What is your favorite mispelling?

If you look cooly at the maps of common mispellings, paying attention to the miniscule details, it won’t take you a millenium to recognize that many of these words are frequently mispelled. The lists in those maps may or may not supercede any previous lists that you’ve seen, but I garantee you will find some surprises.

Did you catch all seven misspellings in that paragraph?

Check out Simon Agre’s recent post in his Omniglot Blog for an excellent take on this issue, and then move on the Word Tips post that he cites. The latter contains some fascinating maps of the most commonly misspelled English words in every country and every U.S. state. Some may surprise you.

I call the maps fascinating, but I do have a major quibble about the methodology behind this study. There’s no concern about the quantity of data in the sample—billions and billions, as Carl Sagan would say—but consider the source: Twitter. It was all collected pre-Elon, of course, but still we have to remember that “Twitter is not real life,” as Pew has pointed out:

Pew Research Center recently conducted a survey of 2,791 adult American Twitter users, and the team’s findings paint a stark contrast between those who are extremely online and those who are not. While the gender and ethnic makeup of Twitter users seems to be mostly similar to the greater U.S. population, there are significant differences in terms of political views, income-generation, and more.

Clearly that invalidates the claim that these examples are “the most common misspellings” in every state, and the problem is even worse in non-English-speaking countries. If Twitter users have “significant differences in terms of political views, income-generation, and more,” then surely the vocabulary they use is neither random nor typical, and therefore the frequency of misspelled words is not representative. So take it all with several grains of salt.

Categories: Linguistics