How You Spell Dis?!?

This is the moth I drew with my mouse. And he is pretty. Shut up.

Once upon a time, a young man of my acquaintance named Matt told me the following story:

In college, Matt roomed with a foreign exchange student. I don’t remember the other guy’s name or where he was from, so I’m just going to call him Riku and say he was from Japan. Riku was always trying to improve his English, and anytime he heard a word that was new to him, he would ask Matt, “How you spell dis?” And Matt would oblige, spelling the word and helping Riku use the new word in a sentence.

One day, Matt came back to the room he shared with Riku and found his roommate cowering in a corner, pointing at the light fixture and making sounds of a concerned and fearful nature.

Matt: What’s wrong?
Riku (still babbling incoherently, stabs finger in direction of light fixture)
Matt (looks closely): Oh! You mean the insect flying around?
Riku: Yes! Yes! What is dis?
Matt: It can’t hurt you. It’s just a moth.
Riku: Moth?!
Matt: Yes, just a moth.
Riku (still jabbing finger at moth in fearful manner): HOW YOU SPELL DIS?

Expanding the Universe

I’m not gonna go into a long diatribe about how proper spelling lets us communicate better. There are enough essays and blogposts and master’s theses out there that cover the subject ad infinitum ad nauseam.

However, I do love Riku’s story and recount it here because it shows so clearly how we use language to define and comprehend the world around us. Giving something a name allows us to categorize it. Understanding a thing’s name lets us have a little extra measure of control (however illusory) of our environment. It makes our universe just a little bit bigger. Knowing a thing’s name and communicating it to another lets us establish a closer connection with that other person.

And, sometimes, this naming and communicating lets us remove the element of fear, which enables all of us to become more fully the people we were created to be.

Indeed: How do you spell dis?

But none of that fantabulous stuff happens when we don’t spell things in a way that gets the right message across. When Riku asked “how you spell dis,” Matt would’ve done his roommate a great disservice by giving him the wrong information. Imagine the confusion that would’ve ensued had Riku gone on to tell his friends that he’d had a close encounter with a terrible, flying “math.”

Spelling’s important, y’all. And by that, I mean “you all,” not a small, two-masted boat (aka “yawl”).

So, keeping said importance in mind, I shall now share with you five misspellings I’ve noted recently. Some of them aren’t misspellings per se but grammatical errors. But this is all part and parcel of clear communication, kids. So Ima mush it all together here. Because I want to. And this is my blog, so I can. Nyah.

; )

How do you spell…?


INCORRECT: definately, definatly, defiantly, definitly.



INCORRECT: I am going to loose my mind if you keep spelling this wrong.

“Lose” means “not keep” or “not win.”

“Loose” means “not tight” or “release.”

I am going to LOSE my mind.

Maybe even if you start spelling it right. Only time will tell.


INCORRECT: He had drank too much the night before.

He had DRUNK too much the night before.

Which was why he was drunken, if you want to know.

I drink. I drank. I had drunk. And don’t read more into this example than you have to, dears.


INCORRECT: Mount Olympus buzzed with gossip for a week because Zeus’s daughter, Athena, had sprang fully grown from his head.

Athena had SPRUNG from Zeus’s head.
Olympus only knows why.

I spring. I sprang. I had sprung. Or, rather, Athena had sprung. I was born through more conventional processes.

5. A LOT

INCORRECT: Alot of people are afraid of moths.

A LOT of people are afraid of moths.

As in, a certain quantity of people.

I don’t think Lot in the Bible was afraid of moths. But if he was, I’m sure a bunch of them burned up in Sodom and Gomorrah, and I’m sure the moth-fearing Lot was happy about that.

I had a close encounter with a terrible, flying math in high school. They spelled dis C-A-L-C-U-L-U-S. Riku’s fortitude was not mine. I lasted three weeks, then ran shrieking and never looked back.

13 thoughts on “How You Spell Dis?!?

  1. If I may add:

    Their, There, They’re

    Your, You’re

    Its, It’s

    Never mind. I could go on for hours.

  2. This story sounds quite familiar. Over the holidays I was just remarking to some of the extended fam some of the odd habits of my mother. One was that she’d get hung up on any word she did not know how to spell. I might be telling a story, deep into the middle of it when I’d notice her puzzled expression. I’d halt to ask her what she wasn’t following. She’d then ask me how to spell some term I’d used – the second word in my long tale. After I spelled it for her, I’d have to go back and retell the entire thing because she was incapable of getting anything else if she didn’t have the proper spelling of each and every word. It was agonizing for the storyteller. And yet, I get the point. 🙂

    • Ha! Becca, I can see where that would be torturous, indeed! Reminds me of the time I told my mom that I couldn’t gauge someone’s reaction, and she just busted out laughing. I was saying “godge” instead of “gayge” because I’d never connected the pronunciation I’d heard with the word I’d read.

      Language is maddening and fun. : )

  3. Lironah says:

    Don’t forget lightning. As in the flashes you see in thunderstorms. THERE IS NO E IN LIGHTNING. Lightening implies something gradual. Lightning has a certain suddenness to it.

    Drives me a little crazier each time.

    • Ooooooh, I don’t think I’ve seen that error before, Lironah. But that would drive me bonkers, too! Correct spelling definitely becomes critical when it’s a single letter that makes the difference.

      “The increasing amount of lightning was lightening the area.” ACK!

  4. Jill Barneche says:

    I HATE misspellings/grammar errors that seem so basic. I mean, I KNOW some of these people took the same English classes I did. How did they miss it?

    That being said, today I was reading in a book (Mother Tongue by Bill Bryson) that part of how we are able to surmise how word pronunciations have evolved through history is by examining misspellings in letters and such. It made the hobby linguist in me feel a slight sense of ironic gratitude for misspellers and grammar manglers. Thanks to their writings, people a thousand years from now will be able to know how common speech of our day sounded. Interesting thoughts.

    • Jill, I hear ya on all counts. My spelling pet peeves make me even more peevish when the errors are coming from people I know should know better. Gah, I am such a snob! LOL

      But yes, I also acknowledge the truth that language is not a static thing. It changes and grows constantly. I got a recent reminder of that concerning “don” and “doff” (see link below). It’s good to remember that changes to language are a positive thing, since a language that doesn’t change will eventually die.

      But in the meantime, this hobby linguist will also keep preaching clear communication. ; ) Maybe if we practice conscious awareness of all the growth and change, we can keep misunderstandings to a minimum. #hopeful

  5. Ben says:

    I can imagen how Riku felt like. It isn’t easy learning another Language. If these mistakes are made within your own language it is pretty bad. Thanks to MSN, Twitter, Texting, etc we see a lot of stupid mistakes.

    • Ben, as someone who has learned several foreign languages in a foreign country, I can relate well to Riku, too! It’s frustrating and can be extremely intimidating. I think the most important thing in the endeavor is to keep one’s sense of humor. ; )

  6. […] moving right along! Once upon a time, I regaled you with the tale of Riku and his encounter with a terrible, flying M-A-T-H. Aha! And there we’ve arrived at my first point, which is a reiteration of the moral of […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.