What America’s most misspelled words say about us

May 31, 2017 • 3 minute read

Spelling is hard. It is. I’ll be honest. As an editorial professional for 25 years, I still reflexively misspell words including certain (“certian”), thanks (“thnaks”), and my own name (“Strve”). OK, these are mostly keyboard dexterity issues, but I still often find myself Googling spellings just to be ceritian before I send sensitive emails.

In honor of National Spelling Bee Week, Google mapped the most frequent “how to spell” searches by state, and the results are revealing, scary and hilarious.

Beautiful is not a particularly hard word to spell, but it does give a kind of diverse-demographic reassurance that this concept was top of mind for the folks in New York, Kentucky, Ohio, Minnesota and California alike. Pneumonia is not quite as easy to spell. The chilly climate in Washington, Michigan and Maine may account for the ranking, but what’s the excuse in Alabama?

I take a measure of pleasure in the fact the both the blue bloods of Connecticut (which I just misspelled, and corrected, by the way—thanks, little red squiggly line), and the coal miners of West Virginia are most concerned with the correct spelling of supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. Mary Poppins would be proud. That the citizens of both Delaware and Indiana want to know how to spell hallelujah (again, not the easiest, and a word with several accepted variants) speaks to their praiseworthy temperament.

Now to observation and speculation on the real headscratchers:

I would assume the people of Pennsylvania would know how to spell sauerkraut and the people of Hawaii would know how to spell people.

South Dakotans, if you need to know how to spell college, you have reached the end of your quest. North Dakotans, if you are facing a dilemma, don’t move to South Dakota.

Both Arkansas and South Carolina most want to know how to spell Chihuahua, more likely in search of lovable tiny dogs than interest in Mexican geography, but I’m utterly puzzled by the predominant interest in Louisiana on the spelling of giraffe.

Twelve is the top search in New Jersey, possibly in connection to the average prison sentence of elected officials there.

New England presents an inscrutable mix. Vermont: Europe (where to move?). New Hampshire: diarrhea (bad seafood?). Massachusetts: license (if you have to ask, you are not ready to drive). And liar (who has so deceived you, Rhode Island?).

But the cheeseheads take the cake. For the record, the correct spelling of your home state is Wisconsin. That’s with a W.

Steven Andersen is Vice President for Content and Client Strategy at Infinite Global. He is based in New York, but originally from Minnesota, both of which are “beautiful.”

Image from Google Trends, via Twitter