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Words easily misspelled #13

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I know it's only been a few weeks since the last list, but shortly after I posted the last one I started seeing a bunch of common misspellings that I don't seem to have listed before.

So this set consists mostly of common misspellings, mostly based on sound, some of which won't be caught by spellcheckers. And one of which isn't actually wrong, according to the dictionary. (But what do those dictionary-makers know?)

  • proscribe for prescribe.
  • worse for worst (* "Do your worse!")
  • break for brake (This one is very common. * "He slammed his foot down hard on the break pedal.")
  • quandry for quandary
  • besides the point for beside the point
  • withdrawl for withdrawal (I'm surprised I haven't mentioned this before, as it's one of the most common misspellings I see)
  • scortch for scorch
  • breath for breathe and vice versa (* "Don't forget to breath." * "His breathe puffed out in a cloud.")
  • wreck for wreak (usually in the phrase "wreck havoc"—but this is another one where the dictionary says I'm wrong; MW10 lists wreak as one meaning of wreck. Feh.)
  • delerious for delirious.

7 Comments

'wreck havoc' has 17,000 ghits (to 166,000 for 'wreak havoc') so it seems a pretty popular eggcorn, if that's what it is. The wreck version is standard enough to appear in the Washington Times, CNN and Xinhua.


One that gets up my nose is "You've got another thing coming" for "You've got another think coming." I believe "thing" may well have overtaken the correct, albeit deliberately ungrammatical "think" in that phrase.


Fascinating; I had never heard the term eggcorn before, and it leads to a bunch of other neat stuff, such as wedding vowels. I find it fascinating that there are some misspellings based on pronunciation that I encounter extremely frequently (like "withdrawl") and others that are apparently common but that I never encounter at all (like "wedding vowels"). I wonder if that indicates anything about the accents of people I'm likely to come into contact with online. Maybe, though, it's just that people with (as Language Log puts it) "highly standardized" spelling are more likely to make certain kinds of mistakes than others.


Stuff like "withdrawl" I actually kind of enjoy. I find myself making more and more of these purely orthographical typos the more I write — in a sick way it's almost a sign of spelling that's too good rather than not good enough. (Did I mention that I mistyped "roared" as "roward" while typing, of all things, a Howard Waldrop story?)

"Breath" for "breathe", though, that would neaver happen. Without the silent e, either the th is voiceless or the ea is a short e, and that's just all there is to it.

Also, MW10 et. al. are on crack.


One I heard back in college that still cracks me up is: It's a doggie-dog world rather than dog eat dog.


Just seen on a technical mailing list: "low and behold"


Just saw this quiz and thought of you all here. I actually missed a couple.


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