“Beautiful” and “pneumonia” hardly go together, but they ranked as the top two words that Americans most sought how to spell in the first four months of this year, according to an analysis by Google Trends.
The analysis, which covered Jan. 1 through April 30, identified in each state what word was searched most often when users typed “how to spell” into the company’s search engine. Google Trends posted a map of the results on Twitter on Tuesday, one day before the start of the Scripps National Spelling Bee.
Naturally, the map, labeled “America’s Most Misspelled Words,” included a misspelling.
The original map listed the most-searched word in Washington, D.C., as “nintey.” That was corrected in a revised map a few hours later.
The analysis produced some surprising findings.
“Beautiful” led the list of most commonly searched words, with California, Kentucky, Minnesota, New York and Ohio residents checking how to spell it. “Pneumonia” came in second, stumping residents of Alabama, Maine, Michigan and Washington.
The significance of the most-searched words in certain states is a mystery: “giraffe” (Louisiana); “twelve” (New Jersey) and “people” (Hawaii). And then there were the residents of Connecticut and West Virginia who wanted to check on the spelling of “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious,” the word (or is it a phrase?) that was popularized in the 1964 Disney movie “Mary Poppins.”
In Wisconsin, residents most frequently searched for how to spell “Wisconsin.” (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.)
Stephanie Klett, secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Tourism, attributed the confusion to the numerous Indian tribes that are native to Wisconsin and their conflicting spellings of the state’s name.
Other states have simpler names, she said, adding: “Much like our incredible state, there is no word out there like Wisconsin. We’re unique.”
The Google list is a collection of results that are returned by one specific search by the company’s users; others who have sought to catalog misspellings have arrived at different examples in recent years.
For one, the words compiled by Google were at odds with those most commonly checked on the Oxford Dictionaries website, Katherine Connor Martin, the head of U.S. Dictionaries at Oxford University Press, said in an email.
“The top misspelled words are ‘accommodate’ and ‘accommodation,’ so the tricky double letters in these words (and words like ‘address’ and ‘occurrence’) seem to be tripping up the most users,” she wrote.
“Accommodate” was also the most misspelled word for users of Dictionary.com in April, a spokeswoman said.
The spellings of some words were more irksome than others. A 2015 online survey conducted on behalf of Dictionary.com found almost 40 percent of Americans were most bothered by the misspelling of “February.”
English poses unique spelling challenges, especially to nonnative speakers who are learning the language, Julie Amberg, associate professor of English and humanities at York College of Pennsylvania, said Wednesday.
For instance, the vowel sound “e” can be expressed in combinations of “ey,” “ee” and “ea,” she said.
“English does not have a sound-to-letter correspondence,” she said. “We have many ways to spell the same sounds. That right there is the real problem.”
What word has her constantly consulting a dictionary?
“Occurrence,” which was No. 6 on the Oxford Dictionaries list.