Here’s why the misspelling of “whoa” bothers me so much more than other misspellings:

I understand that language evolves. Words spelled one way in the past are spelled another way today. Words spelled one way today will be spelled another way in the future. Language, spelling, grammar, syntax, and other linguistic aspects change over time, and that’s fine. But that doesn’t mean we should simply ignore the etymology of a word because some people misspell or misuse it. And, of course, we don’t. For instance, few people argue that we should accept “rediculous” as a valid spelling, despite it being a very common misspelling.

This argument changes, however, when we get to certain words. “Whoa” is the one I notice the most; in fact, when it comes to “whoa”, this argument gets thrown out the window completely. Then stabbed with the broken shards of glass for good measure. This particularly bothers me because its most common misspelling – “woah” – doesn’t make any sense. When people misspell “ridiculous” with an “e”, the word is still phonetically correct. The same basic idea goes for difficult-to-spell words. But with “woah”, the logical basis behind the misspelling simply isn’t there. It’s just bad spelling; the phonetics of the word change entirely: “woah” has two syllables and rhymes with Noah. But point out this misspelling and everyone loses their shit. Suddenly we’re suppose to accept it because it’s so common.

That sounds rediculous to me.

4 Responses

  1. What I hate is all the young people who spell aw, with awe. Awe is a particular word that has a particular meaning and that is not what is meant when you are looking at something cute or hearing something sentimental and go awwwww… Good to rant about these things! lol

  2. Is the ‘h’ silent?

  3. I’ve been startled and yelled it as a 1.5 syllable word. It’s closer to “Woah” in the Southern U.S. Besides, I don’t see “whoa” coming up in academic publications very often, and that spelling doesn’t alter the meaning.

    Here’s the problem with this kind of complaint:

    You need to make damn sure the rest of your post is perfect. And while I can’t complain about a sentence like this, and “etymology” is used correctly (though it’s not the word I would have chosen), and there’s nothing technically incorrect with saying “here’s why….” followed by a colon and a sentence that doesn’t explain why, you are laying down a challenge to pedants everywhere.

    Feeling “hate” about Dr. Oz makes sense; feeling it over a common misspelling does not.

    Grammar and spelling gripes are such an overused debate tactic, that people are conditioned to be violently uninterested in ever hearing them. You’re right, they find them insufferable. I avoid them because they undermine my more important points.

  4. There’s a separation between the colon and the paragraph that follows it; it’s the paragraph that explains why I have such a problem with this misspelling, not any single sentence.

    Furthermore, “woah” isn’t a common misspelling. It’s a rarely used misspelling that shows up a lot on reddit because of some shitty stoner sub, but beyond that, it is virtually never used in publications such as newspapers, books, and magazines. Indeed, “woah” is largely unique to the period that coincide with the explosion of Internet use that was dominated by browsers like IE that didn’t have native spell checkers until recently. RIP woah, 2001-2009.

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