Here’s my mini rant.

First: I am able to ignore spelling for the most part. When I was teaching especially, I made an effort to read for content and to handle issues of presentation and spelling as a secondary matter.* Because there are kids out there with excellent minds and analytical abilities, but teachers overlook them because for whatever reason, they spell badly.

So have I established myself as a non-prescriptivist when it comes to spelling?

Having said that, it does irritate me when I email somebody and they email me back as Dear Rosini.

My name is right there in front of them in black on white, but they type it in Rosini. Which is the masculine plural ending (in Italian). If a misspelling is mandatory, Rosine would at least mean something. Little roses (plural, feminine).

I get at least two emails a week addressed to this odd Rosini person. I never correct people as one of my personal rules of thumb is that it’s rude to correct other people’s spelling or writing. But it does irritate me.

And there’s a similar problem with the Girlchild, whose name (I have mentioned it before) is Elisabeth. With an s, not a z. We have blood relatives who cannot remember this, and still address mail to her as Elizabeth.

Really, what’s so hard about that s?

Herewith endeth the rant.

*an anecdote from grad school: a very proper, very German professor was not at all happy about the coming of computer-generated student papers. His take: Ja, dese undahgaraduates, dey dink if the paper looks pretty all iz well. Dey forget that the pretty page must also say sometink.

24 Replies to “spelling”

  1. What’s so hard about an e? I’d like people to include it in my real name. They rarely do. Bad spelling and punctuation? It all depends. Inconsistency is a clue to me that the person really can’t do it, and I don’t mind at all. It irritates the fool out of me if that person seems to be doing it as an e e cummings wannabe.

    True story: Beginning high school, 10th grade algebra II. This was in precomputer days, and we had to fill out interminable forms with our schedules, including names of teachers we’d never met. So I filled in Smith a million times for my algebra teacher. The very first class he was livid. It was Davis. Later we developed a good rapport. He was the best teacher I ever had, period, including college years. He called everyone Mr. and Miss Whatever in class. I was always Miss Smith (not my real name).

    I still make those Smith/Davis errors – 5 letters, begins with a consonant, has at least 1 vowel. Clever errors, if I say so myself. I have trouble with Lee/Ben, Lois/Laura, Rose/Daisy, Pat/Pam. But never Rosina. Nothing interchanges with that. Well, except for Sara.

  2. I get two cards a year from my father, B-day and x-mas, sometimes he spells my name Carol sometimes it’s Caroline. My name is Carolyn, expect nothing and you’ll never be disapointed.

  3. Well, not to be snarky, but it sounds a little like karma — people don’t pay attention to “Rosina” because too many times in the past their spelling mistakes weren’t corrected. English is confusing enough, but when you get people saying “with baited breath,” “it peaked my interest,” (SHUDDER) or “I wasn’t phased at all” because they were taught to “sound it out” it can be ruinous. Clear communication is difficult under the best of circumstances; with bad spelling and poor grammar it can be impossible. And for us word lovers, especially those of us who appreciate puns, it’s like hearing a fork screeching across a chalkboard.

    My last name is an old English name and I have learned to launch right into spelling it after pronouncing it for various salespersons. It’s been misspelled and mangled on paper and verbally so many times I just gave up.

    That, I’m sure, is why I saw the word “anectode” in the first comment and rolled my eyes.

  4. I’m an English teacher, and spelling is not a big deal to me. I don’t see it as being in any way an indication of intelligence. Content is so much more important.

    Names are different. They’re wrapped up in our sense of identity; they’re personal. When someone mispells my name, it affects me on that level, not on the ‘oh the horrors a mispelled word call the grammar police’ level.

    As a fellow ‘Elisabeth’, I can relate to the Girlchild. The nurse even typed it in wrong on my birth certificate, and my parents had to go back and have it corrected six months later. Now that I live in France, my name is right at home.

  5. I have a great-aunt/Godmother who, when she would receive letters, would correct them in red ink and enclose the correction with her response.

    I have fairly good spelling skills as an adult. But I also get a stomachache when I have to send her even a Christmas card.

  6. I know what you mean. My name is Rachel, not Rachelle and not Rachael. I don’t know why, but some people that have known me a long time, that have seen my name written, still write is Rachael. For some reason, I really hate that version of the name (sorry if I’m offending anybody).

  7. I so feel your pain. I have to regularly correspond with a caterer for the events I plan at work and despite the fact that leading up to an event we must exchange at least a dozen emails, all with my name signed at the end, the head of catering still spells my name wrong 3 out of 4 times. And not only does he spell it wrong, but he’s not even consistent about it. He has spelled it Dianne, Diann, Dian, or worst of all, changed it all together and called me Diana. Seriously, “Diane” is the most common spelling for my name. How hard is it to remember that? I’m willing to cut people some slack when it comes to mispellings, especially in emails, but after awhile, I just start to feel disrespected, like I’m not important enough to bother to get the spelling of my name right. Thanks for letting me have my own mini-rant, Rosina. (See, I made the effort to get it right because I respect you as a person and a writer.) I won’t even go into the trials assoicated with my last name. . .

  8. I have an Aunt Elisabeth who was born Elizabeth and changed her name sometime after divorcing her first husband and marrying her second. I believe she was teaching in Germany at the time and really liked the European spelling. I can imagine it was difficult for some of the family to adjust, but it seems as if people would respect someone’s wishes when they care about them. Carolyn, I’m sorry your dad doesn’t get it right — at least he remembers to send you a card.

    As for spelling and exam/paper grading, it’s a factor, but I consider it separately from content. Spelling, punctuation, and format or presentation contribute to a professional appearance and impact. It’s important. Content and ideas and conveying them are more important.

    We just closed on a house. The paperwork we received from the title insurance company was riddled with spelling and other errors. I had to remind my husband that even though it made a poor first impression, it didn’t necessarily mean the attention to detail wouldn’t be there for their core business — insuring our new title was free and clear. At least, I tried to convince myself that this was the case…

    And names are different from other words — they’re definitely more personal. I have a simple first name, but a surprising number of people spell it wrong (Jeanne, Jeannie, Gene). My last name, while only six letters, is difficult to spell and pronounce, so I have a lot more understanding for that one.

  9. Yeah, bad spelling is one thing. Getting your name wrong is a whole different kettle of fish. It is some consolation to see it happens to a lot of people, but galling all the same.
    My name is quite simple and I have had so many interesting variations over the years. It’s not so bad coming from strangers (at least not the first time) but people I deal with for work reasons should get it right I think.
    Not to mention places like banks and government departments, who kindly have a special place on all their forms so that you can correct such details (eg misspelled names, incorrect dates of birth) and then continue to ignore the correction anyway. Bah!

    Thankfully, my parents have always managed to get my name right, even if at times my mother used to call out in a house full of children “Alis- Wen- Jo- whoever you are I’m pointing at, I need you over here now”. We still joke with her that she didn’t recognise her own children.

  10. When I got to University age, I deliberately began dropping the second half on my hyphenated first name (must to my parents disgust) because I was sick of it being spelt incorrectly. My name is Kelly-Maree but it was almost always spelt M-a-r-i-e or when I said my name to fill in a form people would automatically assume I was giving my middle name as well.

  11. See, unfortunately, I can’t help but notice spelling mistakes. Now, my first language is French, so I myself do make spelling errors sometimes. I know I should be more understanding, but if it comes from a professional business, well I believe it should be flawless. After all, it can be the first impression (like a business poster for example). As for school papers, I have a teacher who’s really great. He’ll take marks off for spelling, but only 1 mark per “type” of errors (spelling, grammar, etc.)Also, it is completely separate from content.

  12. I’d say this is a universal issue that has affected many people. It annoys me when my name is spelt with a ‘C’ or when people insist on lengthening my name, no…it is not Kathryn, Katherine or Kathleen…..it’s just Kathy. So, I guess what I’m saying is there are a lot of us who share your annoyance and understand why you feel that way!

  13. Well I can surely relate… People spell my name with an “I” when it’s clearly written with a “Y” right in front of them.

    I also love it when people go out of their way to ask me how I spell my name and still proceed to spell it wrong.

    I can recall once a girl asked me… “Your name please” I said “Robyn with a Y” and she said can you please spell your last name please? I said “um, ok it’s RY” and she said “Hey you told me it’s Withawhy” WTF?!!!

    I also got…

    “Is that Robyn with an I or a Y” I replied “Y” she said testily “I just want to spell it right sheesh!!” I said, “no, no, I mean it’s with a Y you just asked me with an I or a Y!!”

    So I can definitely relate…

  14. iee..and it was my second attempt too, think I got hung up on the “c” in aneCdote.
    Some peeps call me Brucy.. on purpose, so I can kinda relate. Or worse, Brucy fruit loose cheeks!

  15. Here’s my funniest spelling story.

    The Mathematician’s last name is Green. One of the most common names in England. We got married and I thought, oh good, I won’t ever have to spell my last name again.

    Not married a month and I order pizza over the phone.

    “Last name?”

    “Green. Like the color.”

    “With an ‘e’ on the end?”

    Me (flummoxed): “How do you spell the color green?”

    “With an ‘e’ on the end?”

    “No. No ‘e’ on the end.”

    “Are you sure?”

    “I am absolutely positive.”


    When the pizza came the name written on the box: Greene.

  16. That is hilarious, Rosina. About the Green/Greene. Don’t you think that having your name translated to the rest of the human race is a basic shared experience of being human? We can all relate. The Rosini story made me think of “The Great Rossini” or something. Not a first name at all.

    My Dad’s last name was Graham. We pronounced it “GREY – um.” Soooo many people pronounce it “GRAM” it’s scary to me. Like the “ah” isn’t even there. And it’s likely we weren’t pronouncing it “correctly” either. But come my wedding day, there’s the best man, antagonizing half the gathered throng by announcing messages from well-wishers as “Auntie Gram” or “Grandpa Gram.” They shouted “Grey-um” back at him so many times, but his tongue would not do this simple change.

    I was once taught never to let a piece of paper leave your hands with a spelling mistake or typo unexposed. That was one office’s rule, anyway. Next office, not such a big deal, but I noticed the spelling and typos even more.

    Thought I’d named my daughters with easy to read/easy to write names. WRONG-O. What’s simple to me is clearly not to others. But they will all have stories to share in the human condition.

  17. Nobody spells my name correctly either Rosina.

    The other day mother wanted my work address to email something to me.

    Imagine my surprise when she asked me how I spell MacKenzie.

  18. My middle name is Lynn and it’s the name I use — but I had relatives who always insisted in putting an extra “e” on the end. It always irritated me but I never said anything. Sometimes you just know when something is pointless.

    My maiden name is “Irwin”. I always had to spell it for people…at the very least, they want to spell it with, you guessed it, another “E”. But I also got “Irving”, “Irvine”, “Erving”, “Irvin”…need I go on?

    I married a man with a common name. Stewart. But, oh no, it still hasn’t ended. I just go ahead and spell it for people automatically — if I don’t, I get “Stuart”.

    Cute story — hubby’s folks had a lake property which had a shared driveway with the people next door. Each family had placed a wooden name sign on either side of the driveway.

    Their name just happened to be “Stuart”. So, the driveway had “Stuart” on one side and “Stewart” on the other — as if the folks who lived there just couldn’t make up their mind…

  19. In addition to phonetic spelling errors, genealogy researchers also have to contend with handwriting transcription errors! My nightmare of an example is from an old marriage record. My ancestor’s maiden name, Hinklin, was transcribed as “Kenklar”. I spent a long time fruitlessly searching for Kenklar ancestors!

  20. My kids’ names are Aspyn, Corinn, and Sylas…nobody ever spells them correctly. Someday Im sure my children will ask me why I didnt give them more mainstream names that people can actually spell.

  21. My local government won’t recognize my baby’s name the way it is spelled: Esmé. Two hours on the phone this morning over a little chicken scratch above an e; with no satisfaction.
    Entirely impossible to do on her SS card and this is what it will look like on her birth certificate: Esme’ — Close enough, right? At least they used the right letters (I hope).

  22. Haha – I guess The State of Michigan isn’t the only place lacking in punctuation recognition.

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