Sunday, June 21, 2015

Why We Get Words Wrong, Part 3: Short Cuts

For this third of a ten-part series on why we get words wrong, think about how you actually speak when you are at your leisure. Do you really pronounce the t's in "We want to go to lunch" or the g's in "We're going swimming"? I know some people who do, but most of us do not. I admit that I don't, although I try harder when speaking in front of a professional group. At my casual best, I probably say, "We wannagoda lunch" and "We're goin swimmin." Linguists have a theory called grammaticalization to account for how some words morph over time as we look for short cuts when speaking.

Of course, we would claim that such pronunciation does not excuse us from misspelling want to, go to, going, and swimming. But this does account for spelling climactic as climaticcould've as could of, formerly as formally, ordinance as ordnance, and supposedly as supposively.

For the third time, I'll say we will get these words right by modeling from what we read, not what we hear.