick google showed it turning up only some 2K times, against 18K or so for the spelling I expected. Then I found that one of those google hits was for an online Hindi dictionary, which treated it as any other word and defined it as meaning the same as the spelling I was used to. I mentioned this to my correspondent and she said that she hadn't even noticed the inversion.

    The way in which this variant spelling appears to be slowly gaining acceptance got me thinking of English examples. The only one that came to mind readily was "alright". "Flammable" is a slightly different situation. Can anyone supply other examples where mispellings have become mainstream alternates in English, existing alongside the original spelling?

  2. #2
    jlinger is offline Senior Member
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    Default Re: Misspellings becoming accepted alternates?

    While I am personally quite flammable when I see alright (it even hurts to type it!), I am often guilty of tho, nite, tonite, Xmas and such myself.

    Flammable and Inflammable simply mean the same thing; neither is a misspelling.

  3. #3
    stuartnz's Avatar
    stuartnz is offline Senior Member
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    Default Re: Misspellings becoming accepted alternates?

    Thanks! I hadn't thought of the more intentional respellings myself.

  4. #4
    BobK's Avatar
    BobK is offline Harmless drudge
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    Default Re: Misspellings becoming accepted alternates?

    Quote Originally Posted by stuartnz View Post
    Thanks! I hadn't thought of the more intentional respellings myself.
    Intentional re-spellings were common among the prescriptivists of earlier centuries. Many silent letters were reinserted: deBt, douBt, rHyme... Real-life users, reflected in the Canterbury Tales, were happily using the word 'dette', borrowed from French, until some self-styled 'expert' decided it should have B to reflect the Latin origin. For a time, 'dette' and 'debt' were acceptable alternatives.

    b

  5. #5
    stuartnz's Avatar
    stuartnz is offline Senior Member
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    Default Re: Misspellings becoming accepted alternates?

    Quote Originally Posted by BobK View Post
    Intentional re-spellings were common among the prescriptivists of earlier centuries.
    Yes, which is why I was intrigued vy the accidental nature of the Hindi mispelling and the way it seems to be growing in usage. I would love to know of similar examples of non-intentional variants that become accepted alongside the original form, as seems to be happening in the case of the Hindi word.

  6. #6
    BobK's Avatar
    BobK is offline Harmless drudge
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    Default Re: Misspellings becoming accepted alternates?

    A lot of people use the abbreviation 'ect.', and the written form has such force that some people even say /ɪk'setrə/. I wouldn't be surpised if some dictionaries started to accept it as a variant. (I believe I saw it once in print, but don't have the reference.)

    Metathesis - swapping sounds around - is a common source of variants; look at what George W. Bush (et al. - many alii) do to 'nuclear'.

    b

  7. #7
    stuartnz's Avatar
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    Default Re: Misspellings becoming accepted alternates?

    Quote Originally Posted by BobK View Post
    A lot of people use the abbreviation 'ect.', and the written form has such force that some people even say /ɪk'setrə/. I wouldn't be surpised if some dictionaries started to accept it as a variant. (I believe I saw it once in print, but don't have the reference.)

    b
    Yes, I think "ect" is exactly the sort of example I was looking for. More so than "nucular", which is unlikely to co-exist with "nuclear" for the foreseeable future. On the subject ogf "nucular" there have been some VERY intersting articles at Language Log, including at least one contribution from Steven Pinker.

  8. #8
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Default Re: Misspellings becoming accepted alternates?

    Would you include the internet use of teh?
    The adder used to start with n, which migrated to the indefinite article.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Misspellings becoming accepted alternates?

    So did a norange, I believe. But donuts didn't. I prefer talking about food.

  10. #10
    stuartnz's Avatar
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    Default Re: Misspellings becoming accepted alternates?

    Quote Originally Posted by konungursvia View Post
    So did a norange, I believe..
    You're absolutely right! I was just talking about the etymology of "orange" with a Panjabi student the other day. I ought to have remembered that one. Thanks!

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