In California, Idaho, Illinois and Connecticut, they have trouble with “desert.” In Michigan, South Dakota and Oklahoma, they struggle with “gray.” And in Arizona and Vermont, they can’t handle “diarrhea.” (Spelling it, that is — or, at least, one hopes.)
As young wordsmiths battle it out in the Scripps National Spelling Bee at National Harbor outside Washington, Google Trends released a map that shows “America’s Top Spelling Mistakes.” Generated by Google’s analysis of “top searched ‘how to spell’ by state,” the map spotlighted the nation’s inability to spell words like “tongue” and “vacuum” while a 6-year-old at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center almost, but not quite, correctly spelled “bacteriolytic” (that’s relating to or causing the destruction or dissolution of bacterial cells).
Locally, D.C. denizens sought help to spell a fancy breakfast pastry that perhaps serves as a symbol of inside-the-Beltway isolation from real Americans’ concerns: “croissant.” And it turned out Maryland and Virginia can’t quite comprehend “cancelled.”
Adding to the confusion over “cancelled” is this entry from The Washington Post stylebook: “Use one l, not two, in conjugating the verb cancel — canceled, not cancelled; canceling, not cancelling. (Two l’s, however, in cancellation.)” In other words: We’re spelling canceled wrong, and we don’t care.
The map turned up some other anomalies. Utah, not known for its Irish population, had questions about “leprechaun.” Wyoming residents, known for being “ornery,” couldn’t spell it. Alaskans needed guidance on “Hawaii”; Hawaiians, perhaps distracted by leis, needed guidance on “boutineer” (or “boutonniere,” as Webster’s dictionary spells it). And Massachusetts couldn’t quite handle “Massachusetts.”
Some states, it appears, made year-over-year progress. In 2015, for example, New York and New Jersey struggled to spell “Hanukkah.” That problem apparently behind them, they now are learning about “beautiful” and “February.”