Carol Guensberg, “Spelling Not Always on the Mark Throughout History” (Scripps Howard News Service, May 27, 2011)
The young champion of next week’s Scripps National Spelling Bee will win acclaim, a $30,000 cash prize and goodies worth at least another $10,000. All 275 contestants in the May 31-June 2 event — much of it televised live on ESPN from National Harbor, Md. just outside Washington, D.C. — will gain recognition and at least a $100 gift card.
But for those motivated more by the cudgel than the carrot, we point out the sometimes-pricey consequences of misspelling…
Despite his soaring oratory, “Abraham Lincoln was not a very good speller, even with things he’d have to spell a lot,” adds linguist Ben Zimmer, a former editor of American dictionaries at Oxford University Press. “He had trouble spelling Fort Sumter,” the South Carolina site marking the Civil War’s opening volleys. “He kept spelling it with a ‘p’ in it.”
Perhaps it’s fitting that, on the Lincoln Memorial, the word “future” is inscribed as “euture” in the president’s second inauguration speech.
Zimmer now tracks such linguistic hits and misses as executive producer of the Visual Thesaurus and Vocabulary.com. The website includes an interactive spelling bee that adjusts to the individual’s level. Current Scripps finalists Nicholas Rushlow and Tony Incorvati practice on it, he adds.
Read the whole article here.