Archive for the ‘Spelling’ Category

Risible (faux-)commercial name

March 13, 2017

From a posting by Randy Murray to the Facebook page‎ “THE ERRORIST MOVEMENT – Correct grammar, with humour”, where he comments, “apostrophes mean so much”:


At first glance, this ad would seem to fall into four big topic areas on this blog: dubious commercial names; It’s All Grammar; vulgar slang; and phallic play (in particular, word play). To which I add: the conventions on the form of hashtags, e-mail addresses, and web addresses (URLs). But first, I have to tell you that this particular Dick’s Pizza is a fabrication.


Il gioco di parole è mobile

November 19, 2016

Somewhat out-of-kilter word play: the purely orthographic pun. On this blog on 1/27/14, a Bizarro with King George IV and playing on IV ‘the 4th’ vs. IV ‘intravenous’. And on 7/26/15, a Dave Blazek cartoon turning on the ambiguity of the orthographic noun mobile:  mobile ‘mobile phone’ vs. mobile ‘scupture that is suspended so as to turn freely in the air’. Cartoon in #2 there, an image of a mobile phone in #3, and an Alexander Calder mobile in #4. From that posting:

These two nouns are identical in spelling, but not pronunciation: the phone is a /móbǝl/ or /móbàjl/, the sculpture is a /móbìl/ (and Mobile AL is /mòbíl/).

Somewhat strained, but here it is again in yesterday’s Pearls Before Swine:

Well, it works on the page.

(Oh yes, Italian mobile ‘changeable, fickle’ is trisyllabic.)

(Hat tip to Andy Sleeper.)


April 26, 2016

Two separate reports from roughly the same time, both with people using the spelling brew-ha-ha for brouhaha. From Jon Lighter to ADS-L on the 21st:

The CNN crawl quotes one of the indicted Michigan officials [in the Flint drinking water crisis] as describing the criminal charges against him as one more of “those brew ha has” that develop now and then.

And then the NYT (and other papers, of course) quoted sports commentator and former Major League Baseball pitcher Curt Schilling’s use of “brew ha ha” in discussions of the use of bathrooms by transgender people, first in Facebook and then on his personal blog.


Briefly: more -ible -able

April 10, 2016

Over on ADS-L, a discussion of distract{i/a}bility, by squirrels and by people with ADHD, but there’s the spelling thing, which I happen to have looked at for collectible / collectable just a couple of days back. But every pair has its own story.


-ible -able

April 8, 2016

Wilson Gray, posting on ADS-L on the 4th, boldfacing added:

In the on-line catalog is pictured a CD whose title clearly reads:

Rare, Collectable & Soulful

Nevertheless, the catalog captions the picture as:

Rare, Collectible & Soulful

Not just one CD, but a whole series under that title. Here’s the cover for volume 2:

The catalog writers apparently “corrected” what they saw as a “spelling error” on the part of the record company — opting for WF (well-formedness, according to the writers’ lights) over Faith (faithfulness to the source). (There’s a Page on this blog listing postings about Faith vs. WF.) The facts are complex, but what’s undeniable is that most modern dictionaries recognize both collectible and collectable as acceptable spellings, with collectable having the edge for a specialized sense; from Wikipedia:

A collectable (collectible or collector’s item) is any object regarded as being of value or interest to a collector (not necessarily monetarily valuable or antique).


Briefly: English spelling and its weirdness

February 14, 2016

Paul Armstrongb points me to this entertaining Mental Floss video about English spelling and how it developed. Fascinating, academically sound, and engaging presentation. Text by Arika Okrent, drawings in real time by Sean ONeill.

It’s from almost a year ago, but doesn’t seem to have been noted on Language Log or this blog, though Okrent appears in both places pretty often. And last year she was given the Linguistics Journalism Award by the Linguistic Society of America (an event reported on both LLog and here).

Ten language-y comics

September 13, 2015

On the Comics Kingdom blog on Tuesday the 8th: “Tuesdays Top Ten Comics on Grammar and Wordplay” (with grammar, as usual, understood broadly). CK distributes strips from King Features; it’s one of my regular sources of cartoons for this blog. The strips here are all from 2014-15.


Two from xkcd

September 4, 2015

Two recent cartoons from xkcd: #1571 of 8/31, “Car Model Names”; and #1572 of 9/2, “xkcd Survey”, with one question about spelling (“What word can you never seem to spell on the first try?”) and one about words you know (“Which of these words do you know the meaning of?”):




“a fun roof in Gent”

August 1, 2015

So went the message from my colleague Elizabeth Traugott on the 25th, to accompany this wonderful photo:

(This was before Elizabeth went on to Antwerp for the activities of the International Pragmatics Conference; posting here.)

Elizabeth has not yet identified the building for me, but what caught my eye, beyond the roof, was the spelling of the city’s name, GENT (rather than the spelling in English, GHENT). Things are linguistically complicated in Belgium.


Dave Blazek

July 26, 2015

Another cartoonist new to this blog (like Ken Krimstein, recently posted on). The Loose Change cartoon by Blazek below (from 2010) came to me from the Grammarly Facebook page via a friend:


Pin the Apostrophe on the Word.

There’s a rich vein of cartoons mocking English teachers for their purported inclination to focus on minutiae.