Proofreading Service - Pain in the English
Proofreading Service - Pain in the English

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Proofreading Service - Pain in the English
Proofreading Service - Pain in the English

Your Pain Is Our Pleasure

24-Hour Proofreading Service—We proofread your Google Docs or Microsoft Word files. We hate grammatical errors with a passion. Learn More

What is the word for intentionally incorrect spelling?

You know when people or businesses use improper spelling for effect?

eg. “Rogz for Dogz” or “Phantasy Star”

What is that called? I simply can’t find the answer anywhere.

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Lack of education or brain damage. Either or both can be the answer to your question.

ejokuri Aug-31-2023

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Lack of education or stupidity. Either can be an answer to what you seek for.

ejokuri Aug-31-2023

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Old post, I know, but I just came across here somehow and wanted to share an old 1962 paper I came across recently about the origin of "O.K."

There was a Boston fad of, what Allen Read calls, "humourous misspellings" and abbreviations. O.K was likely formed from a humourous misspelling of "Oll Korrect"

"The author who popularized misspelling as a humorous device in America was George W. Arnold (I783-I838), who wrote letters under the pen name "Joe Strickland" from 1825 to 1830. The following passage is characteristic:

Konstanty Nople, Jennywerry, 1828

Deer & lovin unkle Ben,

I spoze you thort kaze I was so darn fur of that I wasnt goen tu rite yu agin. but iph you think I kan evver forgit yew, ur Ant Nabby yew are tarnally mistaken, kaze I should remember yew iph I waz tother side ov awl1e kreashun. not by a darn site-un iph I evver git Bak agin i'll be hang'd if yew evver ketch me in this kutthrote kuntry agin. taint half so good as oald Varmount-I kum plaigy neer starvin tu deth afore I got here, we hadn't northen under hevven tu ete haff the time only Dry Kod fish un taters-finally and tarnally arter an evverlastin long pasage we got heer. i'de bin see sik awl the time, un had pritty neer spewd my gizard up, til by the lord harry I wa'rnt much bigger round than Dekon Bigalows pichfork handel-when I got hear tha axt me if I was evver in Turky before, no ses I. but i've had a darn menny turkys in me-i'de aleys heerd a plaigy deel about, Turky in Urop, in the gogfry when I went tu skool tu Ikabud Krane, whare I larnt tu Spell-un by the jumpin jingo my mouth wartered az soon as I landed.""

The entire paper is definitely a fun read and I highly recommend checking it out!

Read, Allen W. (19 July 1941). "The Evidence on O.K.". Saturday Review of Literature.

razi Jan-20-2023

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I’ve been using “enallage” in teaching visual rhetoric for graphic designers. I understand this as meaning the intentional error.

jayar Dec-16-2021

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My neighbor has a catering business. When people have parties at their homes, my neighbor cooks for them. she is a fabulous cook.

Many customers contact her before they have a party. She asks them alot of questions about the upcoming events. She finds out how

many people will be there. Then her and the customer decide on a menu. My neighbor hires servers to serve the food and to weight on the

people. She usually cooks the meals in her own home, but sometimes people ax her to preparing the food at their houses. She enjoys

working in her catering business, and she is good at all the parts of the job.

user109221 Oct-07-2020

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Pwkemp May-15-2020

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sensational spelling

I learnt dat frum dis new ting dey got called Wikipedia

user108626 Feb-10-2020

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It really should have it's own name. I believe the concept you are talking about is often called Satiric Misspelling ("so phuny") or Sensational Spelling for when it's more for impact (think Beetles as opposed to Beatles).

Allright Nov-11-2019

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The term is disambiguation

user108264 Sep-29-2019

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I was told by my English teacher that the phrase is officially "Vernacular spelling"
To spell something incorrectly on purpose, to represent a character's education (or lack thereof)

anenglishhelper Mar-12-2019

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The closest thing that comes to mind is "[sic]". In literary works, it follows words that are intentionally misspelled, usually used when quoting another source verbatim.

Vil8tor Sep-09-2018

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Kevin Pomaville Sep-04-2017

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Satirical spelling

denise1 Aug-27-2017

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a person who is poor in spelling and is bad in handwriting is called CACOGRAPHER. He has CACOGRAPHY

jamaica magoncia Mar-17-2017

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An extension of solecism?

Wenban5 Jan-15-2017

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Usually a brand name or a play on words, used in advertising. Like the old pop brand, "Hi Klas" rather than "Hi Class" I want to say what that is called. Would an advertising agency know, I wonder? Or a college course in advertising maybe?

John Baxter Jan-13-2017

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The term for this is 'sensational spelling'

suze1 Jan-06-2017

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I believe that "cacography" has been mentioned on at least two occasions in this thread.

user106928 Oct-12-2016

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The word is often "cacography" or "intentional cacography". I believe this is what you're looking for. It's usually used to mean "bad handwriting" or "bad spelling", but it was popularized by E. E. Cummings as an actual literary technique.

Riss Oct-12-2016

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When spelling something incorrectly but intentionally, you would use [sic]. See here for full info:

Hope that helps!

Jax W Aug-16-2016

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The word for an intentional incomplete sentence is ellipsis, and the word for 'writing in an accent' (ex: ya'll) is diction, if I remember correctly. Not sure if there is a term for intentional improper spelling, though...

Hestia Jul-12-2016

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Grammar Intentionally Incorrect (or GII).
Insert cute emotji here.

Grits Jun-07-2016

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Solecism is a stylistic device, which is defined as a grammatical mistake or intentional use of incorrect grammar in written language and speech. Hope this helps.

c3suitemc Feb-24-2016

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MIguk MoonPark Feb-17-2016

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Your apology is noted.


user106928 Nov-23-2015

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@WW Sorry, I assumed 'cacography' was just a made-up word - it's all Greek to me ;}

jayles the unwoven Nov-20-2015

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@jayles - OK, let's deal with cacography first. Yes, literally, in Greek, it means what you say, and that seems to be the standard dictionary definition, but it also seems to have taken on a new meaning, at least in linguistics:

"Cacography is deliberate comic misspelling, a type of humour similar to malapropism ... A common usage of cacography is to caricature illiterate speakers." Wikipedia.

Languages are creative like that, giving new meanings to adopted words, and so HS was perfectly correct.

You ask HS why he is resorting to Greek. But I could also ask why these (for me, at least) weird Anglish-inspired words have been noticeably creeping back into your own comments recently ("spider-dread" - come on, get real!). For me they have even less to do with natural English than Greek loan words, and I very much doubt that "normal people" have much time for them either.

English is a glorious mix - and I relish it. I have no objection to keeping things simple, but personally I hate this idea of language purism as much as I hate pedantry. Leave the language alone, it's just fine as it is!

I wouldn't have mentioned this if you hadn't brought the subject up :). And as for Stephen Fry, he has made one of the best commentaries on English I've ever seen:

Warsaw Will Nov-20-2015

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The whole thrust of the original question is misguided. Why do we need "a word" for "intentionally incorrect spellling". Surely the "word" is "intentionally incorrect spelling" if that is what one means. Why bury the meaning in some obscure word that few know or understand? Where does this mentality come from? We seem to do it all the time; for example "arachnophobia"? Who are we kidding? It's just very Stephen Fry and snobby. What's so wrong with "fear of spiders" - or even "spider-dread" or something that a normal person would understand. After all, isn't language for communicating with normal people? Why make it so esoteric?

jayles the unwoven Nov-17-2015

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@HS Why are you resorting to Greek? Why do you think that we must find and borrow a Greek/Latin word in order to make up a "proper" word for something? Why not just use an English expression like "willful misspelling" or something?
BTW "cacography" would just mean "bad writing" IIRC - 'kakos' means 'bad' and 'graphein' is to write cf 'cacophony' = bad sound

jayles the unwoven Nov-17-2015

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user106928 Nov-16-2015

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Orthographic Variation

Carol1 Nov-15-2015

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I know this was posted a while back, but for others who are looking for the answer it's 'Satire misspelling'.

LiterateGirl Jun-24-2015

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user106928 Feb-26-2015

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ChinaDollPublishing Feb-26-2015

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Potential subset: Satiric Misspelling

DrGroove_phd Jan-15-2015

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Many people use
(sp?) for (I don't know how to spell that word)

Julie Andrews sang, Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious (sp?), with great gusto.

So, why can't we use
(sp!) for (I am deliberately mispelling (sp!) this word


Is there actually a specific word that does mean deliberately misspelled?

I know that [sic] (usually [sic], sometimes (sic), but brackets are preferred)

is used to indicate that the word was misspelled in the source document

HungryByteman Dec-03-2014

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@Peter Reynolds - Thanks.

Warsaw Will Mar-11-2014

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user106928 Mar-11-2014

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I believe cacography has already been mentioned.

user106928 Mar-11-2014

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This is called 'cacography' or 'satiric misspelling'

K¥£!€ Mar-11-2014

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Warsaw Will - here's a screenshot - I find Google Books inter-country restrictions infuriating too - in my case they affect my access to 19th century material from Britain that is definitely out of copyright but Google in their ultra-cautiousness will only allow Americans (whose copyright laws are different) to view.

Peter Reynolds Feb-25-2014

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@Peter Reynolds - interesting - Google Books won't let me see that page - they say 'You have either reached a page that is unavailable or reached your viewing limit for this book'. I use Google Books a lot, and I've noticed before that availability seems to depend on country. I've been corresponding with a guy in the States about the first occurrences of 'have another think coming' and he gets full access to books that I only get in snippet view (I'm in Poland)

Warsaw Will Feb-25-2014

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@dlockner - I'm afraid wrong on both counts. A malapropism is neither intentional nor to do with spelling, but rather the unintentional use of a similar-sounding word instead of the one you meant, 'often with a comic effect' (Oxford Dictionaries Online), for example 'dance the flamingo' instead of 'dance the flamenco' (although that wouldn't actually be so bad, seeing flamenco is Spanish for flamingo).

Warsaw Will Feb-21-2014

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Malapropism is what it is called.

dlockner Feb-20-2014

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Well, 7 years after this thread was started...
I do believe there's finally a wiki entry for it:

joy May-27-2013

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There are often situations in current humorous literature where one would want (thus need?) the intensional use of a misspelling. The fact that it does not have a 'name' by this point in human evolution is staggering. I am limited to only 3 languages that I would consider myself capable enough to use the various tools of that language to 'search' for the missing word. I am not sure of the total number of languages current and viable to make a mathematical calculation on this missing 'piece' of written language. To what global body does one propose a universal addition to written language. Somebody must oversee this issue. While not universally qualified by being ignorant of many written languages, I do propose that I should be appointed to this position because of my dedication to such causes. I thank you for your vote and look forward to inventing any new words you might possibly need.

metaphysicalmojo Feb-14-2013

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Satiric misspelling

mitchell Feb-12-2013

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is there an alternate spelling for supercalifragilisticexpialidocious

yacky Sep-08-2012

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oy vay

oyvay Sep-08-2012

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Ve haf vays ov making u tok!

user106928 Jun-01-2012

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There iz no alternativ. Every possible reezon that could ever be offered for altering the spelling of wurds, stil exists in full force; and if a gradual reform should not be made in our language, it wil proov that we are less under the influence of reezon than our ancestors.
- Preface to A Collection of Essays and Fugitiv Writings, (1790)
This quote illustrates the reformed spelling advocated by Webster.

AnWulf Jun-01-2012

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I call it "being an idiot."
Some of the reasons people use this form of grammar and spelling is because of social networks, such as Twitter, which only allow a certain amount of characters.
Such words might include:
Dis- That
Dat- That
Da- The
Wuv- Love
Plz- Please
and so on.

What drives me ABSOLUTELY CRAZY is when people use words such as:
Lyke- Like
Iz- Is
Wuz- Was
Luff- Love
Pwease- Please
Shank- Thank
Meh- Me
and so on.

There is no reason not to use the correct form of these words. I believe that some people use this form of typing/speaking to look "cool." Ignorance is not attractive.

This is coming from a 13 year-old, so if you believe that all teenagers nowadays talk like this, that is not true…

P.S. I believe this form of writing is called "text talk."

Kella May-29-2012

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I agree, this thread is wonderful!

It has been my unfortunate experience that a word misused by mistaking it for another word is funnier than doing it on purpose. At least people laugh AT the person when they did it by mistake. When I do it on purpose for comic effect, my less silly friends are in confusion. Then they correct me, and I have to explain that I said it to be funny. I gotta get some smarter friends!

My mom worked for a guy once who always got words and phrases mixed up. He was a Real Estate agent, and one of my favorites was, "We have to put the money in an escarole account."

Designdd May-07-2012

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user1068773 May-05-2012

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I think what you are looking for is the word "SIC"

Google it

It is used in print when a word is intentionally spelled wrong or differently.
E.G. "The new bank across the street is so unique, it calls itself Modern Banc (SIC) "

Alex88forum Apr-22-2012

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@georgiapeanut: A word or phrase deliberately used incorrectly is called a mumpsimus. I know you posted long ago and may not read this but someone else may find the thread and wonder.

Stacie Mc Feb-23-2012

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I call it freespelling ... I spell it with two L's, the website spells it with one L:

AnWulf Jan-09-2012

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One possibility is cacography, which is deliberate misspelling for comic effect:-

user106928 Jan-08-2012

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I know there is a specific term for the use of a "misspelling" in place of the real word, such as Karpet instead of Carpet - one of my elementary English teachers told us - but I can't remember since it was YEARS ago - I went online to find out what the term is and I can't find out - I found this instead.

LookingforAnswer Jan-08-2012

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I was going to suggest "premalapropism" just 'cause its premeditated. It took a while to stop laughing.... I'm having a lamppost! Dang that is whey to phunny! Then I reconsidered and thought yeah weigh! Premalapropism was just perfect! Although I do love metaplasmus, it just doesn't completely describe the effect as intentional misuse persay more as to misspelling.

Riotre' Nov-20-2011

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@Hairy Scot ... Only when it makes sense! LOL ... Otherwise blame it on the French! (Always blame the French ... ).

AnWulf Nov-07-2011

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Isn't it called an Americanism?


user106928 Nov-07-2011

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L33tspeak. :3

R0cketor Nov-07-2011

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It's called a spelling error.

David5 Feb-24-2011

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Looks like Victoria Gonzalez's submission is the most accurate:

also -

"METAPLASMUS: A type of neologism in which misspelling a word creates a rhetorical effect. To emphasize dialect, one might spell dog as "dawg." To emphasize that something is unimportant, we might add -let or -ling at the end of the word, referring to a deity as a "godlet" or a prince as a "princeling." To emphasize the feminine nature of something normally considered masculine, try adding the suffix -ette to the end of the word, creating a smurfette or a corvette. To modernize something old, the writer might turn the Greek god Hermes into the Hermenator. Likewise, Austin Powers renders all things shagedelic. For more information, see the subdivisions of metaplasmus under schemes."

terezakis Feb-12-2011

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I dunno. To me a malapropism is a funny (in fact ridiculous) error based on an ignorant confusion of two similarly pronounced words. Certainly all of Mrs. Malaprop's errors were of that sort.

Still, malapropism or not, "I'm having a lamppost" is very funny. It obeys the standard rule of humor of preparing the hearer for one thing and then doing another.

Deliberate grammatical "errors" are all over the place. Advertisements are rife with them, as are the lectures of good teachers and the sermons of good preachers. They serve many uses--adding interest, inserting humor, waking the reader or listener up, making something more emphatic ("I ain't gonna do that,"), or even something routine like my "I dunno" that I started this post with--a non-confrontational way of saying I think you might be wrong.

I have looked around and cannot find a name for them, so I suggest we choose a name. First, they would fall under the category of Figures of Speech. Ideally the name would itself be a grammatical error. At a minimum I would say it should tell us immediately what is being done, so the word "gross" in the name suggests itself. Something like, "gross wordifucation?"

fmerton Dec-13-2010

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"I'm having a lamppost!" Actually, I think this is hilarious! I need to suggest this to my friend as a replacement for "cataract." Non-sequiturs have always been fun to me. I like nachos.

Porsche, I enjoy all your posts, by the way.

I couldn't find Victoria's suggested "metaplasmus" in my dictionary, so I hereby dub the metaplasmus to be any unidentified animal that looks kinda like a bird/duck/beaver/anteater. Or maybe that's a metaplatypus. I don't know.

Aaaaanyhoo, I think I'm gonna go with "intentional malapropism." Thanks to all who posted!

Ian4 Feb-09-2010

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Well, to be fair, I'd never heard of "malapropism" before. I should also allow that Wikipedia, which was my source, isn't necessarily accurate. I also usually look for alternative sources to see if they match up with Wikipedia. I somehow missed doing that this time.
So, according to Wikipedia, the words must sound similar with no concern over whether it's intended. Ian's example does sound similar, but that doesn't mean that all of he and his friend's replacements do. He didn't state that they all do.
Having corrected my previous failure to examine other sources, it seems that it's common that they sound similar, not required. It also does not seem to be required that it be intentional, especially considering the source of the word: "Mrs. Malaprop."

In short, my bad.

However, in light of a more in-depth search, I have to disagree on the arbitrary replacement. I would consider the above example of "I'm having a 'lamppost,'" rather than a "coronary," to be a malapropism as well.

bjhagerman Nov-17-2009

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Actually, Name, a malapropism is a ridiculous, absurd, or humorous, misuse of a word. It isn't necessarily similar in sound, but usually is. As such, I would say it is exactly what Ian has described, except, of course, for the intentional part. I'm not sure what you're describing. If the word replacement is purely arbitrary, say, “I think I’m having a lamppost.” instead of “I think I’m having a coronary.” then I guess it wouldn't be a malapropism. It certainly wouldn't be funny or ridiculous. It also wouldn't be what Ian was describing. It would just be a pointless non sequitur.

porsche Nov-17-2009

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The only problem with using "malapropism" is that they must sound similar. If all of Ian and his friend's words sound similar to the original, then the puzzle is solved. If, however, the word replacement is arbitrary, then that won't do at all.

bjhagerman Nov-16-2009

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To Ian, what about "malapropism"? It's not exactly what you are looking for, but it's close. It describes the word misuse exactly, but does not require the misuse to be intentional. Of course, you could just say, "intentional malapropism". I have a friend who does this both often and unintentionally. My favorite was his description of a philanthropist as a philanderer.

porsche Nov-15-2009

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I meant to say word

tony987654 Nov-14-2009

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METAPLASMUS I think this is the work you are all looking for :) Hope this helps

tony987654 Nov-14-2009

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Ian, I don't think there's a word for that, but I would call it a "misnym."

bjhagerman Nov-10-2009

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Hmmm. This is all very interesting to me, but I am looking for the word for intentional misuse of a word, not intentional misspelling. Can anyone help me? My example would be from when my friend and I would be surprised by something, one of us would say, "I think I'm having a cataract," instead of "I think I'm having a cardiac [arrest]" or "I think I'm having a coronary." We got started with our "mis-phrase" years ago, and I only now am wondering what this linguistic occurrence is.

Ian4 Nov-09-2009

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A friend sent me the link to this interesting site when I recently posed the same question myself. Having read the discussion and considered the various suggestions, how about "SPERV"? Being a diminutive of "spelling perversion"?

dan1 Oct-12-2009

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is the answer purposely?

badlilbaybee01 Sep-03-2009

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why the hell are yall leaving these responses when people actually need answers.?!
yall actually need lives

baddlilbaybee01 Sep-03-2009

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I think the point about words being unintentionally spelled has it's merit. I belong to one board that uses the Wiki way to collect information and there are a high amount of entries that spell government without the n. I had seen it so much I started to doubt myself and had to look it up in a dictionary.

I understand the points made about intentional mis-spellings. It seems a little unfortunate for those that spell incorrectly on a constant basis without even knowing it. I wonder what it says about our education system. I have a close relative that is not from this country and he spells better than most people I run into on the streets of this country on a daily basis.

68nighthawk Jan-30-2009

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Wow, reached you guys by accident, and I love this site!
Was looking for the etymology of the word "hi", but I'm not still happy with what I have found so far.

I began to laugh when I read Patricia's reaction and comment about geek 1 and 2 (we all know there's only one child with multiple, yet identical personalities).
"They" would be scratching their heads if they read the "post-coital" comment. pays to know a few words geek.

phyllis1 Jul-13-2008

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Jeez, Patricia ~ what is it your love-making that leads you to PITE afterward? Too muh verbalization? Or not enough? ;->

amazed Apr-17-2008

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Divergent, variant, invented, creative, phonetic, poetic, text abbreviations, archaic, phenomes, manipulated spellings, re-spellings--wow. Who knew there were so many appellations for deliberate misspellings?

So what do you call deliberate mispronunciation by word freaks? Hmm...maybe I should start another thread for that.

I had to chuckle over the "geek" kids' posts (whom I actually suspect to be only 1 kid), who don't seem to appreciate wordplay. I guess they aren't old enough to know that surfing PITE is a favorite post-coital activity for word-loving non-smokers!

Patricia1 Apr-12-2008

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I've heard it referred to as "divergent spelling," as someone else pointed out above.

Also, Slade did "Cum on, feel the noize," originally and Quiet Riot covered it on their Metal Health album. Not to mention umpteen others including Oasis of all people who did an awful cover of it about 10 years ago.

Heather3 Apr-09-2008

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Does it need a name? How about "suedoe" spelling. "Suedoe" is an intentional mispelling of "pseudo" which means false.

tzurinskas Apr-07-2008

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What is the word for intentionally incorrect spelling?

Invented spelling CHRAIN for *train
not always intentionally incorrect
Phonetic Spelling KUM for *come
Plausible Spelling ACOMODATE for *accommodate
Reformed Spelling: ACOMMODATE for *accommodate
Poetic spelling TYGR for *tiger
Variant spelling THRU for *through, THO, ENUF
Spelling Manipulation PHISH for *fish
Texting (abbreviation) GR8 for *great
Neologism (attempted) BYTE
Archaic Spellings: YE OLDE for *the old, AULD
Ye or þe is an approximation of the old AS letter "thorn"

A variant spelling is in the dictionary so it is not
"incorrect" In fact over half of the 300 respellings recommended by Pres. Roosevelt and the SSB were variant spellings. They were just not the most popular correct spelling.

The approval of the USGPO style guide was never an executive order. Congress refused to pay for documents containing spellings that were not in the dictionary. Most of them were in Funk & Wagnalls Dictionary so altho Roosevelt withdrew his support after the editorials in the Hearst controlled papers, I am not sure how much this altered the USGPO house style.

It did have a major impact on spelling reform and usage.
Most of the 30,000 teachers and educators who had agreed to use the more phonetic spellings reneged.

There are about 2000 variant spellings in English dictionaries. thru is a variant spelling of through. It is not considered to be the preferred spelling altho it probably should be since it is shorter, more phonemic, and easier to spell. (see

*lite for light, popular in beer commercials, was a variant spelling before 1755 and it is probably still a recognized variant in some dictionaries.

It is not used that much outside of the ad world and SMS texting. You can check the web freqeuncy at

More on spelling in general at

Steve1 Apr-07-2008

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Javid1 Nov-08-2007

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actually im also trying to find misspelled words for an advertisment project..
and i agree you guys must have no life.
espacially joe.
get laid

geek_two Nov-05-2007

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When kids misspell words it is called an invented spelling.

When freespellers intentionally misspel a word it is also called an invented spelling.

What is interesting about the invented spellings at is that the freespellings are almost always orthographically plausible spellings. They do not deviate that much from the accepted norms.

There are usually 5 ways to spell most English words. In fact there are usually 4 ways to spell most phonemes. Someone reading these plausible misspellings would have no difficulty deciphering them.

Such freespelling was the norm before 1755 when the Johnson dicitonary spelling began to be considered the one way that a word should be spelled.

These high frequency spellings account for 85% of the spellings in dictionary. To see the most likely way that a phoneme is spelled, go to www.foolswisdom.ocm/~sbett/spelling-patterns.htm

It takes only 3-7 months for a child to learn how to spell in most languages. It probably doesn't take much longer to learn how to spell the five most common ways in English.

What is difficult is to remember which of the plausible spellings is "correct". Which spelling matches the lexical spelling.

stbett Jun-02-2007

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At the risk of running off on a tangent, I believe that "Cum On Feel The Noize" was by Quiet Riot.

Joe4 May-22-2006

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Colloquialisms...I do not know if this would be entirely applicable to this; however, it is pretty close. It may not be applied specifically to the spelling, but more the word itself. Good try? Perhaps..

Kurt1 Apr-23-2006

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It's called divergent spelling. At least the wikis call it that. =)


esper Mar-28-2006

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I think unique spellings have less to do with fads or ignorance than the fact that they 1) draw attention to your product, 2) create a memorable brand name, 3) can be protected as a trademark, and 4) can create instant product recognition (Kleenex must have something to do with being clean).

email Mar-23-2006

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I propose: "Adsing".
More often people use the term "ads" to refer to the [actual spelling] word: advertisement.

Unggit_Tjitradjaja Mar-23-2006

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I've been doing some recent research into this exact phenomenonenonena !

I've been looking through old volumes of "Dialect Notes" from the early 1920's, specifically articles about spelling variations in advertising written by Dr. Louise Pound. In her paper "Spelling-Manipulation and Present Day Advertising" (1923) she makes note that "manipulated spelling", as she calls it, has been around for some time, but had really taken off in the few years preceding the published article.

In the paper, she also calls it "re-spellings" or "spelling-perversions", but there doesn't seem to be a single term at that time for this orthographic effect in advertising.

One potential cause for the introduction of the technique in advertising she attributes to the influence of the spelling reform movement which was dying in popularity around this time.

The movement has a fascinating history in itself. The main justifications for the movement were twofold. One, it was believed that a simplified orthography would help children learn to read and write much quicker as they wouldn't be confronted with the crazy exceptions in the English language. And two, it would greatly reduce printing costs as there would be fewer type to set as the words would be shorter. Noah Webster and Benjamin Franklin were early supporters of spelling reform, and the movement reached it's zenith in 1906. Andrew Carnegie had donated $280,000 towards the cause, the National Education Association had adopted a revised list of 300 simplified words to slowly integrate into the education system and president Roosevelt felt so strongly about the system that he issued an order in Sept 1906 that the government printing office (then the largest printer in the world) start to use the system in all its publications. This last measure was too extreme for Congress which put pressue on Roosevelt to overturn the decision which he eventually did in Dec 1906. It was all downhill from there for any institutionalized form of spelling reform.

Under a simplified spelling scheme, words like "kissed" would become "kist", "surprise" would become "surprize" with a Z, "night" would be "nite" etc... These alternate spellings were being published all over the place in the early 1900's and advertisers were taking full advantage of these unique and memorable new orthographic forms. "Soft Sole Kosy Toes slippers", "Locktite Tobacco Pouch", "Electric Auto-Lite Company", "Nu-tone tonic", "Holsum Bread", "Az-Nu enameling hoods", "Klenzo tooth paste".... the list is endless.

Dr. Pound has writen numerous articles on word-coinage most of which were published in early Dialect Notes volumes. I encourage everyone interested in this topic to have a look at them. One of them entitlted "The Kraze for K" is my favorite... If anyone is interested, i will be writing a few blog entries about Dr. Pound's work in this area, and also on the fascinating history of the spelling reform movement and it's effects on advertising on my blog (

dave Mar-20-2006

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actually, phonetic spelling is slightly different. phonetic spelling is when you spell things to make the proper pronunciation more obvious. things like spelling "choir" as "quire" and the like. i think a distinction is worth making between that and the use by advertisers of alternate spellings, though obviously the two could and probably do overlap a lot of the time.

Kevin_Hall Mar-15-2006

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John Peel (the late DJ and music god) called it Phonetic Spelling - so I concur with Dyske. It's been around for years. JP used the term to describe the UK 70's pop band Slade, who had a habit of using phonetic spelling in their song titles e.g. "Cum on, feel the noize"

Keith1 Mar-14-2006

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Hi porsche,

But if you do a search on Google for "nite" or "lite", you will see that there are many company and product names that use those spellings. They have to be intentional, since they go through expensive trademark process.

I think it is because there are so many intentional usages that many people started assuming them as correct.

In fact, I've seen some products for kids that use "nite" and "lite". If you grow up seeing them in this manner, you would have to assume that they are correct. So, I would think it's the other way around; it started with intentional usage and spread to unintentional usage.

Dyske Mar-13-2006

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Oh, and Dyske, I probably wouldn't count "nite" or "lite", because, sadly, most people who use them don't do so intentionally.

porsche Mar-13-2006

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How about something like "zpelling" or "reezolving" or "signiphying" or something? You know, take the verb "to spell" or one of its synonyms and apply the very action to the word itself: if you zpell the word "spell" you get "zpell".

porsche Mar-13-2006

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