If you use English on a regular basis, you must have stumbled while spelling some particular words. What's the word you struggle with most? A BBC editor put that question to his Twitter followers. Guess what word most of them struggle with? It is "diarrhoea." True, it's tricky, more so because it's spelled in different ways in UK English and US English. The American spelling is simpler: Diarrhea.
That villain indeed makes one's ability and confidence to spell words sick! The BBC editor, Declan Cashin, finds “deodorant” his nemesis. What are some of the other words people find difficult to spell?
Here are some Cashin’s Twitter followers find most pesky:
• Guarantee: “I've spelled it wrong so many times that my autocorrect has just given up and is no longer any help.”
• Bureaucracy. “I tried 12 times there. Had to look it up eventually.”
• Corridor: “I really think it should have 'door' in there, but it doesn't!”
My Achilles' heel is “maneuver.” That’s the simpler American variant. I dare not spell the UK version.
To find out what trips up people when they try to spell these words, Cashin put the question to Professor David Crystal, honorary professor of linguistics at the University of Wales, Bangor, and who has published some 100 books on language over the past 50 years.
"These words [diarrhoea, received] are among the words that regularly come up in surveys," he said. "Most such words are foreign loans, so that the spelling doesn’t conform to the traditional English system. 'Diarr...' has an extra complication, in that it has alternative spellings (British and American), so people see both and this adds to the confusion."
As for ways to train your mind so you get past the mental block on certain spellings, Professor Crystal replies: "There’s no simple solution, I’m afraid. A strategy I recommend is to explore the history (etymology) of the individual word that causes a problem. There’s usually an interesting story to tell.
"Another technique is to use mnemonics. For instance, stationary or stationery? Cars for the former (therefore a) and letters for the latter (therefore e). Teachers do this sort of thing a lot."
I have an additional suggestion: Analyze the word for meaning components. For instance, “deodorant” means something that takes away the odor of something. “De” means the opposite of something – in this case odor. And the “ant” part is the doer, i.e., that is something that removes the odor. Hope this helps.
Image credit: BBC