Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Word of the Day -- Cacography

The next time, you find a word misspelled on our blog, you will be able to say, "that's some bad cacography..." because it means bad spelling or bad handwriting, but other than signatures, who is really writing much down these days?  That's an interesting question to me, actually. How many of you actually write down your grocery list, or your to do list? Let me know what it is that you are actually writing down these days.  I think the most writing I do is when I'm taking notes from phone calls I've missed. 

In its earliest use in the 16th century, "cacography" meant not "incorrect spelling" but "a bad system of spelling." Today people worry about misspelling words, but back then there was little need for such concern. English spelling was far from standardized; people spelled words any way that made sense to them. Not every one was happy with such laxity, however, and over the coming centuries spelling reformers pressed for regularization. Some reformers thought spelling should reflect the etymological background of words; others thought words should be spelled the way they sound. And of course, everyone believed his or her own way of spelling was the best. Our present inconsistent system was arrived at over time. Today "cacography" usually suggests deviation from the established standards.

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