A Spelling Dilemma, or…Dilemna?!
How do you spell ‘dilemma’? Do you spell ‘dilemma’ or ‘dilemna’?
I recently played a game of spelling bee with my friend Sam. When the word dilemma came up he was certain that ‘d-i-l-e-m-n-a’ was the correct spelling. To settle our dilemma, we ran a quick spell check online and found out that many English users had encountered the same spelling question. Fascinated by this mysterious puzzle, I embarked on a quest to get to the bottom of this common spelling mistake.
For readers who are not sure of what ‘dilemma’ means, it refers to the situation when a difficult choice has to be made between two or more equally desirable (or undesirable) alternatives. For example, ‘I’m in a dilemma. I am not sure if I should stay at my current job and get a salary increase, or move on to a more satisfying job that pays less.’
The origin of the word comes from the Greek. Some online users proposed that the mistake originated from book misprints (m and n are easily confused!) while others suggested it was colonial error. Many swear that they were taught the ‘mna’ spelling throughout their education, and posted photos of decade old dictionaries to prove it. Others simply ridicule the -mna spelling. Ginger, in case you were wondering, does not recognize it as correct spelling.
So where does this mistake come from? There are many ongoing debates online, but none of it comes close to a consensus on the origin of the mistake. As the Linguistic Society of America puts it, the English language is always evolving to adapt to users’ needs. Whichever spelling you are used to, we all have to admit that language is a beautiful, yet complex creation, isn’t it? Being complex as it is, remember to always spell check your writing…
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Wishing you a dilemma-free week,
Joy and the Ginger team