Posted by: debrakolkka | June 13, 2011

Does incorrect spelling bother you?

My grade 5 teacher, Mrs Folliot was very particular about spelling and pronunciation. Anyone who committed the sin of saying youse instead of you, or gunna instead of going to, or haitch instead of aitch,  was singled out for attention.  Mrs Folliot was one of my favourite teachers and I was never in trouble with her, no doubt  because Mum got there first. She was a stickler for correctness. I have to confess that I have inherited this and I don’t like to see words misspelled or said incorrectly.

I am learning Italian – very slowly – and my pickiness about spelling now continues in 2 languages.

Italian words are used regularly in Australia, particularly where food in involved. I often see in butcher shops ‘osso bucco’. Where did the extra ‘c’ come from in buco? Prosciutto is not proscuitto. This would be pronounced proskooeeto. Cappuccino is another word that catches people out. Siena almost always gains and extra ‘n’ in Australia. Strangely, shop owners don’t like to have these mistakes pointed out. I can’t think why.

My son is a third generation picky person. His pet hate is the mispronunciation of bruschetta. This is an Italian word and it is pronounced broosketta, otherwise it is just toast.

The reverse happens in Italy. Menus are written in English without referring to an English speaker for verification. The best one I saw was in Lucca where a menu offered ‘am’ with ‘heggs and hasparagus’. A restaurant in our village advertised that their food was ‘simply cement the best’. It doesn’t bother me at all in these instances. I think it is hilarious.

 I do realise that this is relatively unimportant in the scheme of things, but why not try to be correct? Do you notice incorrect spelling? Does it bother you? I can’t possibly be alone here. Feel free to point out any mistakes I make. I can take it.


  1. Your post got me thinking. This is more to do with accents than spelling.

    On Como station last year we were talking to some American tourists. They were trying to say “Brisbane”. It came out as “Brisbain”. There is at least one Brisbane in the States and I was trying to get their Aussie accent right, so I explained we pronounce it “Brisbun”, especially in Queensland. (Do you remember the channel 7 jingle “Luv yer Brisbun”?)

    The other one is a bit of a joke. Can you say “rye” as in rye bread? Can you say “trine”? What is a trine? Something that travels on rye-rye lines!

    Silly really.

    • Some Australian accents must be very difficult for foreigners to understand. I have certainly found that when I have been in New York and try to get a taxi to 80th street. They just don’t hear it and I am taken to 90th street. I now ask for 77 and walk the rest of the way.

  2. Oh dear, I suspect you’ve had more than the occasional cringe reading my posts Debra – I tend to make up words. Just as well we’re buddies. 🙂

    • I have no problem with made up words – top points for innovation.

  3. Accurate spelling, in all languages, is suffering enormously from the use of text messages and mobile phones. Teachers are pointing out that and explaining the trouble they have whenever they try to enforce correct spelling.
    Double consonants and some particularities of the Italian pronounciation are difficult to master for non-native speakers. I find very useful this reference:
    On the other hand, non-native speakers of English encounter plenty of difficulties when learning the language as pronunciation rules are not as clear cut as in other languages, such as Spanish.
    I can remember an old story that said that the English word FISH could be spelled GHOTI
    GH as in TOUGH
    O as in WOMEN
    TI as in NATION
    As for translations… I have seen plenty of hilarious ones, not only in Italy; however, I find that the one that gets first prize is the sign in English explaining payments at Santa Maria Novella’s parking in Florence… A masterpiece!!!!

    • I think English is very difficult to pronounce if you are not born to it. Italian is at least pronounced the way it is spelled. Once you learn it is reasonably easy. The grammar, on the other hand, is much more difficult. I don’t know the sign at the car park. I will look out for it.

  4. Hahah!! My father used to tell and re-tell that GHOTI story to explain how difficult English was because it was so inconsistent!! I am with you, Deb, I hate misspellings and mispronunciations with no attempt to get it right. I would like a dollar for every time I tell a waiterperson in a restaurant that it is pronounced broosketta and not brushetta!! Go Deb!

    • Ghoti is a good way to explain the wierdness of English spelling. I think the problem is that we have borrowed from so many other languages.

  5. On our way to work each morning we pass a butcher’s shop that until recently advertised ‘stake’ – this always had me contentedly spending the rest of the trip imagining the interior of the shop and the green-tinged, butcher lurking behind the counter. ‘am with heggs and hasparagus” I would just have to have, that’s so endearing. But I do lament the poor standard of English and its comprehension which is evident all around us in our English speaking country. However, I speak with a small voice; for several nights whilst waiting for the door to be locked outside our office I stood staring at the sign which advertised the services of a Finanical Adviser – until it was pointed out by somebody well known to both of us!!

    • Perhaps we could go to the Finanical Adviser and have a stake.

  6. Hi Deb, as a crazy American who has traveled in Europe, I’ve decided to do my best with my blog, but foreign languages do not come easy for me! Thank heavens for! Great way to check spelling!
    I love your blog and photographs! Thank you!
    Kay Tucker

  7. We Kolkkas have retained in our vocabulary some words that were misspelled or pronounced incorrectly. When Deb and I were in India for our friends’ (Anup and Poorna) wedding we came upon a shop selling “shwals” (rather than shawls). I still comment when I see a lovely shwal. Deb’s son was reading a Leunig cartoon whose caption included the French “voila” which Brandon pronounced “viola” and we frequently exclaim “viola” which nobody outside the family understands – never mind, we do, we get it! Who has not used Dame Edna’s “picturesque”?


    • It is always “viola” for me. I have several Brandonisms which I use regularly.

      • et viola! You are not alone in that one 🙂 I think all the misspellings and so on are part of Life’s Rich Pastry myself and I speak as an ex english as a foregin langwidge teacher… I remember with joy the sound of my students singing

        We are the Esultans of Eswing – a predominantly Spanish group…

        One of the joys of listening to the BBC news is the punctillious care with which they pronounce names in all manner of languages, but you are fighting a losing battle, the language will evolve and who now speaks like Chaucer or even understands it xx

      • My grandfather enjoyed a sangwidge and we had another relative who referred to his wristless watch – can they ever be anything else?

  8. Oh such wonderful entertainment. When I lived and worked in Rome my colleagues (and even considered friends) would reference me to a ‘frana’ (landslide) when I goofed up at something. One day I was typing out ‘France’ (Francia, in Italian) in some correspondence and made a typo. It came out ‘Franica’….suddenly it hit me, I know, I’ll make it my title…’Caterina della Franica’. To me it’s hilarious and to this day I’m still referred to as such!! Words, aren’t they wonderful; in all their forms!

    Another humorous recall; there was a dance being held at the Castelfusano Country Club, outside of Rome; the ‘frana’ that typed up that notice left out the ‘o’ in Country….and it wasn’t me!! Have a happy day.

    • Mistakes in language can certainly be good for a laugh. I told several people that I had broken my horse until the lovely Paolo told me that ankle was caviglia not cavallo. I still get cavallo and cavolo (cabbage) mixed up regularly.

      • Were you spoofing when you wrote ‘regulalry in your reply?? Or is it ‘regulairy? I had still another chuckle…thanks.

      • No I wasn’t. I can spell, but I can’t type. I’ll fix it now – see what I mean, I’m happy to have my mistakes pointed out, thank you.

  9. For deaf people learning to talk, spelling can be very confusing. For example, my husband still has trouble with the words beginning with “g” as in “George” and “gorge”. He says them back to front e.g. “George” is said with the guttural sound from the throat and “gorge” is pronounced with the teeth and tongue. Unless one knows the grammatical rules of English, it can be a difficult language to learn. I have trouble with words occasionally and someone will correct me when necessary. I don’t mind when that happens as I’d like to say the word properly.
    In signed language, there are humorous moments as well. For example, the sign for “funny” in Australian Sign Language (Auslan) means “sexy” in American Sign Language (ASL). The old Australian sign for “American” had to be changed because it meant “pig” in American sign language. The current sign for “America” that we use in Australia means “melting pot”. When one travels the world, learning a language is fascinating!

    • Learning a new language is very difficult. Thankfully most people are forgiving. Our grandfather had a very strong accent all his life, so we grew up accustomed to strange ways of saying things.

  10. I’m also bothered by misspellings and mispronunciations (not to say I’m not occasionally guilty myself, but I try very hard) and for me it applies to both English and French since I translate for a living. It’s funny that some people are not at all bothered by these things; to me it’s like putting your clothes on backwards! And I absolutely adore everything Italian and would love to speak it fluently, no misspellings; hope to manage it one day.

    • We all make mistakes, and I am quite happy to have them pointed out – so I don’t do it again.

  11. Would you pass the brushetta? (as I hear bruschetta pronounced by waitpersons here in the States… in my politically correct city of Berkeley California we don’t have “waitpersons” but, get this now, waitrons, oiy)… Since my first five years I spoke only Italian and lived in an Italian neighborhood here in Berkeley upon learning English from the locals I had a true Brooklyn accent as all Italian-Americans have if they grew up in an Italian district no matter where in the States, it took a few years of college to speak “proper” but when the old crowd gets together after a half an hour we revert to “deez” and “dems” (these and them), “wacchatakenbout” (what are you talking about) and “ja na wad um takken ’bout?” (do you know what I’m talking about?). To tell you the truth I feel totally “a casa” (at home) when speaking as such and continue to do so with family and old friends… Italian spelling poses no problem but usually I need a dictionary when writing in English… Keep on speaking Italian and soon you’ll find that it’ll make sense, with Italian just don’t try to find rhyme or reason for its structure, though it doesn’t make sense to the English speaker in time its logic
    becomes apparent, and once fluent in the language when speaking it it’ll be as riding a beautiful warm azure Mediterranean wave thanks to most words ending in vowels, also in time you’ll learn that it’s impossible to speak Italian without gesticulating… Ja na wad um takken ’bout?

    • I think I already have the hand movements. I have certainly learned a few very expressive gestures which I use while driving in Italy. People seem to understand me. I love the sound of Italian when it is spoken well.

  12. Your Mrs Folliot sounds like my Year 1-7 teacher (one teacher school) where words like “somethink” did not go unnoticed. Nowadays, it seems that teachers aren’t allowed to correct these pronunciations, or bad grammar, because it may damage little Johnny’s self esteem – besides which, the teachers themselves find English grammar and pronunciation difficult after years of incorrect usage. How many teachers these days say “pitchers” – one of my pet hates – instead of “pictures” and as for “your” instead of “you’re…” I’ve come to the conclusion that stress levels are much lower if one couldn’t care less about these things! Pam.

    • Somethink should not go unnoticed. Mrs Folliot would most certainly have picked up that one. Newsreaders makes mistakes all the time. I’m surprised they can’t hear me correcting them from my lounge.

  13. Don’t get me started.! I can’t believe the bad grammar that is around.! My pet hate is the way people mix singular and plural……. eg. ” there is a lot of people here today” –instead of ARE…..
    I could go on and on but I won’t…..for now.

    • How about 1 in 5 are instead of 1 in 5 is?

  14. Do you by the way say,

    I didn’t use to ….

    or do you say

    I used not to….

    and which is gramatically correct? Only one of the above is.

    • I didn’t use to has to be incorrect. I would probably avoid the other one as well because it sounds a bit clumsy.

      • It’s like a linguistic ‘appendix’ that bit of english grammar. You are spot on, but the second one is the right thing to say as far as a grammar book would be concerned, but no one says it…it sounds archaic to most people’s ear these days. (climbs off ex teacher’s chair and goes and looks for breakfast :D)

  15. The best one I have found on this score was in Indonesia – I needed to get some Indonesian currency and was directed to a little shop with a large sign: “Authorised Monkey Changer”.

    • Did you get a good deal for your monkey?

  16. English grammar certainly can be a problem for some. Sir Winston Churchill once said: “This is the kind of language up with which I will not put”. Beautiful.

    • I can imagine that English would be very difficult to learn as a second language. The pronunciation alone would drive a person crazy.

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