Are You Among the Many Who Do This?
Can you guess which word I see misspelled most often? Did you guess misspelled? You’re getting warm. Actually, it’s grammar. From my experience, I think it’s safe to estimate that 20 percent of the English-speaking world spells it with an -er ending.
Before anyone points an accusing finger at anyone else, we might want to explore the word’s origin (etymology). Could it have been spelled grammer at one time? If you look up grammar in the dictionary, you will indeed find that before Modern English times (1500 AD-present), the word was gramery. So the instinct to use -er has historical roots.
Like many words that are difficult to spell phonetically, you can use a trick (mnemonic) to remember the correct spelling of grammar: You do not want to mar your grammar. It may be a bit hokey, but we often remember tricks better when they make us roll our eyes.
The point is that we need to realize that the spelling of words is just as evolutionary as grammar itself. If you were to read Chaucer, the author of The Canterbury Tales (c.1385), this is what you would see:
And for ther is so gret diversite
In Englissh and in writing of oure tonge,
So prey I God that non miswrite thee,
Ne thee mysmetre for defaute of tonge;
It’s hard to believe that these spellings (Englissh!) were all correct at one time. Today, we need Chaucer’s work translated.
So are we all “off the hook” with spelling? Maybe so, but at least SpellCheck, although it misses a lot of mistakes, will catch grammer.
Posted on Tuesday, August 5, 2008, at 9:08 pm