1. art
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    art Contributing Member Contributor

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    Dilemna (sic)

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by art, Jan 21, 2011.

    On BBC 5Live right now Simon Mayo and Mark Kermode are discussing Richie Cunningham's new film. Both men - bright, in their forties - have been shocked to discover they've been misspelling dilemma their whole lives. Hitherto, they've had it as dilemna.

    Perhaps five years ago I discovered the same thing. I used to spell it - and frankly still want to spell it - with an n. The extraordinary thing I discovered then, and these guys are discovering now, is that dilemma has never been spelt any other way: dilemna is not an archaism, and you will not find it in any ancient work.

    And yet, and yet there are many people who think it is spelt with an n and say they were in fact taught to spell it with an n.

    A small, odd thing.
     
  2. popsicledeath
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    popsicledeath Banned

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    The beauty of language, though, is that if enough people spell a word wrong, it then becomes right. Fight the power! Don't cave! Keep spelling it how you see fit!

    I've spelled it dilemma as long as I can remember. Maybe an American/British thing? Or maybe it's just been spell check-corrected long enough I've been conditioned to spell it properly?

    Irregardless, it's nice to see people conversating about the spelling of dilemma, tho.
     
  3. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    My word like that is pearson - its a huge struggle not to include the 'a'. I miss spell other words but that is the one I feel I am miss spelling when I spell it correctly.
     
  4. FrankABlissett
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    FrankABlissett Active Member

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    Oh - I've got a couple like that. "Anyways" is probably my favorite. I'm tempted to keep my own variants at times, but never do.

    I wonder if your own dilemna ;) is due to a subtle linguistic difference. In my example, people had SPOKEN it as "anyways" when I was young. Maybe one of the accents in the UK has an almost silent "n" in dilemma?

    -Frank

    edit:
    I just looked it up. "Anyways" IS a non-standard version of "anyway". That means it's not so uncommon after all. Maybe now I can feel comfortable using it! *big grin*
     
  5. Haribo Icecream
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    Haribo Icecream Member

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    That's not a real word ;) Keep using it and it 'will be' :cool:
     
  6. Melzaar the Almighty
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    Melzaar the Almighty Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think I used to spell it that way, but I learned a long time ago :p
     
  7. art
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    art Contributing Member Contributor

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    Google's reach has increased these last few years: using Ngrams it becomes clear that dilemna has been used consistently for the last few hundred years by a tiny yet stalwart band of writers notable for their genius and foresight: Fielding, Boswell, Bentham and, at one point, a US Dept of State got involved..I've seen a Miracle on 34th and need no further validation:)

    Anyways is nice, Frank. To my ears it is homely and decidedly American. I sometimes use it to lighten my (staid) prose. If I'm feeling unusually playful, I occasionally even go with anyhoo (partly in honour of Homer S.):cool:
     
  8. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    i'm 72 and have never heard of 'dilemma' being spelled with anything but the double 'm'...
     
  9. Melzaar the Almighty
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    I think it's one of those words where you think, "Naaaah, it can't possibly be spelled exactly like it sounds... There has to be a catch! A silent letter! Some out-dated strange way of writing it that we still cling onto in this crazy, unpredictable language! Well, it's not gonna make a fool outta me! DILEMNA!"
     
  10. art
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    art Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yep, I think something of that is going on Mel.
    The double mm variant - oh yes - looks a little too straightforward, and, I dare say, rather crude in comparison.:)
     
  11. Melzaar the Almighty
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    Melzaar the Almighty Contributing Member Contributor

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    We could campaign to have it changed to "Dilema" to save everyone a headache in the future. :p
     
  12. Spacer
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    Spacer Active Member

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    Weird. Does it have an "n" sound in some accent?
     
  13. art
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    art Contributing Member Contributor

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    Not that I'm aware of. Also true, I guess, for the n in condemn, solemn etc (which in themsleves provide precedents for this felicitous combination.)
     
  14. Spacer
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    Spacer Active Member

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    Those have n's in the Latin originals, and end in an n. "Dilemma" is indeed related to "lemma".
     
  15. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    It's already listed in the Oxford English dictionary. See! It's working already! (And they've backdated it to 1912 for you, too.)
     
  16. Haribo Icecream
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    Haribo Icecream Member

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    And even there it's referred to as an incorrect usage ;)
     
  17. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    Not in the Complete Oxford English Dictionary -- that shows it as colloquial, chiefly N. American.
     
  18. Haribo Icecream
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    Haribo Icecream Member

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    shhhh ;)
     

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