Thursday, May 03, 2012

Posted by Laurel Garver on 7:02 AM 17 comments
You don't have to be on the Internet long to find that spelling is in decline. In particular, I see a handful of common expressions consistently misspelled, or a homophone incorrectly used.

Here's a quick round-up to help you keep your blog--and your writing--error-free.


Whoa - /interj./ slow down, hold on; an expression of awe and wonder. Comes from the verbal command to a horse to halt.

Neo's first reaction to his power in The Matrix was an awed "Whoa." 

Common misspelling: Woe, woah. I saw this latter one in a published book this morning and wanted to cry. How exactly would you pronounce this bugaboo?

Voilá  -  /interj./  French for "there it is," and pronounced in the French way: VWA-la. Usually used to express an unveiling or "ta-da" moment.

Mix together the two ingredients, and voilá, dinner is ready.

Common mispellings: Phonetic wa-lah and vwa-la, and viola (which is a musical instrument and a flower similar to the pansy).

Psych -  /interj./  just kidding; fooled you. A shorthand way of saying "I've pulled a psychological trick on you."

Tina told the chess club captain, "I'd love to go to the prom with you. Psych!"

Psyched - /adj./ excited

Jed was so psyched about his trip, he packed his suitcase a week early.

Psych out - /v./ to intimidate or unnerve.

Keisha tried to psych out her opponent by humming "Taps."

Common misspellings: Phonetic sike; psyche (a term used by therapists to refer to a person's inner being and emotions, pronounced SIKE-ee.)

Trawl - /v./ to search and gather. Derived from the term for fishing with a net.

I need to trawl for websites that can help me solve this problem.

Common misspelling: Troll (monster that guards bridges; also, a creep, someone who harasses others online).

Ado - /n./ fuss, commotion. From Middle English, pronounced uh-DOO. Made famous from Shakespeare's Much Ado about Nothing.

Without further ado, I present today's winner!

Common misspelling: Adieu (French for "goodbye" or "farewell").

Copacetic - /adj./ all right, quite adequate, just fine. This term might come from French Creole for "in good form," though linguists can't agree. Break it up and it's easy to remember: cop / ace / tic.

The venue seemed too small to me, but our saxophonist claimed it was copacetic.

Common misspellings: Copasetic, copecetic, copesetic, copesthetic.

Which of these trip you up? Do the explanations help? What other misspellings to you see often?


17 comments:

  1. I usually see people write "sike," which is totally wrong. Apparently "psych" comes directly from "psych out." Very cool.

    Great post!

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    1. It's probably only a matter of time until sike appears in the dictionary, but that is because our dictionaries are descriptive (how language is used) not prescriptive (how language SHOULD be used). This means there is no one authority making ultimate declarations about correct usage like the French have.

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  2. Well, I guess I have to go into my books and take out viola. Because I always thought it was voila. With the o first. oops.

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    1. Ack! I got two sources that didn't agree, but the correct order is oi. Will fix that Now.

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  3. Good list. :) I like using voila, but I can never figure out how to add accents to letters in my blog posts.

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  4. There might be an HTML code for it, though I was only able to find the code for the grave accented a, not the acute.

    My work around is a bit cumbersome. I added the symbol in Word (insert > insert symbol), then copied and pasted it into notepad (to remove any font formatting), then copied and pasted it again into blogger.

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  5. I've never heard of copacetic! Texting has produced a host of new words that I often don't know... Especially from the younger members of my family!

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    1. It's actually an older term that emerged in the jazz era. It caught on again when one of the characters on TV's Full House (1987-95) used it frequently and has been floating in and out of popularity since then.

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  6. I see a lot of misspellings, but I never encountered "sike" yet. Ugh.

    I'm go glad you pointed out the growing use of "wahlah" to mean "voila" (pretend I added the accent). I'm always worried people actually think the word is wahlah.

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    1. I see the phonetic spellings especially in the under-25 crowd. Their literacy is being seriously hampered by too little exposure to edited written words and having their errors reinforced among peers on social media. I hear professors around me predicting that we're about to enter a "post-literate" age. Time will tell.

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  7. Great post, Laurel. My high school kids have troubles with whoa and psych sometimes. :)

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    1. Teens often rely too much on their peers for information on slang. Errors end up being widely perpetuated in this era of social media connectedness.

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  8. I keep seeing "breaks" for "brakes" (when they mean the brakes on a car), and "phase" for "faze" (as when they mean, "nothing fazes her"). Also "pour" for "pore" (when they mean poring over a book).

    On the other hand, recently people have told me that what I always assumed was spelled "open mike" is really "open mic."

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    1. Ah, yes, the homonym problem, which spell checkers rarely catch. I could probably do another post on that. Sometimes the problems happen in idioms that use archaic words and concepts like "on tenterhooks" (who works with raw wool anymore?) or "free rein" (horseback riding reference), so folks switch in a homonym that sounds correct to a contemporary situation.

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    2. Yes, there's another one! I keep seeing people use "free reign" when they mean "free rein."

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  9. I have to let spell checker correct "voila" for me because I can never get the ' to work. But I love "trolling" the interwebz :)

    .......dhole

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  10. Accented characters can be added in Word using the "insert symbol" function, though it is cumbersome to do it that way. There are also keyboard shortcuts.

    I hope you are not trolling the interwebs. Here is what the slang term means:
    One who posts a deliberately provocative message to a newsgroup or message board with the intention of causing maximum disruption and argument.

    Please trawl. It is more peaceable.

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