This tag is for questions concerning the written representation of the English language, especially spelling and word breaks (including hyphenation).

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3answers
2k views

Is IOU an abbreviation, an acronym, or an initialism?

IOU stands for I owe you and we pronounce each letter separately. But how do we classify that construction"? abbreviation: a shortened form of a word or phrase acronym: an abbreviation formed from ...
20
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5answers
4k views

What is the standard rule for using or not using hyphen and diaeresis on the words like reelect , reexamine, and cooperate?

I found that diaeresis is used on the word, reelection in the following sentence of the article titled “Rational Irrationality” in the New Yorker magazine (April 27). “This morning’s news that ...
20
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3answers
121k views

Co-Founder, Co-founder, or cofounder?

I've seen all three used and there doesn't seem to be a definitive one that I can find. I'm hedging towards Co-Founder as it's a title, but any clarity would be appreciated. Edit If it makes it any ...
20
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3answers
5k views

When to drop the 'e' when ending in -able?

I've seen a thread that generally asks about Creating words with “-able” suffix But I don't think it answers my point, though they are admittedly dangerously close topics. When do you drop the 'e' ...
19
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5answers
2k views

Is “princessship” a real word? Are there any other words which have the same letter 3 times consecutively?

One of my friends argues that princessship is the only word which has 3 identical letter comes together (s) ,but I think there is no word such as princessship. Can anyone tell me whether this is a ...
19
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4answers
1k views

Why is Q used in some words instead of K or C

For instance in words Iraq and Qashqai? Are there any historical reasons for that?
19
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3answers
3k views

Where did the “ue” in “tongue” come from?

How I remember being told over and over how to spell tongue! I didn't understand it then; I don't understand it now. What evolution might put a silent "ue" at the end of a word?
19
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3answers
44k views

Why is the word 'bologna' pronounced like 'baloney'?

Why is the word 'bologna' (as in a bologna sandwich) pronounced so differently from the way it's spelled? The word 'lasagna' isn't pronounced 'lasagney'... The American sausage is derived from a ...
18
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3answers
2k views

Why don't Americans write “devor” instead of “devour”?

Why don't Americans write devor instead of devour to be consistent with the pervasiveness of using variations such as color and armor?
18
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5answers
4k views

Correct spelling of “program”

I mostly have exposure to American English online. I am currently writing out a resume and need some help. In Australia, in general, we write programme to mean a schedule or community programme. ...
18
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2answers
669 views

“License” and “licence”

What is the difference between license and licence? Are both variations accepted in US and UK?
18
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3answers
82k views

“Thru” vs. “through”

Could anyone explain the differences between "thru" and "through"? Is the difference only in spelling? Is "thru" some sort of slang?
18
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4answers
13k views

“Focussed” or “focused”? The double consonant

Initially, my question was: is "focussed" or "focused" the correct past tense of "focus", but since this applies to a lot of words, I would like to generalize and ask: is there supposed to be a rule ...
18
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3answers
10k views

“Todo list” or “to-do list”

I always thought it was a todo list, and quite a few places online refer to it as todo, but various spell checkers are telling me it should be to-do. The only meaning I could find was ...
18
votes
3answers
889 views

Why is “definitely” so frequently typoed?

Definitely seems to be one of the most frequently typoed words in written English on the Internet, enough to bring somebody to create d-e-f-i-n-i-t-e-l-y.com. Simon Google says, in a completely ...
18
votes
3answers
1k views

Possessive of a word that is already possessive

If the cricket ground Lord's is a possessive, what if you want to describe something belonging to Lord's? Would you say "I was very impressed by Lord's's customer services"? It doesn't look right, ...
18
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5answers
61k views

“Spelt” vs. “spelled”

In the following sentence, should I say spelled or spelt: You spelt/spelled "Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis" wrong.
17
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2answers
6k views

Why does the 'b' in absorb change to a 'p' in absorption?

The question pretty much says it all. Why is "absorbtion" an incorrect spelling?
17
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2answers
2k views

Was the “Ye Olde Shoppe” ever used or is it just an ancient-looking construct of modern times?

Surely, if I were the owner of a shop selling archery goods and wanted to portray my shop as some kind of old-fashioned, high-quality traditional outlet, I might be tempted to call it “Ye Olde Archery ...
17
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3answers
6k views

“Time zone” vs. “Timezone”

My spell checker shows that both "time zone" and "timezone" are correctly spelled. Which one of these is the correct one to use?
17
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3answers
4k views

Creating words with “-able” suffix

What are general rules of thumb for creating adjectives with -able? I wanted to denote an object as having an ability to be tiled, but "tileable" and "tilable" both yielded as incorrect words by spell ...
17
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2answers
275 views

Space before apostrophe

In the 1928 Scribner’s (NY) edition of The Plays of J. M. Barrie, I’ve noticed an odd convention: where a contraction happens in middle of a word (e.g., “don’t” for “do n(o)t”), the apostrophe has the ...
17
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1answer
1k views

Graphotactics of possessive: the true reason for the apostrophe

I have some hypotheses for English graphotactics: 〈w〉 and 〈y〉 are optional positional variants (i.e. allographs) of 〈u〉 and 〈i〉, respectively, in digraphs that correspond with diphthongs or vowels: ...
16
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4answers
2k views

Why did they spell it “URL’s”?

I was reading this documentation file of some software and note the plural spelling of this abbreviation is “URL’s”. Why isn’t it “URLs”?
16
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4answers
14k views

In a tournament, do I get a “by”, a “bye”, or a “buy”? [closed]

If there are an odd number of competitors at any stage of a single-elimination tournament, one player is excused from play and continues on as if he had defeated his (nonexistent) opponent. This is ...
16
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4answers
2k views

Why does the name 'John' have an 'h' in it?

I have always wondered this since I was little, and nobody seems to have asked or answered this before anywhere on the internet. What is the origin of the 'h', and why is it still with us?
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3answers
2k views

Wer, wie, was, wieso, weshalb, warum, all start with W in German. In English they don't, why?

Wer, wie, was, wieso, weshalb, warum. Wer nicht fragt bleibt dumm. This is the theme song to the German Sesame Street, IIRC It roughly translates to: Who, how, what, why, why ,why. If you ...
16
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3answers
1k views

Why is there a distinction between “its” and “it's”?

While I know technically the English language has a distinction because when there's a conflict between the possessive form and a contraction, the contraction wins. That is: Its is the possessive ...
16
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2answers
1k views

“Quyer” When and why did the spelling change so drastically?

The snippet above is taken from The Gentleman's Magazine (London, England), Volume 53, dated, 1783. It's only when you say Quyer out loud, do you realize what the word is. It is one of the ...
16
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2answers
1k views

What's the deal with “fiery”?

How did English end up with the adjective fiery (instead of *firy) from fire, but miry from mire and wiry from wire? Are there any other words where the noun is -ire and the adjective is -iery?
16
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5answers
157k views

Is there any difference between “offense” and “offence”?

"Offense" vs. "offence", which is more correct? If both are correct, are there any differences in shades of meaning and/or usage?
16
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2answers
8k views

“noone”, “no one” or “no-one”?

What is the correct form? Does context play a role? Are there noticeable trends towards the awkward "noone" or is it just a by-product of careless orthography on the Internet?
16
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2answers
49k views

Why is the “L” silent when pronouncing “salmon”?

Why is the letter l silent when pronouncing salmon properly?
16
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1answer
16k views

I'm British, so should I take a rain cheque?

I want to write the phrase "take a rain cheque" and am British. Should I therefore use the British spelling of the word cheque, or respect the baseball origin of the phrase "rain check" and use the ...
16
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3answers
840 views

What is the origin of “in a jiffy”?

What is the origin of "in a jiffy"? Etymology online Dictionary says origin unknown but speculates that it was slang (cant) for lightning and dates it as 1785. Wikipedia agrees but adds that the ...
15
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2answers
45k views

“Successfull”/“successful” — is this a UK/US difference? [closed]

I would tend to write double-l, but Google gives me more single-l, so I'm guessing it's an Atlantic divide thing. And I guess all the other *full words.
15
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5answers
3k views

Why does the letter ‘o’ appear in the word ‘people’?

My two daughters demanded to know this. I speculated that it was artificially inserted, perhaps in the 17th-18th century, perhaps to make the word look more like populus, somewhat similar to the way ...
15
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4answers
104k views

Which is the correct spelling: “Granddad” or “Grand-dad” or “Grandad”?

Granddad or Grand-dad or Grandad? Which is the correct spelling?
15
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2answers
894 views

The U in “Glamour”

Why, in US English, does the word glamour retain its u while humour, neighbour, and others have shed it?
15
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4answers
98k views

Difference between “publicly” and “publically”

I know publically appears as an incorrect spelling in most dictionaries (in fact as I type this up on my Safari browser it keeps trying to correct the spelling to publicly). However I have seen the ...
15
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2answers
3k views

Is it “falsy” or “falsey”?

I have seen both versions of the word, falsy and falsey. It can mean "something that is equivalent to false" in computer science, such as "The only two falsy values in the Ruby Language are false and ...
14
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6answers
9k views

Why do non-native English users often spell “standard” as “standart”?

I've seen this incredibly often on StackOverflow, but also on a few other internet sites. "Standart" is an extremely common misspelling of "standard". Is there a reason in how English is taught to ...
14
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2answers
4k views

“Oestrogen” and “oesophagus” — why are they spelled differently in British English?

Within Biology, there are some biological terms that differ in spelling between the British English and American English dictionaries. For example, oestrogen and oesophagus, as well as the word ...
14
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3answers
15k views

Why is the spelling of “pronounce” and “pronunciation” different?

Why is the spelling of pronounce and pronunciation different? If one originally did not know the spelling of pronunciation, one would when hearing it verbally deduce its spelling to be pronounciation, ...
14
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2answers
28k views

Free stuff - “swag” or “schwag”?

My company gives out free promotional items with the company name on it. Is this stuff called company swag or schwag? It seems that both come up as common usages—Google searching indicates that the ...
14
votes
2answers
975 views

Is there any significance in little curls joining the st and ct in old books?

I've been reading a facsimile edition of Defoe's Captain Singleton and have noticed a little quirk of the text; where an st or a ct appear, they are joined with a little curl over the top, but nt, rt ...
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5answers
6k views

How to spell [ʒʊʒd] and what does it mean?

I heard this strange word in American Dad over a year ago and it's been bugging me ever since. Not only do I have no idea how it's spelt, I have no idea how it could possibly be spelt. My only guesses ...
14
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4answers
24k views

“Real time”, “real-time” or “realtime”

Which of real time, real-time and realtime is correct when you are talking about seeing something as it happens?
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3answers
2k views

Descriptivism and widespread misspelling

If you search google for "fuscia" it asks "did you mean fuschia?". The correct spelling of the word is "fuchsia". (This was pointed out on the xkcd blog a while ago.) So enough people are spelling ...
14
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2answers
3k views

Why did 'y' disappear as an internal vowel in English spelling?

Why did the character 'y' disappear in favor of 'i' in English spelling? I've often noticed this replacement when merchants try to sell or advertise something as archaic or old-timey, writing wife as ...