Once you can laugh at your own weaknesses, you can move forward.

~ Goldie Hawn ~

Happy Birth Day Okay

October 1st, 2011 ~ Est. reading time: 1 min, 18 secs

Saying "happy birth day" is wrong takes the cake

All right. Tell me if you noticed the typo.

“Birth day” should be “birthday.”

But that’s okay. When you get excited about a birthday things like spilling go out the window.

Sorry. Did it again. First “birth day” and now “spilling.” It’s getting out of hairnd.

Words need to proper and punctuated.” That’s what my old English teacher told me. She would have sighed at the sight of “birth day” and given me a lecture. I should know better than to write birth day… How careless…. Don’t you have standards? And so on. Sigh! Teachers like that give me a headache.

Why? Well, whether it’s “birth day” or “birthday” we get the meaning. True we ought to stick to a steady pattern. Otherwise our meanings get diluted. Which is really the whole point of spulling in the first plaice.

But it wasn’t always like this. Back before each language developed their own dictionary, you could make up the spelling any way you lyked. Just so long as it sounded the same. This phonetic focus meant strawberries could be written as strabries, strorberrys, stawbries, and a dozen other ways. Makes birth day looks positively tame by comparison, doesn’t it?

Well times have changed a touch since the first English dictionary appeared in 1604. And the pace of change keeps shaping English too. Txt u l8tr, K?

What we need to careful about is not obsessiveness with rightness, but focus on meaning. My English teacher may have known a thing or two about correcting. But her dead boring approach had a way of making meaning die on the vine. Meaning not immaculateness is what really matters (so don’t be too worried if your spalling isn’t perfect). As long as we preserve the purpose, writing “birth day” will be just fine too.

  1. Naomi says:

    Meaning is everything