A Dip By Any Other Spelling

I am tip-tap-typing something-or-other — an email, perhaps — and some helpful program-or-other flags “hummous” as a misspelling, using that squiggly red underlining.

I stare at the screen and scratch my head. I dunno. Maybe it’s wrong, but it looks right to me. Well, except for that red squiggliness.

Unsure, I frown at the screen. And then I do what I always do these days: I check with Google, entering my spelling — hummous — in the search bar.

An eternity later — 0.53 seconds, if you can believe it — I have access to about 145,000 search results. Yeah, that should do it.

But then I see what precedes the first 4 or 5 of my 145,000 results:

Did you mean: hummus

I’m baffled because, immediately below this badly punctuated question (if question it truly be), the first 4 search results use “hummous,” not “hummus.”

Print screen of Google search results for "hummous"

What? Can’t Google see what I see?

Moreover, these sites are not just any old (ahem) blogger: They are authorities as diverse as someone who is, apparently, a genius in the kitchen, Epicurious.com, the BBC, and Jamie Oliver. Indeed, the only result shown that doesn’t use my spelling is Wikipedia.

I wonder how often people blindly accept Google’s judgement in spelling. And I wonder even more when Google decided it was OK to be a little snippy with honest enquirers using totally totally legitimate spellings.

Did you mean: hummus

No, no I did not, dagnab it.

But my annoyance is tempered by my access to recourse. I can’t change Google’s search algorithm or user interface, but I can cause some trouble of my own.

I’m a registered and highly occasional Wikipedia editor, but I think I might have found a new mission that I can really get behind: Casting aspersions on legitimate spelling choices. I just have to figure out how to insert snippy little notes of my own.

Did you mean: hummous

Don’t get mad, get even.


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8 Responses to A Dip By Any Other Spelling

  1. Tom Watson says:

    Hummm…go for it, Isabel!

  2. If I had greater leisure, I would edit for Wikipedia, a venue of immense worth that is, nonetheless, in need of eyes like yours fueled by a passion like yours.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Laurna – Yes, it’s tempting sometimes but I fear it would be a Sisyphean task. I have read that there is one editor who does nothing but correct “comprised of,” so there’s scope for any number of linguistic obsessions.

  3. ian Hepher says:

    Well, that’s hummerous…humoros…humourous…

    These spellings are numerous…

  4. Jim Taylor says:

    I read your blast at spelling inconsistencies, and then went to the grocery store. An entire cabinet filled with plastic buckets of, you guessed it, hummus. I was tempted to use a felt pen to correct them, but chickened out. I might have had to buy all the packages I had disfigured….
    Jim T

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Jim – Maybe we need little spelling-disobedience stickers to paste onto items: Did you mean “hummous”? Did you mean “centre”? I’m sure we could get that authorized, eh?

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