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

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18
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3answers
2k 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?
18
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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
votes
3answers
842 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
4answers
48k views

“Spelt” vs. “spelled”

In the following sentence, should I say spelled or spelt: You spelt/spelled "Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis" wrong.
18
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3answers
32k 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 ...
17
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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?
17
votes
5answers
3k 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. ...
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
votes
2answers
587 views

“License” and “licence”

What is the difference between license and licence? Are both variations accepted in US and UK?
17
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4answers
6k 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 ...
17
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3answers
3k 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
votes
1answer
7k views

“Referer” or “referrer”

First of all, I'm speaking of webpage referral. Second, let me quote Wikipedia: The misspelling referer originated in the original proposal by computer "scientist" Phillip Hallam-Baker to ...
16
votes
4answers
11k 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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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
votes
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
869 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
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”?
15
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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?
15
votes
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 ...
15
votes
3answers
53k 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?
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
votes
5answers
112k 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?
15
votes
3answers
7k 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 ...
15
votes
3answers
5k 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?
15
votes
3answers
426 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 ...
14
votes
2answers
39k views

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

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.
14
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5answers
5k 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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3answers
1k 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
votes
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 ...
14
votes
1answer
472 views

Is this usage of “reign” correct?

Lately I've noticed increasing usage of the phrase "free reign". Is this a legitimate usage of the word "reign", or is this a corruption of the phrase "free rein"? I've been dismissing usages of ...
14
votes
2answers
974 views

Canadian spelling: why?

As a Canadian, I feel that our spelling tendencies—sometimes British, sometimes American—fit quite well with our geographic, historic and cultural placement between these two bigger countries. I have ...
13
votes
4answers
976 views

Why is “wavelength” one word when “wave height” isn't?

Why is “wavelength” one word when “wave height” isn't? As another example, wave speed is two words. But wavelength is only one word. What is the reason for this? In Swedish and other contructs, ...
13
votes
5answers
23k views

“Y'all” or “ya'll”?

I've seen it spelled both ways. Are both correct?
13
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2answers
20k 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 ...
13
votes
2answers
808 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 ...
13
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2answers
36k views

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

Why is the letter l silent when pronouncing salmon properly?
13
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3answers
753 views

What was going on with “quha”, “quhat” and the like in Scots and English?

From the Dictionar o the Scots Leid: Quha, Quhay, interrog. and rel. pron. Also: qwha, qha, qua, qwa, wha, vha, hua; qhaa; quhaw; quhai qwhay, whay, quay; quhae, whae; quhe, quhey, qwhey. ...
13
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1answer
12k views

Why is the “a” in “cocoa” silent?

Not being a native speaker of English, one of those words that tripped me up is “cocoa”. Besides having its vowels inverted from “cacao”; it also is pronounced exactly the same as “coco”, whereas ...
13
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1answer
2k views

“Defense” or “defence”

Is the only difference that in USA they write it with s and in UK they write it with c, or is there anything more?
13
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4answers
774 views

Has elision revised the standard spelling of any words in the past century?

Elision ("the omission of one or more sounds in a word or phrase") produces the following: going → goin(') going to → gonna Worcester → Wuster (ˈwʊstər) However, this hasn't affected the ...
13
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2answers
315 views

Appropriate title case: 'em or 'Em or 'EM

It's a common practice to capitalize headings/titles of articles. But is there a correct or conventional way to capitalize words in titles that are apocopated apheresed at the beginning? E.g. ...
12
votes
6answers
6k 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 ...
12
votes
7answers
8k views

How do I spell the truncation 'Cas', as in 'Sports Casual/Sports Cas'?

How do I spell the truncation 'Cas', as in 'Sports Casual/Sports Cas'? It may be UK only, and may have been spawned by Alan Partridge. Cash/Cas are not right. *As in a slang term, "he was acting all ...
12
votes
6answers
2k views

How would you spell “Tehran” in English for it to be pronounced “correctly” (i.e. as in Persian)?

Native English speakers do not pronounce the h in Tehran so it is pronounced like "Teran". But in the original pronunciation in Persian the h is pronounced, resulting in /tehˈɾɒːn/. Is there any ...
12
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6answers
17k views

Which is the correct spelling: “fairy” or “faerie”?

Fairy vs. faerie — which is the correct spelling?
12
votes
2answers
3k 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 ...
12
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3answers
10k 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, ...
12
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4answers
570 views

When quoting speakers of another English dialect than your own, should you spell things their way?

I realize (or realise?) I may be splitting hairs here, but I find this question interesting, and I’ve never heard or seen it discussed before. I was about to post a quote from Rich Hickey outside my ...
12
votes
1answer
3k 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?
12
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3answers
2k views

What does the grave accent mark on words mean?

What exactly does the grave accent mean in English? An example from Shakespeare’s Sonnet 30: The sad account of fore-bemoanèd moan