Words with Two Spellings

I am getting ready to go to see a musical tonight, the first of my much-anticipated season tickets to the Performance Series at the Washington Pavilion.  (That would be the place in town to see touring professional performances.)  I am still trying to decide if a subscription for one counts as season tickets or if it is simple a season ticket.  I got six tickets, but only one for each show…

Because I am going to see a show, I started thinking about the word theater.  This has two accepted spellings: theater and theatre.  One is more common in American English, but both are acceptable and your spell check usually won’t insist on one of them.

There are  other words I thought of with two possible spellings.  Specifically, I’m thinking of words that give relatively equal preference to both options; when there’s a clear regional or formal use preference (like color and colour), it’s usually best to stick with the more common or more formal one.

I thought of the following word choices:

Theater and Theatre

Gray and Grey (I personally prefer the E version.)

Dialog and Dialogue

Doughnut and Donut

Catsup and Ketchup (those are WAY different)

Can you think of any others with (nearly) equally preferred variations?



I  thought about spelling a couple of times on my recent trip. 

On our way out west we stopped at an overlook of the Missouri River that had a very cool Lewis and Clark display.  My dad pointed out a spelling error on a sign, which I then realized was part of a quote from Lewis’s journal.  If you’ve ever read any of the writings of Meriwether Lewis, you know that there are lots of words spelled oddly.  At the time of the Corps of Discovery voyage, spelling wasn’t standardized.  You can’t really criticize someone for misspelling a word that didn’t have a correct spelling, even if it does now.  And to be accurate, a quote has to include the original spelling.

Later in the trip I found out that Theodore Roosevelt was a poor speller.  Now, I like TR.  He is my favorite president, and the trip made me more interested (perhaps obsessed?) in learning more about him.  He did a lot of good things for our country, but I’m not sure how I feel regarding his effort to simplify the spelling of words using an executive order.  Most people at the time weren’t fans of it either, and it didn’t last very long.  The way we put letters together into words has become even more entrenched since then.

Spelling can be a challenge, especially when our language has so many weird exceptions and odd ways of lettering.  Have you ever been asked how to pronounce GHOTI?  My foreign language teacher in high school wrote it on the board as an example of the oddities of English.  His pronunciation was “fish” – GH as in laugh, O as in women, and TI as in education.  Obviously it’s a linguists trick and not a real word, but it does illustrate how inconsistently we use letters.

Isn’t English fun?

That one difficult word…

You know what it is.  Everyone has one, although every person’s word is different. (You may have more than one; many people I know do.)

The word we’re talking about?  It’s the one that you always have trouble spelling, no matter how often you write it.

My word is dilemma.  I can’t ever remember if the I or the E comes first.  It’s pronounced DAH limma, so shouldn’t it be spelled DELIMMA?  Nope, the I comes first.  Weird.

What’s your word?

You have the sexiest grammar I’ve ever seen…

A few days ago I updated and reactivated my online dating profile.  Let’s face it; I moved to a new city.  At this point the people are work with are all, well, the people I work with, and I’m just starting to meet people outside of work.  Going on a few dates might open that door a bit more, so I decided to go for it.

Of course, within a day or so I got what we’ll call the “first bites.”  I suspect these are the guys who send a message to any new female face that shows up on the site, probably without reading her profile at all.  While it seems like a waste of time, that doesn’t bother me as much as their very common grammar and writing errors.  (I know, you’re not surprised.)

Some typical problems include a lack of punctuation and/or capitalization, texting shorthand, and the usual there/their/they’re and your/you’re challenges.  They are usually short on complete sentences as well, or just short in general.  I have my mail settings arranged so that someone has to write at least 50 characters to send me a message.  Fifty characters!  That’s short.  “Hello!  I like your profile, please check out mine.” That’s it!  Obviously “I think you’re interesting” is more characters than “u r cute,” and that’s basically the point.  Believe it or not, I had a guy who didn’t hit the 50 mark on the first try.  How do I know?  Because he held down the exclamation point until he had enough characters.  Seriously?  Why on earth does this guy waste his time (and mine) when I’m clearly not going to respond?

Are you on a dating site?  Want some advice?  Take the time to do a grammar and spelling check before you send a message!  Ladies, this applies to us, too. If you want a quality guy, make sure he thinks you are a quality girl.  When a guy sends me a grammatically correct note that is also free from spelling errors, I will take the time to check out his profile.

If a guy mentions correct grammar and/or spelling as a requirement in his profile, I will send him a message.  🙂