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.
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.
2. LOSE and LOOSE
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.
3. DRINK, DRANK, DRUNK
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.
4. SPRING, SPRANG, SPRUNG
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.