Thursday 4 August 2016

Common Spelling Mistakes: The Cockroaches of Language

Some misspellings cling tenaciously to life no matter how hard you try to stamp them out. Here are three words to keep an eye on.

Diner signs to the contrary, there is no Q in barbecue.


The abbreviation BBQ has spawned the misguided yet persistent barbeque. While there’s a chance you might get away with the questionable q on a truck-stop sign or a fast food menu, you’d best avoid it in any sort of serious writing. As Bill Bryson put it in Troublesome Words, “Any journalist or other formal user of English who believes that the word is spelled barbeque or, worse still, bar-b-q is not ready for unsupervised employment.”

  • From what I gather, Australia is awash in barbecued shrimp.


Sacrilegious describes the disrespecting of something sacred. Maybe because of the connection between sacredness and religion, a lot of people misspell this word as sacreligious. However, its root is sacrilege, not religious. In spelling, as in life, one shouldn't insert religion where it’s not wanted.

  • Hilda’s sacrilegious ditties and shocking Bible marginalia got her booted out of the nunnery.


Wring is often found missing its w in expressions like “through the wringer” and “wring (its) neck.” It has nothing to do with circles or bells; the action is of twisting or squeezing, as in wringing out a wet towel. Before dryers became common, many washing machines were topped with a wringer—a handle connected to a pair of rolling cylinders through which wet clothes were squeezed before being hung on the line.

Putting wet laundry through the wringer

As for wringing necks, I’m told you can kill a chicken by giving its head a sharp twist, though I’ve never had the misfortune to try the method myself.

  • Fifi fearlessly tackled the intruders while the rest of us stood around wringing our hands.

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