Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Always Something Worse

Please forgive me, but for a moment I want to deviate from my normal politico-economic, and sometimes philosophical/theological, discussions, and take a moment for one of my "Grammar and Spelling Nazi" posts. ("The Irony of Lax Internet Standards", "Ye Olde Grammar Nazi", "In Defense of Standards""Rules of Grammar and Pragmatism", "Spelling Nazi Short Post", "The Grammar Nazi Versus George Lucas")  At least it will be mercifully short.

A number of times in the past I have complained about the fact that it seems the spelling "rediculous" or sometimes "rediculus" is supplanting the proper spelling. I can't figure out why, except that people are so used to seeing the "re-" prefix they assume ridiculous must be spelled that way. Well, that, and the fact that the word "ridicule" is used infrequently enough that the connection between the two is being forgotten.

Whatever the cause, I sometimes thought to myself that I would be happy to see the word constantly misspelled, so long as they didn't use that annoying "rediculous" spelling. And, sure enough, life responded with one of those "careful what you wish for" moments. While perusing Amazon reviews, I ran across the spelling "reduculas", and worse, a misspelling that the writer used consistently, suggesting he really thinks that is the proper spelling.

Why this worries me, and is worth mentioning, is, except for one other spelling error ("nurish"), the writer spells everything correctly, and uses mostly correct grammar. In short, someone who shows signs of being relatively careful in spelling and grammar is unable to spell ridiculous correctly. And thus I must conclude that, as is the case with the replacement of the word "indices" by the neologism "indexes", I will have to resign myself to seeing this word constantly misspelled, or, a horrible though, seeing "rediculous" become an accepted spelling.


I joked that the more common misspelling was inspired by Eddie Murphy's parody of Ricky Ricardo, in which he constantly pronounced the word "RE-diculous". Sadly, the new misspelling makes me think it was inspired by the overused and unimaginative "redonkulous" neologism that seems to not yet have vanished. I am not certain, but it is hard to otherwise explain the "-ducu-" part in the center, as the pronounced word pretty clearly has a short I sound in the center.

ADDENDUM (2013/09/19)

I have mentioned this in previous essays, but as no one seems to follow links, it is worth repeating, I may be a "spelling Nazi", but that does not mean I either insist on correct spelling at all times, or that I am myself without flaws when it comes to spelling and grammar. For example, I know I regularly misspell "missile", having at an early age started dropping the second "I", a bad habit I find it hard to break. My point is not that we need to always spell perfectly, but rather that we should TRY to spell correctly. I am not insisting one never make an error. What I fight against is simply that "well it's close enough" attitude that casually accepts bad spelling. I understand in some cases, such as teaching very young children who you want to encourage to write, regardless of quality, or maybe in quick notes for yourself or close friends, a casual attitude toward spelling may be appropriate, but in general, I find that "close enough" is the cause of more misunderstandings than any other cause. Despite the absurd "it's ok to spell any way so long as others understand" attitude, it seems we often assume others understand, when in reality, they do not. And that is the problem with "close enough". It is impossible to know when you write who might read it, and what will and will not be understood. That is why we have standard spelling and grammar, so we all understand in the same way. if you doubt this, read some medieval or colonial era essays, before standardized spelling became commonplace, and tell me how easy it is to understand. Well, your "good enough" may be just as impenetrable to other readers. And that is my point. (See "The Irony of Lax Internet Standards".)

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