Typos can be frustrating at the best of times. So can simply not knowing how to spell a word, even though it’s understandable. There are literally hundreds of thousands of words to know and not all of them are intuitive when it comes to spelling. A bigger problem, however, is when you spell something wrong in a way that ends up causing serious repercussions. It doesn’t happen often but when it does, it can be remarkable.
10. The PM of Great Britain Misspelled The Name of a Soldier in a Letter to His Mother
Imagine being the leader of an entire country. No matter what you do there’s a good chance about half of the people in your country hate you now. Life is probably stressful. One day you get word that a young man, one of your citizens, has died in war. You write a letter to the man’s mother. You spell his name wrong.
This happened in 2009 when Gordon Browne wrote a letter to Jacqui Janes about her son who died in Afghanistan. Jamie Janes was a Grenadier Guardsman and the Prime Minister was supposed to be expressing condolences. He called the man Jamie James.
To make matters worse, the British tabloid The Sun decided to get incredibly smug and smear Browne for his error to make him a front page humiliation in the way only British tabloids can. The problem was, in their arrogant takedown of Brown, they called him Jamie Jones, also misspelling the name and proving neither of them really cared that much about Jamie Janes in the first place. Both made it a big, embarrassing international headline, however.
9. People Misspelling 1-800-Operator Sent More Customers to 1-800-Collect
Some of you may remember commercials for a service called 1-800-Collect from back in the day. It was a number you could call to make cheaper collect phone calls. The behind-the-scenes business of this was worth a fortune and led to some impressive shenanigans.
AT&T used to have the lion’s share of collect call money, about 66% of over $65 million. Then MCI comes up with 1-800-Collect so people can call that instead of 0 which would give AT&T money. This drops AT&T below 60 and raises MCI to 20%. Sprint sits in the corner with 10%.
AT&T, losing money hand over fist, tried to introduce 1-800-OPERATOR to counter MCI. But they didn’t account for a major issue – spelling. People spelled it OPERATER with an E. MCI realized this and bought 1-800-OPERATER. Anyone who called it never got an answer, which turned people off of AT&T’s service.
Meanwhile, third place Sprint was sued after it was discovered they ran dozens and dozens of misspelled phone number alternatives that had jacked up rates to nearly three times what the real numbers charged.
8. Pennsylvania Was Misspelled by Alexander Hamilton in the Constitution
Spelling counts in some places more than others. Texting a friend? As long as they have a vague sense of your meaning, your spelling probably doesn’t matter. Writing the Constitution for a new nation? Maybe you want to run it through Grammarly before you sign the bottom.
Despite the importance of making sure your letters are all in order, even something as historic as the American Constitution was not immune to mistakes. There are actually multiple mistakes throughout the document but one of the clearest is the misspelling of Pennsylvania by Alexander Hamilton as Pensyvania with a single N. Apparently this wasn’t entirely uncommon at the time, but the fact that the document uses both spellings in different places makes it a little sloppy, if nothing else.
7. Dwyane Wade’s Name Isn’t Dwayne, But It’s Always Misspelled That Way
If you’re a fan of basketball, you’re probably familiar with Dwayne Wade and, even if you aren’t, he’s been in the media enough that you may recognize the name. Except did you? While everyone calls him Dwayne and often spells it D-W-A-Y-N-E that’s not his name and never has been. Wade’s first name is spelled D-W-Y-A-N-E.
Wade’s name is so often misspelled that Jimmy Kimmel once offered people on the street $100 if they could spell it right and the results were miserable. Wade himself has no explanation for his name. He shares it with his father and he once asked his grandmother who just told him that’s how she thought it was spelled, meaning it was misspelled on two generations of birth certificates. The result of that is the most misspelled name in sports journalism.
6. Bonobo Is the Result of a Misspelling of the Town of Bolobo
Bonobos are often mistaken for chimpanzees at first glance as the two primates are strikingly similar. They are distinct species in the genus Pan and there are some differences if you know what to look for, including the darker faces of Bonobos, the more slender build, and the difference in hair growth.
The name chimpanzee comes from a Bantu language in Africa, so what about Bonobo? Not quite the same story. In fact, no one ever called them Bonobos by that name in any language until sometime in the 20th century. It wasn’t until 1954 when it became the official name, either.
The apes were being captured in the Congo back when it was still known as Zaire. They were crated and shipped from a town called Bolobo and it seems likely that someone simply misread or misspelled the name of the town, not understanding what it was. The result was the apes being called Bonobos and the name sticking, even all these years later.
5. The Name Cedric Is A Misspelling of a Saxon Name
Have you ever met anyone named Cedric? It’s not the most common name, but it’s not unheard of. There was a popular character in Harry Potter named Cedric, Cedric the Entertainment and a few others. Part of the reason there aren’t many more Cedrics may be that the name exists by accident. It looks like, historically, it was a misspelling of the Saxon name Cerdic.
Once upon a time, Cerdic was the name of the first King of Wessex, or West Saxon. It was when Sir Walter Scott wrote his novel Ivanhoe in 1819 that the letters in the name became transposed and Cerdic became Cedric. The book was popular, and is still well known today, so the misspelled name traveled much further than the properly spelled name ever did.
4. Marvin Gardens in Monopoly is a Long Running Misspelling of Marven Gardens
By 2015, Parker Brothers had already sold over 275 million copies of the game Monopoly of which several thousand different versions exist. You could literally play a different version of Monopoly every day for years.
Many of the properties listed in the game are named after actual places in Atlantic City. The cheap purple properties that no one likes, Baltic and Mediterranean, are named after streets there. And so is the neighborhood of Marvin Gardens. Except, in real life, it’s Marven Gardens.
The name wasn’t changed intentionally for the game; it was an error. Charles Darrow, who sold the game to Parker Brothers, misspelled it in his initial, homemade version back in 1935. Parker Brothers never bothered to spell check him.
It wouldn’t be until 1995 that the game makers at least acknowledged and apologized for the error, while also pointing out it would be too expensive to change. But that acknowledgement wasn’t entirely true in terms of being the first. There was a much earlier incident, in 1973, when the issue became contentious.
In 1973, Atlantic City was actually planning to change the names of Baltic and Mediterranean. They ran alongside the boardwalk but were the continuations of other streets that had different names, which was considered confusing. The city planned to change Mediterranean to Melrose and Baltic to Fairmount. Edward Parker, of Parker Brothers, freaked out.
Parker wrote a letter slamming the city for essentially ruining the joy of Monopoly players who could never visit their favorite cheap slum analog in real life. He also proclaimed the game would not change the names of the streets regardless and also acknowledged he had no intention of spelling Marvin Gardens correctly and suggested Atlantic City change it to their misspelling instead.
3. Players for the Nationals Wore Misspelled Jerseys On the Field
You know that “you had one job meme?” where a joke is made about something pretty specific and obvious being done wrong? It’s usually something both simple and glaringly wrong which can often take the form of a spelling mistake. And, as we’ve spent the entire list establishing, those can be embarrassing but they don’t always end up on national TV and also in front of a huge, live audience. But in 2009 that happened in spectacularly embarrassing fashion to the Washington Nationals baseball team.
When the Montreal Expos folded as a team in 1994, the Nationals took over in 2005. They were still a new time trying to get their footing in 2009 and April 17th didn’t make that any easier. As the team took the field to face the Florida Marlins, two players came out wearing Natinals jerseys. The company that produced them had somehow forgotten the O in the team name. They ended up apologizing a few days later, but the damage had been done and sports fans have been making fun of it ever since.
2. Madagascar Is Named Thanks to a Mistake By Marco Polo
Madagascar is an island off the eastern coast of Africa and is known for having an abundance of unique wildlife. Its name, however, is less unique than it might sound thanks to the mistake of the explorer Marco Polo.
The first European to officially visit the island. Polo called it Madagascar even though cartographers had been calling it Gezirat Al-Komor, or Island of the Moon, for some time already. So why did Polo decide on a completely new, obscure name? He made a mistake, like so many explorers before and after him.
Evidence suggests Marco Polo was looking for Somalia and, in particular, Mogadishu. Misspellings and mispronunciations of that name led him to call the new island Madagascar meaning it was one mistake stacked on top of another.
1. Niklas Grossmann Let the NHL Spell His Name Wrong For 5 Years
How far would you let someone take a mistake with your own name? If someone was mispronouncing it or misspelling it, would you correct it right away or let it slide? What about if you had an established relationship and then realized they were getting it wrong? Is there a point where it can become too embarrassing to fix the mistake for them? That seems to be what happened to Niklas Grossmann, who let the NHL consistently misspell his name for five solid years.
Grossmann spells his last name with two Ns. The NHL spelled it with a single N on his jersey. Not a huge mistake, sure, but it was still wrong. But consider it was spelled that way on TV, too. On Hockey cards. Posters, Collectibles. Rosters. Websites. He was known, around the world, by a misspelled name.
After five years Grossmann, who comes from Sweden, admitted that he was young when he saw it was being misspelled and didn’t want to make trouble for anyone, so he let it slide. And he didn’t have an epiphany after five years, either. The team director of the Flyers, for whom he played, glimpsed his passport one day and saw the different spelling. As a result, they finally made the changes for him which, had someone else not noticed, might have never happened.