August 25th, 2006

It’s been said before, but I’ll say it again: Microsoft Word is a monster. No, I’m not here to complain about our formatting fights, or our lovers’ tiffs over grammar (although, for such a shady bastard, it sure can tell its “that”s from its “which”s), I’m talking about its attack on language itself, on the very existence of words.

For better or for worse, Word has become a universal standard, and as far as common knowledge is concerned, what it says goes. Therefore, when everybody’s best friend/worst enemy Mr. Spell Check refuses to recognize a word, it becomes, in a very real way, not a word. Of course, some contemporary language just hasn’t been officially inducted into the dictionary yet. Others things… well, there can be serious culture politics involved.

Noche was kind enough to start off the list the other day with “intersexual”.  After working on a review of Avatars of Story, I’d like to add to that list both “ludology” and “narratology”. What missing word makes you shake your head in shame?

Tags: Blog

5 Responses to “The Politics of Spelling”

  1. Carl Says:

    Here’s something fun to do if, like me, you use a Mac and do most of your typing in programs that support the systemwide spell checking utility (ie. anything but Word). Open your Home folder, then Library -> Spelling. Take the “en” file and drop it onto TextEdit, or your favorite text editor. (The file may be broken up by a nonsense character that you have to find and replace.) The contents of this file are all the words you added to your spell checker. Here’re mine:

    hashbrowns
    y’all
    opposingly
    agora
    upwelling
    Bashô
    Heraclitus
    Picasso
    auteur
    Michelangelo
    unsuppressible
    inconsolate
    waka
    tanka
    renga
    haikai
    Shintô
    Nintendo
    Nietzsche
    karaoké
    Toyama
    flyswatter
    Dionysian
    moshing
    folktale
    unwinnable
    disconfirming
    priceyness
    Hypoxia
    Okinawa
    eyepatch
    layabouts
    pm
    self-justificatory
    enjambed
    Fukuoka
    theodicy
    theodicies
    co-owner
    Filipina
    quesadillas
    Yum
    koans
    samsara
    abiogenesis
    googly
    Leibniz
    Schopenhauer
    Bodhidharma
    Raphael’s
    autodidactic
    Furman
    Peripatetics
    Platonists
    Platonist
    breakages
    undichotomized
    undergirds
    Blyth
    Masaoka
    hokku
    Meiji
    hiraku
    kireji
    kigo
    Shinkokinshû
    Blyth’s
    kakekotoba
    haniwa
    desperations
    nihilo
    Takaoka
    elites
    Tetris
    ain’t
    justificatory
    Rawls
    Locke
    Kant
    ataraxia
    Fukuyama
    Jainists
    archrival
    celadon
    geomancy
    bollocks
    theremin
    romanized
    unresolvable
    Warhol
    Duchamp
    Manichean
    gravitas
    Anathematic
    peacenik
    Spinoza
    Hume
    Hume’s
    Heidegger

  2. Noche Kandora Says:

    … there can be serious culture politics involved.

    Yep, I think so, too. I could just envision old conservative types convening in committee to discuss which terms will get sanctioned and which ones won’t.

    Also, sometimes authors make up their own words. I always get a kick out of that. Sometimes they’re lame or clunky, but sometimes they’re good ones. The coolest improvised word that I’ve come across thus far is “technophilosophy.” I know Sherry Turkle has used it before, although I don’t know if she actually coined it. I do know that I love using it. :)

  3. Bonnie Says:

    After some recent typing, I’d also like to add “transgendered” to the list.

    Wow, Carl, that is a funky list. I love it when singular forms are okay with Word, but not plurals. Like quesadilla, apparently. One: fine. Two: not cool. Also, there’s something kind of wonderful about Kant and Tetris, side by side.

  4. FerrousBuller Says:

    I think Word’s spellchecker is the wrong target for your ire, since its “dictionary” is rather deliberately limited. A better choice is, say, Merriam-Webster, the true arbiters of the English language. :-)

  5. Bonnie Says:

    Except that most people, on a day to day basis, don’t use the dictionary, or, say, the OED (which dorks like me would consider the real decider). They just type this into spell check.

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