Editorial: The state of spelling in the age of Google

Published 10:36 pm Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Gud spellen is eazier than ever, thanks to computers and spellcheck. And then there are the finalists of the National Spelling Bee, who took the stage last Thursday night to tackle some of the most obscure words in the English language the old-fashioned way — with a lexicographer’s understanding of the rules and brute memorization.

For most of us, spellcheck and autocorrect are enough. For many, texting has created a completely different approach to spelling, one in which a concise approximation is good enough.

That’s certainly not the case for the whiz kids of the bee. Their mastery of such words as hellebore, rya and hoomalimali simply intimidates the rest of us.

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This was demonstrated on the opening day of the spelling bee, when the algorithm masters of Google released an intriguing search map: the most searched-for spelling from each of the 50 states, none of which would faze a bee master.

Minnesotans, according to Google, turn to the search engine most often for “beautiful.” We can’t explain why that word baffles the residents of the North Star state, but Minnesotans are not unique — “beautiful” also led California, New York, Ohio and Kentucky.

Some other multi-state leaders would figure to be difficult: “pneumonia” (Alabama, Washington, Michigan, Maine); “chihuahua” (South Carolina, Arkansas); and “hallelujah” (Delaware, Indiana). Some states’ top word might come as a “surprise” (Montana), but we “appreciate” (Illinois) that for some “people” (Hawaii) spelling comes with a “special” (Maryland) “sense” (Oregon) of “chaos” (Tennessee). There’s no need to be “suspicious” (Nebraska); we are not a “liar” (Rhode Island).

Looking around Minnesota’s neighbors, Iowa’s most searched for spelling was “vacuum” and North Dakota’s was “dilemma”; both, we will concede, are tricky words. Less so, we dare say, is South Dakota’s: “college”.

And then there’s Wisconsin. According to Google, the most baffling word for folks in the Badger State to spell is … “Wisconsin.”

Now that’s beautiful.

— Mankato Free Press, June 4

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