© 2024 WXPR
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Misspellings, Mapped: America The How-Do-You-Spell-Beautiful?

According to Google, spellers in the Northeast can be embarrassing (New Hampshire) and baffling (New Jersey).
Google Trends via Twitter
Screenshot by NPR
According to Google, spellers in the Northeast can be embarrassing (New Hampshire) and baffling (New Jersey).

It's National Spelling Bee week! That wonderful time of year when we honor young Americans' spelling prowess and admire their chutzpah for memorization and sussing out the "dreaded schwa."

Lest we get too highfalutin (boastful, bombastic, vainglorious), Google has published a map that demonstrates the opposite of spelling prowess (ineptitude, lack of skill, incompetence).

It has mapped, state by state, the words that people most often Google "how to spell."

(To see the full-size map, click the tweet below, then click on the map.)

Many of us Google words to see how they're spelled. And perhaps we don't even type "how to spell" because we trust that Google will nudge us in the right direction even if we, ignoramuses that we are, typed "highfaluting."

Thank goodness no one sees which words we perennially misspell, because it turns out that this information can be a little embarrassing, even when aggregated by state.

We're looking at you, New Hampshire. The most-searched spelling in the Granite State is "diarrhea." And though that is not an easy word to spell and may be trickier than "disease," which is tops in Utah, or "patient," which gets Googled in Oklahoma, no one wants to be from the diarrhea state.

Then there is South Dakota, where folks are searching "how to spell college." The jokes write themselves! Come on, Google, try a little subtlety.

Some of these search terms raise larger questions. Why are so many Rhode Islanders trying to spell "liar"? How can it be that people in New Jersey can't spell "twelve"? And really, New Mexico: "banana"?

Perplexingly, the word for which Wisconsinites most often need spelling help is: "Wisconsin." We hoped that maybe there was a lesser-known Badger fight song called "How to spell Wisconsin", i.e. "W-I-S-C-O-N-S-I-N for the win!" but no. There is no song.

Perhaps this map reflects something deeper, something innate about what drives us, well beyond spelling's reach. Hawaii is about people, Vermont is Little Europe, and in Kansas, diamonds are forever. It's always tomorrow in Arizona and sauerkraut season in Pennsylvania. Hallelujah for Delaware!

In that case, we're doubly sorry, New Hampshire. It's spelled K-A-O-P-E-C-T-A-T-E.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Laurel Wamsley is a reporter for NPR's News Desk. She reports breaking news for NPR's digital coverage, newscasts, and news magazines, as well as occasional features. She was also the lead reporter for NPR's coverage of the 2019 Women's World Cup in France.
Up North Updates
* indicates required