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September 16, 2010


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It totally blows my mind that someone could make such an egregious mistake. Not to mention 3.47 million others, as shown by your Google results.

I'm okay with the language changing as a result of evolution, but not because of ignorance.

Given the dismal state of American investment industry, do you think they might want to distance themselves by adopting the British style? Heh.

Duchesse: "Usable" is the preferred spelling in British English as well. (See OED.)

Should have said, "a British style". I think the intention might be to Anglicize the tone. The distilleries who write of "ageing" their whisky intend that.

Here in Canada, I've seen a resurgence of that variant spelling, rather like calling vendors purveyors.

Duchesse: Highly doubtful that E*Trade had a British effect in mind. As for "ageing," please see my citation of Garner re: mute "e." Words with "g" and "c" are the exceptions.

I find this post quite likable; however, more and more people would call it likeable. The Oxford American Dictionary cites "likeable" as an acceptable alternate spelling. I don't like it.

Michele: A second-place inclusion in a dictionary does not mean that the spelling is acceptable; it means that it occurs frequently enough to merit acknowledgment. Dictionaries are in the reporting business, not the judging business. For judgments, we turn to Garner, the AP Stylebook, Chicago Manual of Style, etc. (in the U.S., anyway).

Alas, while we know the dictionary's inclusion of an alternative spelling does not mean it's correct or acceptable, the average person assumes that if it's in the dictionary, it's okay. This is why I wish dictionaries would include only the correct forms.

Michele: But "correct" is constantly in flux, and dictionaries are our best record of that flux.

I know, but I can whine, can't I?

I am totally baffled by the reporting of the Googlefight results. 'Useable' gets 3.5 million to 'usable's 2.7 million yet 'usable' gets a higher bar and you're claiming it wins the fight? Or do those pure numbers mean something else?

Faldone: The numbers (and zeros) change every time I try the Googlefight; most recent results were 508,000 for "useable" and 2.6 million for "usable." A straight Google search produces ~ 22 million for "usable" and ~ 4 million for "useable."

(TypePad's spellchecker flags "useable" as incorrect, although MSWord's does not! Go figure.)

"Useable" is an understandable one, to me. Ahoy!

I'm rather a stickler, but this would be a new variant I could accept. In the word "Usage" the s makes a [s] sound, whereas in "used" and "user" (s follwed by e) it makes a [z]. There are many words in English were "se" makes a [z] (exercise, abuse, fuse... even more in British spellings). But I can't think of many examples of "sa" making sounding like a [z]. It makes some phonetic sense to put that e in there.

So would anyone think of writing "proposal" or "disposeable"? I doubt it. But "usable" is much shorter and offers fewer clues, making it easier to mispronounce it at first glance as "us-able".

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