8 Words That Have No Business Being Spelled The Way They Are (And “Business” Is One Of Them!)


1. Wednesday

I’m sure an etymologist or lexicographer knows the historical significance of the silent “D” in Wednesday. Or perhaps some bizarre spelling rule is at play here: “D before N, when pronouncing as WHEN.” Because isn’t “Whens-day” how we say it? No matter the reason, that silent “D” is like a burst appendix. Useless and in need of immediate removal.

2. Colonel

The Armed Forces pride themselves on order and precision. That’s why they use military time with the oh-six-hundreds and the fifteen-thirties and whatnot. To avoid confusion. So how did they end up with the word “colonel” to describe a ranking officer that is clearly pronounced “kernel?” I’m confused. Colonel? Really? There’s not an “R” to be found in it! And don’t get me started on the spelling vs. pronunciation of “sergeant.”

3. Mortgage

Here we go with another random silent letter. In this case the “T” is staying mum. Why not just eliminate it and spell the word “morgidge?” Of course that whole “DG” with a “J” sound is irksome too, so let’s go with “morgij” and call it a day. Kids in spelling bees will thank me later.

4. Twelfth

This word just looks wrong from the get go. What the F is that “F” doing in there? We see it all the time as “12th,” but when written out as “twelfth” it resembles some archaic word like doth or canst, and becomes awkward and unpronounceable. Try it right now. Say “twelfth” out loud. I guarantee you’ll over emphasize the “fth” portion and turn into Sylvester the Cat. Thufferin’ thuccotash!

5. Business

I told you this one made the list, and for good reason. To correctly spell this word I’ve always had to think of it as “bussy-ness.” Otherwise I wouldn’t have a chance, what with the “U” pronounced like a short “I” on one side of the “S” and a silent “I” on the other. I think rappers got it right when they started spelling it “biznez.”

6. February

It figures a screwed-up month that can’t decide how many days it contains would also have a screwed-up spelling. Since most of us ignore that first “R” and say “Feb-yuh-wary,” we ought to spell it that way. By that I mean “Febuary,” with the offending “R” omitted. I don’t actually expect us to put “Febyuhwary” on all of our calendars. That’s crazy talk.

7. Forty

Let’s see, we have four, fourteen, fourth and…forty? Somehow the “U” went missing. Probably the result of some ancient scribe writing out numbers and getting a hand cramp at “thirty-nine.” As he rubbed his gnarled knuckles and thought about painfully continuing with “fourty” through “fourty-nine” he said, “Screw it. Who needs all those damn “U”s anyway?”

8. Tomb

We’re finishing off with yet another silent letter, this time an extraneous “B,” hanging there like a bad toupee. The way I see it, tomb rhymes with “doom,” so obviously it needs to be spelled “toom.” Now for your extra credit question: Why don’t the words tomb and comb rhyme?