Fun with spelling errors

Passed along by Bert Vaux on Facebook, a link to a Buzzfeed piece on the “Top 10 Most Unforgivable Twitter Spelling Mistakes” by Matt Stopera. Most unforgivable — and most entertaining — because for the most part they replace one spelling with the spelling of another existing word (in the most entertaining cases, a word pronounced quite differently from the target word, as in #4, college > collage (“I Can’t Wait For Collage”).

The list, with one example for each (there are multiple cites for all the errors except #2, which has only one cite):

10. angel > angle: “angles watching over me”

9. hypocrites > hippocrates: “I hate Hippocrates”

8. asshole > asswhole: “stop being such an asswhole”

7. genius > genious: “im a genious in math”

6. vicariously > bicuriously: “I dont have any drama, so i must live bicuriously through yours”

5. manners > manors: “I hate people that have no manors”

4. college > collage: “I Can’t Wait For Collage”

3. granted > granite: “Never take life for granite”

2. ambiance > umbeyonce: “This restaurant got a real nice umbeyonce (or however u spell it)” [note the writer’s uncertainty about spelling] [accompanied by Um plus a picture of Beyoncé]

1. cologne > colon:  “i love the smell of my brothers colon”

Half of these are the result of spelling by ear, using spellings appropriate for other words:

in #9: -ATE as in directorate, literate, etc.;

in #7: -IOUS as in ingenious but also envious, impervious, etc.;

in #4: -AGE as in average, forage, etc.;

in #2: -ONCE as in sconce and nonce;

in #1: -ON as in finally accented names borrowed from French or Spanish (Mouton, Colón); colone is an alternative, and pretty common, misspelling for cologne — cf. Simone, alone, etc. with -ONE — but isn’t nearly as entertaining

#5 turns on manner and manor being homophonous. See the discussion in the Eggcorn Database entry for manor (in bedside manor, related to to the manner/manner born).

#3 is also in the Eggcorn Database entry for granite in take for granite, where there’s an explanation of the phonetics by Mark Liberman.

#8 and #6 look eggcornish — especially asswhole in #8, which could be a reinterpretation of the word as ‘whole ass’. #6 is more complex, but it could result from an attempt to find a familiar element — curious — in the unfamiliar word vicarious and to treat the otherwise meaningless vi /vaj/ as the phonetically similar prefix bi- /baj/. Neither is in the ECDB.

That leaves #10, which I already have in my files as a typo, the consequence of transposing the L and E of angle. In any case, it’s not phonologically motivated.

Ear spellings and typos are both very common — so common that I collect only the occasional example — and eggcorns are moderately common. But people are especially struck by the errors that result in apparent word substitutions, since they’re the funny ones.

Here are two entertaining omission typos from Michael Quinion’s World Wide Words #783 on the 21st:

CNN’s website on 14 April reported allegations against US secret-service agents in Columbia: “Donovan declined to identify the nature of the alleged misconduct, saying only the mater was being turned over to the agency’s internal affairs.” Would this be America’s equivalent of M, as played by Judi Dench? [mater for matter]

Julane Marx found a heart-warming success story on the MSN Real Estate website about an innovative designer called Charlie Baker: “His whimsical constructions have gained him attention from high-profile clients such as Ralph Lauren and Hermes, who asked him to create widow displays for their Madison Avenue flagship stores.” [widow for window]

And a transposition typo from WWW #675 of 1/30/10:

Joel S Berson reported that somebody on another list had received an automatic e-mail response in response to a message: “Thank you for your email. I am out of the office toady.” Joel wrote, “This is clearly from someone who drops the ‘the’ – in my dialect, the above would have to be ‘I am the out of the office toady’.” [toady for today]

Quinion’s readers regularly supply him with finds like these.


5 Responses to “Fun with spelling errors”

  1. H. S. Gudnason Says:

    For the “Out of the office,” I’d have thought it might be a missing comma, as in, “It’s Christmas Day and I’m home with my family, not sucking up to the the boss like you. *I* am out of the office, toady!

  2. W Says:

    I had a somewhat more gutterish understanding – he was out of [the office toady]NP.

    I like the idea of people living bicuriously through people. It’s somehow satisfying.

    Wikipedia has a whole page about Rouge Angles of Satin.

    • arnold zwicky Says:

      On Rouge Angles of Satin: I don’t find a Wikipedia page, but there is a TV Tropes page.

      A search on “Satinism” yields some entertaining stuff — plain misspellings, but also some deliberate plays on “Satan”/”satin”.

  3. Grover Jones Says:

    What got me was your use of “cite” as a noun. I admit I’ve never seen that before.

    • arnold zwicky Says:

      The nouning of the verb cite (or truncation of citation) is common practice among lexicographers. The OED has cites for it from 1957 on.

      I get asked about it every few months.

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