Every time I write the word ‘diarrhoea’ I seem to mis-spell it! And I bet I’m not the only one. In fact anyone reading this may already be questioning my spelling of diarrhea . At one time I would upbraid myself for not remembering, after all I seem to make the same mistake repeatedly and invariably have to check my spelling.
Eventually I came to the realization there is another explanation for my apparent stupidity; it’s all about culture! In particular, as an Englishman living in Canada, it’s about the difference between English (that which I occasionally still refer to as ‘proper’ English, a foolish notion I readily concede) and American English, which of course refers to English as she is written, spelt (you may prefer, ‘spelled’) and spoken in the USA. Because I live in Canada and do not always select or in deed even have the choice to opt for ‘English English’, any spell check is likely to detect spelling differences and thus leave me with a kind of linguistic schizophrenia. That’s my excuse anyway and I’m sticking with it.
To what extent it is really important can depend upon numerous factors probably too obvious to enumerate here, but I’m thinking of one’s CV/resume for example where one would be wise to use correct spelling; and by correct of course one means that which is accepted as such in the country/culture in which one lives or at least where one is submitting a CV/resume.
Interestingly when it comes down to reading and understanding what one is trying to communicate apparently we don’t actually need to spell ‘correctly’ at all. As long as the words we commit to paper begin and end with the correct letters our brains can normally decipher (‘scramble’) and recognize words at a glance.
I remember the response I once heard from a teacher many years ago encouraging his pupils to write. A pupil put-up his hand lamenting, “Sir, but I can’t spell!”. To which the teacher wisely replied that he should not be overly concerned about spelling but rather the all important purpose of language, be it written or spoken, namely, communication . And I’m inclined to agree, though not fanatically. Does it really matter when I’m texting that I use ‘natural’ abbreviations; ‘u’ instead of ‘You’ or “b” rather than ‘be’ for example. The recipient gets my meaning and one presumes may even process the message a fraction of a second more quickly.
It’s nice to be precise and preferably accurate though I suspect none of us are free from the odd mis-use of words. However, it is a little irritating when a reviewer criticizes ones writing on grounds of bad spelling when in fact they haven’t realized one is writing in English rather US English.
All this and the correct spelling of diarrhea led me to Google ‘The Oxford English Dictionary’; the result is helpful, not to say, fascinating.