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GoogleTrends Map

GoogleTrends mapped out the top searched “how to spell” words by state.

Wisconsin might be Wisconsin, but Minnesota is beautiful.

No, I’m not taking a side in our friendly neighborhood rivalry here. As editor of papers in both great states, I’m strictly neutral on that border battle. Both sides of the river are equally lovely.

Rather, those are the two most misspelled words by people in each state, according to Google Trends. The tech giant released the data on which words people in each state search for “how to spell” Tuesday in advance of the Scripps National Spelling Bee.

According to the analysis of data gathered between Jan. 1 and April 30, people in Wisconsin search “How to spell Wisconsin” more than any other word, while Minnesotans need a hand spelling “beautiful.”

It seems ridiculous to me that Wisconsinites can’t spell the name of their home state, but the New York Times is more forgiving in its article “Is Wisconsin really that hard to spell?” published Wednesday. As Times writer Christopher Mele said, “In fairness to the people of the Badger State, if you stare at the name long enough, you’ll convince yourself it’s not spelled right.”

Wisconsin Secretary of Tourism Stephanie Klett told Mele the confusion comes from the state’s rich Native American History. According to Klett, the large number of American Indian tribes in the area each had their own spellings, which led to some confusion.

Proving Wisconsin can have no better advocate, Klett found the positive side of the common spelling error.

“Much like our incredible state, there is no word out there like Wisconsin. We’re unique,” she said.

Minnesota is less unique. “Beautiful” leads the country as the most commonly searched word, as well as being the most misspelled in five states. California, Kentucky, New York and Ohio all struggle with what order all those vowels are supposed to be in. (I might show my bias here a bit, but I think Minnesota is the most beautiful of those states that can’t spell “beautiful.”)

While it isn’t unique, at least “beautiful” is better than “pneumonia,” which residents of Alabama, Maine, Michigan and Washington all double-checked before writing.

Some of the words are tricky even for the whizzes at Google. The first version of the map listed the most misspelled word in Washington, D.C., “ninety” as “nintey” (Full disclosure: I just misspelled it as “ninty.” Thanks, AutoCorrect, for saving me from that particularly embarrassing error).

Oddly enough, people in Connecticut and West Virginia really needed to learn how to spell “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious,” a word made famous by a movie that turned 53 this year, “Mary Poppins.” I can’t imagine why you’d need to know that, but I can certainly understand not spelling it right on the first try. And I’m a little shocked AutoCorrect reads it as a word, since I still can’t get it to learn my name.

I try not to be a snob, but some words on this map of misspellings are just baffling to me. How can so many people in Mississippi not know how to spell “nanny?” It’s a five-letter word and three of them are the same! I’m also a bit bewildered by Louisiana’s most misspelled word, “giraffe.” What’s going on there down in Cajun country?

“Banana” and “tomorrow,” the most misspelled words in New Mexico and Arizona, respectively, make sense to me. If it hadn’t been for a Gwen Stefani song, I might still be adding too many n’s to “banana.”

Personally, I’ve never kept track exactly, but if I had to guess, my most often misspelled word is likely “camaraderie,” which I have to fight not to add letters to every time I type it. It does not help that Merriam-Webster says we can also spell it “comradery,” a word I’ve never seen used, even though I constantly combine the two into “comaradery,” which looks right to no one.

Luckily, misspellings won’t be a problem much longer. We’re well on our way back to the times of Geoffrey Chaucer, when spelling was largely optional, to borrow a joke from my favorite author, Terry Pratchett.

With the days of typing on our phones — or rather, mistyping as we fat-finger those tiny non-buttons on the touch screens — and leaving letters out to meet character limits for social media, spelling is going the way of cursive writing.

I’d complain, but then I’d have to learn how to spell “comaradery” correctly.


City government reporter

Jourdan Vian is a reporter and columnist covering local government and city issues for the La Crosse Tribune. You can contact her at 608-791-8218.

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