Frankly, I’m a bit disappointed.
Once upon a time, some Americans wanted to know how to spell “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” and “hors d’oeuvres” (wow, that was just last year). Now it seems they’re stumped by much simpler words, like “loose,” “comma,” and “tear.” Sure, there’s the odd “veterinarian,” “pneumonia” and “indict,” but on the whole, Americans seem to have dumbed down.
Well, at least in the level of words they’re looking up on Google.
In advance of the Scripps National Spelling Bee, going on now, Google Trends released its list of the words residents of each state looked up the most on Google using the phrase “how to spell.” Google’s probably missing out on a lot of those words, though, because I know of more than a few people who, like me, just type in the word to see what Google suggests for the spelling.
Google’s search engine seems to be more reliable than my Android phone or iPad’s autocorrect, both of which seem to want to make me sound like a raving lunatic. Maybe I am, but the people I correspond with already know or don’t need to know that. Siri, especially, seems to have it in for me. I don’t know what I did to displease her, but I’m sorry.
The last time I wrote about the Google Trends spelling list, in May 2016, Alaska had trouble with the name of its statehood partner, but this time the state with that “honor” was Hawaii (that’s embarrassing). Massachusetts residents had trouble with “Massachusetts” back in 2016, so now I’m wondering if perhaps some of those residents decided to retire to the islands. Massachusetts now has issues with “grey,” as do New Jersey and Washington state. Don’t tell them that we in newspapers use the American spelling, “gray.”
Eight states looked up “beautiful” (down from 11 last year, which included Arkansas, which moved on from “chihuahua” in 2017 and “leprechaun” in 2016) and three states were perplexed about how to spell numbers (the ones they looked up are ones that The Associated Press uses numerals for, sooo …).
One commenter on The Washington Post story about the new list surmised that perhaps the words looked up reflect what the people in those states value which, sure, might explain states like our own Arkansas (family), Maryland (heart), and North Dakota (independence), but what about states like Indiana (activities), Maine (guess), and West Virginia (eleven)? And why did so many people in New York feel the need to look up “bougie”?
Somehow, though, I completely understand the word Washington, D.C., looked up: “enough.” I don’t think they’re the only ones who’ve had enough; they’re just looking it up more than other places are.
We won’t even get into the possibilities involved with Alabama’s “niece.” Last year it was “cousin.” They’re writing their own jokes.
The full list: Alabama, niece; Alaska, preferred; Arizona, patient; Arkansas, family; California, beautiful; Colorado, favorite; Connecticut, neighbor; Delaware, veterinarian; Washington, D.C., enough; Florida, beautiful; Georgia, beautiful; Hawaii, Hawaii; Idaho, embarrassed; Illinois, beautiful; Indiana, activities; Iowa, loose; Kansas, committee; Kentucky, ninety; Louisiana, indict; Maine, guess; Maryland, heart; Massachusetts, grey; Michigan, amazing; Minnesota, especially; Mississippi, fifteen; Missouri, definitely; Montana, comma; Nebraska, delicious; Nevada, appreciate; New Hampshire, recess; New Jersey, grey; New Mexico, patience; New York, bougie; North Carolina, beautiful; North Dakota, independence; Ohio, favorite; Oklahoma, February; Oregon, phenomenal; Pennsylvania, pneumonia; Rhode Island, message; South Carolina, beautiful; South Dakota, jewelry; Tennessee, intelligent; Texas, beautiful; Utah, important; Vermont, benefit; Virginia, beautiful; Washington, grey; West Virginia, eleven; Wisconsin, opinion; and Wyoming, tear.
What, no “whoa” or “the”? That’s surprising, considering that in Internet-speak they’re misspelled as “woah” and “teh.” They make me cringe. Every. Single. Time.
Aaand I just outed myself as being older than a millennial. A walker can’t be far behind. (Yes, I was horrified by the Millennials versus Gen X Survivor season. Damn kids. They should stay off my island.)
There were words in the 2017 and 2018 lists that were more complicated than this year’s, but the 2019 list seems far removed from 2016. Is it anti-intellectualism? Are people dumber? Or can they just not spell?
Maybe it’s a little bit of all of the above. Being educated is seen in some circles as a sign of being part of the elite, regardless of wealth or renown (meaning I know an awful lot of the “elite” who are underpaid and underemployed), and some seem to be proud of not knowing the differences between capitalism and socialism or knowing that most nations have mixed economies (gasp!).
Education changes throughout the decades, and the curriculum at a given time often reflects what is viewed as more important. If we took tests from the 1920s, the 1950s and other eras, we probably wouldn’t be able to pass them because a broader base of knowledge was expected on civics, the arts, science, and other areas. Then again, students from those eras probably wouldn’t be able to pass the tests today, partly because they weren’t taught to the tests back then. The Internet certainly doesn’t help, since so many seem to place less importance on retaining knowledge than on just Googling the answer (yes, I realize the irony).
And spelling? Well, that’s one of the reasons everyone—and I do mean everyone—needs an editor, or at the very least the ability to use a dictionary and/or spellcheck on your word processing program. You might be surprised how many people apparently are incapable of that. Or maybe you wouldn’t. Maybe you’re one of those people.
If so, you’re why I get cranky. You owe me some chocolate.