Example: somone (as a misstype for 'someone')

Whey I write I say 'misstype', but if I talk missing a letter, how do I say?

(in my native language, portuguese, there's an expression 'to eat the letter', I don't know in English)

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    You misspell a word. – Mari-Lou A Aug 14 '15 at 13:57
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    Unlike Portuguese, English spelling does not represent English pronunciation. Instead, spelling of each word was frozen at different places and times and then ignored all subsequent changes in English pronunciation (like French, unlike Portuguese) and subsequently spread to become international in all dialects (except for minor issues like apologiz/se and hono(u)r. – John Lawler Aug 14 '15 at 13:58
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    What @John is saying is that although it sort of makes some sense in Portuguese to say that you eat a letter, it doesn't in English. What you can perhaps eat in English is a sound. In common parlance, though, people will probably understand you better if you say “letter”, because most people (English-speakers included) are not consciously aware that letters and sounds do not correspond to one another. [Ultimately, the same is true in Portuguese and every other spoken language on earth; but the discrepancy is smaller in Portuguese, so it's less of an abstraction.] – Janus Bahs Jacquet Aug 14 '15 at 14:01
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    If I say "writen" instead of "written" No one would know. You do not hear the double -t in written. If I say "U" instead of "you" you do not hear any difference, if I say "luv" (lov) instead of "love" it is the same. You cannot hear the difference. But I can mispronounce a word. For example fort, there are three common ways of pronouncing it. – Mari-Lou A Aug 14 '15 at 14:04
  • @Mari-LouA But mispronunciation would refer to picturesque being pronounced "picture-skew". A common way of pronouncing a word is not incorrect unless it changes its meaning -- and the only examples I can think of are noun/verb pairs like record, process, object. Can you really mispronounce a single-syllable word like fort? (At least, without changing it entirely into something like fart, which would be a mispronunciation) – Andrew Leach Aug 14 '15 at 14:53

As @John Lawler comments, written Portuguese closely approximates the "real" language - which is spoken (using the mouth), so it's reasonable to assume the idiomatic eat a letter refers to a sound not being articulated...

elide - to omit (a vowel, consonant, or syllable) in pronunciation. (dictionary.reference.com)

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    But elision is a deliberate choice, for example: I'm, let's, and aint, none of them are errors in the strict sense. – Mari-Lou A Aug 14 '15 at 14:31
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    @Mari-Lou: I don't see any reason to suppose elision is inherently voluntary - but in any case, I'm addressing the phenomenon, not the motivation (or lack of it). I'm also supposing that the implication of "error" only arises because OP (not a native speaker) has mentioned mistyping. But that's probably because it's the only word he knows in this general area. – FumbleFingers Aug 14 '15 at 14:39
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    "Elision" is a very nonspecific term; it means "something is missing", and no more. Some of them are volitional, others aren't. Governed and ungoverned deletions is one way they're referred to in the literature. – John Lawler Aug 14 '15 at 14:52
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    @John: I often see ellipted in linguistic contexts, though OED doesn't actually document elipt or ellipt. Is that an accepted alternative for elide in the specific domain (or does it mean something slightly different)? – FumbleFingers Aug 14 '15 at 15:10
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    @John: Following a link of yours a couple of days ago, I ended up reading that John Robert "Haj" Ross is well known for his onomastic fecundity. About the only thing I still remember from "Linguistics 101" at college is the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis, which I suspect isn't so enthusiastically espoused today. But I still think it makes a lot of difference if you can assign a memorable/meaningful name to a "new" concept (once you've encapsulated it in a "symbol", it's much easier to kick ideas around, often leading to a deeper understanding). – FumbleFingers Aug 14 '15 at 17:41

It sounds as if you're talking about a slur, in this sense:

slur (slûr)

tr.v. slurred, slur·ring, slurs

  1. To pronounce indistinctly.

Or, same sense as a noun:

  1. A slurred utterance or sound.

(from The Free Dictionary).

The literal translation of the Portuguese saying is a figure of speech known as metonymy, where one thing closely associated with another stands in place of the first: a "letter" in the saying "to eat the letter" stands in place of the sound of the letter as spoken.

When listening to slurred speech, it does sound as if sounds are being eaten out of the middle, or from the endings or beginnings of words. Medically, the term 'dysarthria' denotes a condition where the muscles used for speech are weak or difficult to control. The result is slurred speech, which may have numerous causes. The most common cause is probably alcohol intoxication. Hence this joke: "'Knock knock.' 'Who's there?' 'Dishes.' 'Dishes who?' 'Dishes me and I'm drunk.'"

English has several sayings similar to the Portuguese expression. One such is 'spit it out', which is used in various constructions when someone is having difficulty speaking, as in "I just couldn't spit it out" or, more generally, "go on, spit it out!" as an exhortation. Another is "to swallow/eat [one's] words", used when something said is retracted or 'taken back'.

British English, in particular, is famous for dropping not just letters but entire syllables from the middle of words. An example is 'Worchestershire', pronounced as if it was 'Woostershire'.

Other similar expressions include one familiar both to foreign (not English) language learners and English speakers attempting to improve their enunciation: consonants may be 'swallowed'. Hence instructional materials exploring the 'swallowing' of plosives in the middles and at the ends of words, such as "Improve Your Enunciation", and plaints such as those found in "A busy week swallowing consonants and such" from the journal of a person learning Thai.


There is a common expression:

A slip of the tongue

to describe any simple mispronounciation or mis-statement, not just a missing letter. As others have commented, missing one letter doesn't necessarily mean anything in spoken English.

The phrase itself is common enough that it was parodied by the great Reggie Perrin as: A slip of the earwig.


When you refer to typographic errors, it's a misprint.

When you refer to speech, it's a pronunciation error. If you are looking for a verb, you may use misspeak.

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