Oh, English. Why you so crazy?
Well, largely because a lot of English isn’t English. A lot of it has been nicked from pretty much any other language it comes across. There are no standard spelling rules. And some words come from people’s names (eponyms) — for example, diesel is from Rudolf Diesel, who invented the diesel engine. What chance have we got?
For a lot of these hard words, French is the language of origin. French spelling, with a lot of letters that aren’t pronounced, and profligate vowels, really trips us up badly. Since we’re not, you know, French.
I’m lucky in that I am a very ‘visual’ speller … I spell easily, and can tell by looking at the shape of a word if it’s misspelt. But the following words trip me up, almost always. And I’m sure I’m not alone!
Without further ado, here are my all time most hated least favourite words, that trip me up frequently. American spelling is in brackets.
Top 25 Nastiest Spelling Words
- aneurysm (aneurism)
- diarrhoea (diarrhea)
- haemorrhage (hemorrhage)
- hors d’oeuvre
- jeopardise (jeopardize)
- manoeuvre (maneuver)
- plagiarise (plagiarize)
So anything I have to write about reminiscing idiosyncratic minuscule dachshunds with variegated fluorescent fuchsia hors d’oeuvres is just a nightmare, I tell you!
- Try to memorise them. Write the word down, repeatedly. Say it over and over in your head. Spell it out loud. Try for one word every day or two.
- Come up with a memorably silly or weird sentence as a mnemonic (another hard word!). As a teenager I remembered to spell unfortunately as ‘un-for-tuna-tely’, imagining a tuna fish watching TV (I bet it would love Jeremy Wade’s shows). And I still use this mnemonic today.
- Try pronouncing the word as written, which reminds you of its spelling — so dachshund could become ‘da-ch-sh-und’.