Everyday words that are actually really hard to spell
Could we BEE any more excited about words? Probably not more than Vanya Shivashankar and Gokul Venkatachalam, who tied for first place in the National Spelling Championships on Thursday. After correctly spelling the word nunatak (noun, “a hill or mountain that has been completely encircled by a glacier”), the duo happily claimed their prizes: a humongous trophy and a hefty cash prize. (No one told me that it literally pays to know how to spell these days.)
Now, I’m not going to even suggest trying to learn how to spell words like “pyrrhuloxia” or “scherenschnitte” or “hanswurst,” all of which were featured in Thursday’s competition. We’re not all super-human spelling champs. However, there are a bunch of everyday words that might be useful to know how to spell in the future. For example:
I feel personally slighted by every teacher who has ever tried to teach me vowels solely because of this word. Where is the A, E, I, O, U? I know the “sometimes Y” rule applies here but it hardly counts if the Y doesn’t even seem to be in the right place. Like, why isn’t there another Y after the H? Shouldn’t there be an I in there somewhere? Help.
Wait, so how many Os are there? How many Ms? Cs? Accommodate seems to have adopted a letter buddy system that makes working with it really complicated. In metaphor land, accommodate would be the young kindergartener who refuses to go to the bathroom (or anywhere) without her best friend. Actually, on that topic…
For the longest time, I believed the first year of elementary school was called Kindergarden, as if grade school secretly had everything to do with gardening and every five-year-old enrolled came prepared on the first day to plant sunflowers and tomatoes. As pleasant as that would be (imagine how beautiful the school-ground would be!), there is a T, not a D, in Kindergarten.
Wouldn’t it just be easier to spell it “privledge”? I mean, it looks a little bulkier but it would save a lot of middle schoolers points on their next spelling test. And also, where did that I in the center come from? Did it get lost along the way to “rhythm”? These are the big life questions, people.
Whenever I hear “conscious,” my mind immediately drifts to “conch shell,” which really only complicates an already complicated spelling because then I’m tempted to write “conchous” even though I know how ridiculous it looks. And when I’m not trying to insert a seashell into the name, I’m spelling it “conschuss,” like it’s some obnoxious cat noise.
Once you see the word “gauge” on paper, it’s not that difficult to remember. That is, until you see it side by side with the word “gouge” and immediately begin mixing up the two. Here’s an easy tip for differentiating the two: you gouge a hole in the wall before you gauge if the hole is big enough for you to hide your candy supply in. Gouge before gauge.
The easiest way to be a renaissance woman is by first knowing how to spell renaissance. That puts you miles ahead of the competition. Another one of those tricky French words that I dislike, renaissance includes a sneaky I in the middle and can be said in a throaty accent while waving a baguette. Take advantage of this opportunity.
It’s not mischeeveeous or mischeeviss. Those spellings stem from the general confusion surrounding this word’s pronunciation, which I’ve discussed here before. No, this one abides by the I before E rule and the “likely to confuse writers who don’t like rogue vowels” clause.
There must be some sovereign ruler that can make “sovereign” a little less complicated. When you break the word down, it makes sense: sovereign refers to a person that exercises supreme authority AKA someone who reigns over other people. But that sound logic is not going to stop me from accidentally spelling it “sovereign,” like I’m about to write “sovereindeer” and create some new animal breed.
Maybe it’s a bit of a stretch, but I think “easedrop” could easily make sense as a word. You’re “dropping in” on someone else’s conversation to “ease” your boredom or your fear of missing out on important office gossip. The English overlords apparently disagree with me because they slapped a V in the middle of the word, dooming potential spelling champions all across the globe.
What everyday words do you struggle to spell? Share them! You might learn a thing or two and maybe even get a giant gold trophy out of it.
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