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I was taught that the word postpone was spelled as I just spelled it, but recently I have seen a rise in the spelling postphone (or post phone). At first, I thought it was just a spelling error, but I have begun to see it more and more in official contexts.

Historically, the first spelling is definitely more accurate as you can see in the Online Etymology Dictionary and in Google Ngram. But also notice in the Google Ngram results that recently there has been a slight decline in the use of postpone. If you remove postpone from the Ngram query, you will see that the decline is accompanied by a rise in the use of postphone and post phone.

Are these new spellings becoming an acceptible alternative? Or is this simply a case of the rise in a misspelling accompanying more people having access to publication?

BONUS: The best answer will explain why this variant spelling is so common, if possible.

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I've never heard of "post phone". Can you add a link to a source for this phrase to your answer? – Kristina Lopez Sep 11 '13 at 17:22
Thanks for adding the links. I'm calling those typos. It is an interesting phenomena though! I always learn something new from this site! :-) – Kristina Lopez Sep 11 '13 at 18:07
If we type the word postphone , even auto spell checkers show red underline which clearly means this is just a misspelled word.. – Sweet72 Sep 11 '13 at 18:38
@Sweet72 Spell-check is by far not proof of anything. – called2voyage Sep 11 '13 at 18:38
I know it was just a funny comment..sorry I forgot to write lol... – Sweet72 Sep 11 '13 at 18:39
up vote 14 down vote accepted

Oh, please, that hurts. This is simply a case of the rise in a misspelling accompanying more people having access to publication, as you say.

"Postphone" is what happens after you drop your cellphone into the toilet, or if someone drives a car into the pole holding up your phone line. Or you run out of money and your carrier truns off your service.

Of course, "postphone" might be a telephone attached to a post. Hard to say for sure.

Except that whoever is spelling it "postphone" needs to be beaten with a wet noodle.


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That's how I felt about it too, but I wanted to check since I've seen it in a lot of official contexts lately. Sadly, in my personal experience, more than the correct spelling. – called2voyage Sep 11 '13 at 17:30
I guess I am not getting out enough, but I'd never seen this before. Probably a good thing, since it would have driven up my blood pressure. I guess I am humorless prig when it comes to egregious spelling mistakes. Sad. – Cyberherbalist Sep 11 '13 at 17:32
Yeah, I wanted to check before I started correcting it in my superiors' writing, since they exclusively use the incorrect spelling. – called2voyage Sep 11 '13 at 17:35
And for clarification, yes, I am requested to edit my superiors' writing frequently, so it wouldn't be a case of me being a spelling Nazi. – called2voyage Sep 11 '13 at 17:36
INHO, that's the only good form of Nazi. I have little or no patience for poor spelling. I think it must be in my jeans. Errr, genes. – Cyberherbalist Sep 11 '13 at 17:39

The original word "postpone" hasn't changed either its pronunciation, spelling or meaning. The links that you have provided seem to have misspelled the word.

However, the correct meaning of "postphone" as per Urban Dictionary is as follows :


A verb meaning "to put off a phone call until a later time."

E.g. : I know you want to talk, but the plane's about to take off. We'll have to postphone.

You can view this link : http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=postphone

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I highly suspect that "postphone" as Urban Dictionary defines it has formed since the misspelling of "postpone" had already arisen. – called2voyage Sep 11 '13 at 18:42
Exactly right. The Urban dictionary was updated in 2010. It's easy to find postphone in 20 year old messages. – dcaswell Sep 11 '13 at 18:49

"Postpone" comes from the Latin "post", meaning "after", plus "ponere", "to put" or "to place".

"Postphone" in the same sense is a horrific neologism. In the "phone" sense, it seems to make sense, and is shorter than "I'll have to call you later".

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You've added no new information here. The first sentence is already in my Online Etymology source, and the second is identical to Sweet72's inaccurate guess of the origin of "postphone" based on Urban Dictionary. – called2voyage Sep 12 '13 at 12:38

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