Tag Archives: spelling

The curious incident of the missing letter

Anybody who knows The Special One will be well aware that she has an ill-disguised competitive side. Whether she’s playing a game of charades or just tossing a coin, she hates ending up on the losing side. As a result, she has an incredibly quick learning curve which, for example, has allowed her to win cash in poker games on three of the four occasions I’ve ever played with her. Some people would call it beginner’s luck, but I’d call it an abject refusal to be beaten. And woe betide anybody who gets in her way.

Of course, that means that I enter into any games with her with a certain amount of trepidation. After all, it can be particularly cold if you have to spend the night on the sofa due to an inadvertent victory at Mastermind.

Nonetheless, in a moment of weakness, I agreed to play Scrabble on Saturday night. And it quickly became apparent that Americans are the laziest people on earth. Not because The Special One couldn’t be bothered to pick up her own tiles (and brought in a local schoolkid to do it for her instead), but because they drop letters from any word that they (think they) can get away with.

Clearly, I’m well aware of the American propensity to drop u’s like they’re going out of fashion, and can easily deal with a bit of color, honor or behavior. But from yoghurt to chilli, and fillet to gauge, give an American half an inch and they’ll kick any letter they can out of perfectly spelled words, just to save the 0.12 seconds it would have taken to type or write it.

The problem is particularly acute in the world of medicine and the body, with words such as anaesthetic, foetus, caesarean, calliper and oestrogen all suffering a from a cruelly dumped letter. Although to be fair, most doctors have such bad handwriting that all of these are possibly just clerical/transcription errors of the kind that only get picked up when a patient realiszes that for the last six years they’ve been taking the contraceptive pill to fight excess gas.

In many ways, the American spelling changes make a certain amount of sense. After all, who really needs the extra ‘a’ in anaesthetic? Language should, I guess, be made to fit our needs and ease, rather than being rigidly rule- or tradition-based. Although given this, it seems strange that a nation so obsessed with litigation and legal action would continue to issue anything as peculiar as a subpoena…

When you’re playing Scrabble, of course, a dropped ‘a’, ‘h’ or ‘l’ can mean the difference between a triple word score and a humiliating four pointer. Or worse, allow The Special One to fit ‘feces’ into a tight space, and romp home with 27 points and the game. Damn America and its lackadaisical approach to scatological wordsmithery.

Still, at least I got to sleep in my own bed on Saturday.