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Pedant's law

If this isn't a previously well-described law then it should be.

Whenever thou laughest at another's spelling or grammar, the spelling thou usest in doing so shall be found to be equally dodgy.

Take this, from the Independent, for example:

Thirteen out of 20 world class university websites analysed by Australian spelling software were found to have miss-spellings of the word ‘university’.


Despite representing one of the UK’s oldest and best educational institutions Cambridge’s website was found to have miss-spelled the word ‘service’ in one of its navigational bars.

Miss Spelling must be very upset.


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Reader Comments (22)

I think it's known as Muphry's Law:
Jul 7, 2009 at 4:16 PM | Unregistered CommenterKMcC
When my husband was teaching, many moons ago, he wrote on a boy's report- "His spelling is appaling"- but luckily the headmaster noticed before it was sent out.
Jul 7, 2009 at 7:55 PM | Unregistered Commentermontysmum
Most bloggers can't spell "lose", don't know the difference between "affect" and "effect" and think that the possessive its, hers, yours and theirs have apostrophes, although at least realising that hi's is clearly absurd.
Jul 7, 2009 at 11:00 PM | Unregistered Commenterjonathan
To be that little bit extra pedantic may I question the Frenchified spelling of realizing in the previous post.

Whilst I must concede that the use of the letter s rather than z is common in the UK and I am English myself, I still prefer the 'correct' spelling with a z.

Of course I would never use the American spelling analyze rather than analyse and please be careful not to use the spelling analize; I believe that is what bankers have done to the economy.

P.S. How does one spell Frenchified?

PPS Is P.S. a bit too pedantic?
Jul 8, 2009 at 12:33 AM | Unregistered CommenterWansbeck
Totally OT -- but do you think that "yeah_whatever" on the BBC message boards is playing a double game and is really a skeptic but posing as a pratt on the forum ?
Jul 8, 2009 at 2:37 AM | Unregistered CommenterJack Hughes

I spend my days working with scientific texts, most of which use American spellings, so -ize.
Jul 8, 2009 at 6:09 AM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

That thought has occurred to me too.
Jul 8, 2009 at 6:10 AM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

Quite so. Somehow I've always had a resistance to spelling it with a "z"; "realise" seems altogether more gentle, so that's my preference despite authority relegating it to the "also" category.
Jul 8, 2009 at 7:45 AM | Unregistered Commenterjonathan
I'm not saying that I don't prefer -ise though.
Jul 8, 2009 at 8:33 AM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill
"Oldest" and "best" are superlatives so surely "one of the oldest and best" is wrong? "One of the older and better" would be correct, wouldn't it?

I'll moan about "we'll do as best as we can" while I'm at it.
Jul 8, 2009 at 10:37 AM | Unregistered CommenterRich
Indeed, Muphry's Law
Jul 8, 2009 at 12:45 PM | Unregistered CommenterTim Worstall

How about "least worst"? Excruciating.
Jul 8, 2009 at 1:35 PM | Unregistered Commenterjonathan
This pedant thing is going too far:
Jul 8, 2009 at 6:42 PM | Unregistered CommenterWansbeck
Wansbeck: doesn't '-ize' or '-ise' depend on whether you treat the origin as Greek or Old French? I think the French were here more recently...

I'm generally in favour of anything that differentiates us from the Americans anyway, although I have to admit that I enjoyed Bill Bryson's 'Mother Tongue'.

BTW, I think the Independent is only reporting what Private Eye has been posting clips about for years. Almost every issue contains a council or education advertisement with a spelling gaffe, usually in the word where you would want it least (so Murphy is also responsible). The Grauniad also still manages to live up to its name, spell-checkers notwithstanding!
Jul 8, 2009 at 11:29 PM | Unregistered CommenterJames P
James P, here's a good explanation of the s or z thing:

I believe that true pedants should use z whenever possible but perhaps I'm showing my age although I must make it clear that I was not around during Webster's simplification.
Jul 9, 2009 at 12:08 AM | Unregistered CommenterWansbeck
Thank you, Wansbeck. I do remember an episode of 'Morse' in which the detective lectured poor Lewis on the subject. Morse, being an Oxford man, favoured 'ize', and it rather set me against it, I'm afraid. Especially when my daughter went to Cambridge.. :-)
Jul 9, 2009 at 6:10 PM | Unregistered CommenterJames P
Goot Got mun! Dun ya now spellin shud follah prunanciation?
Jul 10, 2009 at 5:39 AM | Unregistered Commenterrephelan
Of course, on the other hand, the Chinese system of writing allowed wide divergences in pronunciation yet allowed any literate person to read whatever the speaker of another dialect to wrote. Even Japanese speakers can read Chinese.
Jul 10, 2009 at 5:43 AM | Unregistered Commenterrephelan
I hope you real eyes it should be, "Thirteen out of twenty world class ..."
Jul 10, 2009 at 7:29 AM | Unregistered CommenterJohn
and possibly even "13 out of 20 world-class"....
Jul 10, 2009 at 10:31 AM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill
Surely this is generally known as Skitt's Law - any criticism of spelling or grammar will inevitably contain at least one error.
Jul 11, 2009 at 9:05 PM | Unregistered CommenterCurmudgeon
Wow. It turns out that there are lots of names for it...

I particularly liked "Hartman's Law of Prescriptivist Retaliation", which has a certain ring to it.
Jul 11, 2009 at 9:45 PM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

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